Can Cats Eat Popcorn?

Andy Waters
Latest posts by Andy Waters (see all)

Any cat owner will know, kittys have a way of getting their paws on everything and anything, no matter how hard you try to prevent it.

Whether they are walking all over wet paint in the guest room, scooping up fish from the fish bowl, or lapping milk straight from the fridge door, these guys have curious minds and appetites and they are pretty crafty when it comes to exploring.

Although we admire their ingenuity, this trait for trying everything can also cause cat owners a great deal of worry. After all, how do you know if what your cat is eating is healthy and safe from them?

So, if you have been comfortably tucked up on the couch recently, watching Netflix, and have discovered your fluffy friend with her nose buried in your popcorn bucket, you may well be wondering if popcorn is good or bad for her to eat?

The short answer is, ‘it depends’ but, luckily for you, in this article we cover the full answer, including details on feline nutrition and that human snacks are safe for cats to enjoy.

Can Cats Eat Popcorn?

The first thing to say is that if your cat has just eaten popcorn – don’t panic. A small amount of popcorn, no matter what type and flavor, will not put your cat in immediate danger unless they are allergic to the ingredients. That being said, we do not recommend purposely feeding your cat popcorn.

Despite not necessarily being bad for them, it certainly isn’t beneficial to them. No need to go buying your kitty their own personalized popcorn pot!

The general thinking is that plain popcorn that is fresh and fully ‘popped’ poses no harm to cats. Although it doesn’t offer any nutritional goodness, it also doesn’t harbour many digestive dangers.

However, the toppings and flavorings that go onto popcorn can be harmful to cats, and this is the reason why it is best to keep your popcorn away from them.

Sugar, toffee, caramel, salt, cheese, chocolate, marshmallow and other toppings are actively bad for cats. In particular, butter and butter substitutes should be avoided.

They can cause high cholesterol in cats and can even cause lung disease if they inhale too much. If cats eat too much butter they can experience diarrhoea and vomiting. Too much salt and sugar can cause feline diabetes and extreme dehydration.

What is more, popcorn is airy and will take up a great deal of room in a cat’s small stomach without providing much nutritional value whatsoever. Your cat could get a nasty tummy ache and feel very bloated if they eat too much.

Can Cats Eat Corn?

All this may seem strange when you consider that corn actually makes up a large proportion of the ingredients in most cat foods and biscuits.

If you look on the label of your cat’s tinned food you will most likely see a grain of some kind mentioned, either corn, wheat or non-specified ‘grain’. This is because it is used as a binding agent in cat food mixes.

Cats are obligate omnivores, which means their dietary needs are slightly different to those of humans and dogs. In order for cats to fully digest and get the benefit of grains, they need to be consumed alongside meat and proteins.

Without protein in the mix, grains become nutritionally obsolete for cats, as do most other starches and carbohydrates like bread, vegetables and potatoes. In the form of popcorn this certainly applies.

However, corn and cooked wholegrains like cornmeal, oatmeal, polenta, barley and wholemeal breadcrumbs can actually be enjoyable for cats when eaten in small portions.

Kittys like the texture of cooked grains, but the grains need to be cooked rather than raw otherwise they are difficult for them to digest.

Is Popcorn Dangerous for Cats?

Speaking of things being difficult to digest, popcorn can be a choking hazard for cats, which is another reason why we do not recommend feeding it to them. The popped corn is soft and fluffy and shouldn’t pose too much of a risk, however unpopped kernels are more dangerous.

Anyone who has ever made popcorn in the microwave will know that there are always a few unpopped kernels at the bottom of the pack which make their way into the bowl. We human’s know to leave these alone as they are extremely hard to bite, chew and digest, however cats are not always so savvy.

If a cat swallows an unpopped corn kernel it can become lodged in their throat and block their airway. It can also be very uncomfortable as it is being digested and cause cats a deal of stomach pains. So, as well as keeping your cats away from buttery, salty and sugary toppings, it is important to keep your cats away from popcorn to avoid a choking hazard too.

What Human Snacks can Cats Eat?

As a general rule, human snacks that are high in artificial flavors and colorings are not good for cats. Neither are any snacks that are high in fat, salt and sugar. Confectionery sweets, chocolate, chips, salted nuts and other binge worthy bags of tastiness are best to keep out of the reach of prying paws.

However, there are certain human snacks that cats can enjoy safely, so if you are dying to share your nibbles with your kitty then these are the best options:

  • Zucchini
  • Bananas
  • Beets
  • Squash
  • Broccali
  • Cucumber
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Corn

Before giving your cat any of these human snacks you should always wash them and make sure that any peel, seeds and stems are removed. This will ensure that toxins in the form of pesticides are removed, and that any cross contamination with salty or sugary goods is also washed away.

The removal of skin, stems and seeds will eliminate any choking risk for your cat. Never sprinkle sugar or salt on the snacks that you feed your cat as these will be harmful to them and can make them feel unwell.

My Cat Ate Popcorn – Should I Be Worried?

If you catch your cat nibbling on your popcorn, remember not to panic. Most plain popcorn is absolutely harmless, and popcorn that is loaded with flavorings and butter is not seriously dangerous if eaten in small amounts.

If you see that your cat is experiencing nausea, pain, drowsiness, restricted breathing or choking then you should call your vet immediately.

Popcorn that is covered in salt, sugar or buttery toppings is bad for your cat, and it can also pose a choking risk. So, overall we recommend pouring your kitty a bowl of her own biscuits rather than letting her share your snack.