Time to Pop the Question: Can Cats Eat Popcorn?

Can Cats Eat Popcorn

Being a low-calorie, healthy snack filled with nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese, popcorn is a crowned snack. Popcorn is considered a great source of fiber, as well as antioxidants. Furthermore, it can be used in weight loss as a guilt-free snack when homemade.

It’s also a staple in every binge-watcher’s snack menu. Salted, buttered, cheesy, or dripping in caramel, these kernels can suit every person’s taste. But does it suit our feline friends?

Can Cats Eat Popcorn?

Popcorn is safe for your cat to eat as long as it is it plain popcorn. Health issues can be caused by toppings, such as; butter, garlic and caramel. 

Popcorn is known to have high fiber content and polyphenols that can lower risks of heart diseases, cancer and is considered a healthy alternative to most snacks out there.

Nutritional Value

For us humans, when served unsalted and air-popped with no oil or butter, popcorn is packed with nutrients. The delicious kernel contains:

  • High amounts of fiber
  • Protein
  • No cholesterol
  • Vitamin B-6, iron, and magnesium
  • High-carb

However, pre-made popcorn as well as types with loads of toppings and seasoning isn’t as healthy and can cause health problems.

This includes microwavable popcorn bags, as well as movie theater popcorn. Both are loaded with toppings, especially artificial butter which may be delicious, but is harmful in the long run.

Microwave Popcorn Bag

But does it hold the same nutritional benefit for cats? The answer is a simple no. Because cats are carnivores, they receive most of their nutrition through animal meat or protein.

Whole grains and corn are used in cat food (be it homemade or canned) as a filler or digestive aid.

Popcorn provides no added nutritional value to your cat’s diet and can cause shouldn’t be considered as a fiber replacement.

The high-calorie count and high-carb contents of popcorn aren’t as easily processed by our feline friends, meaning that they won’t benefit from the energy boost carbs give us humans, and they may even gain weight.

Plain vs Seasoned Popcorn

For us, a bowl of seasoned popcorn won’t do much harm, but cats can’t digest the same things humans can, which means that all the tasty toppings to your popcorn aren’t meant for your furry friend. The additions are:

  • Extra salt. It may seem like a harmful addition, but salt is actually toxic to cats.
  • Caramel. Felines can't digest sugars as we do, and caramel is basically molten sugar. Keep this gooey topping away from your cat.
  • Oils. These can easily upset your cat’s stomach when ingested, especially oils in pre-made popcorn.
  • Preservatives in microwavable popcorn bags
  • Spices and seasoning, especially garlic powder can be toxic
  • Artificial flavors, although they taste good, these chemicals can cause your cat to have an allergic reaction
  • Butter, the sheer amount of fats in butter can cause your cat to vomit or suffer from diarrhea

Which Part Can My Cat Eat?

Make sure your cat is nibbling on the white, fluffy part of a fully popped kernel and not the kernel itself. Remove any unpopped kernels or loose shells.

The main risk to consider is that popcorn may seem bite-sized for us humans, but cats have a smaller throat than we do, which makes popcorn a choking hazard. If you’re going to share kernels with your kitty, make sure to break them down into smaller pieces and remove any unpopped kernels or loose shells.

Should I Feed My Cat Popcorn?

While many canned food brands include corn or cornmeal as a source of fiber and as a bonding agent for other ingredients, our furry friends don’t benefit from grains in their diets. What grains (corn included) do for cats is fill up a portion of their stomach.

Carnivore Cat Food

Grains do provide a small amount of fiber and B vitamins, but since cats are obligate carnivores, this means they rely on protein the most for their dietary needs. This means that eating too many grains can hinder the digestion of protein, and bloat your cat.

The high amount of fiber in popcorn may help make your cat’s visits to the litter box be a little smoother, but remember that moderation is key when feeding her.

Popcorn won’t harm your feline, but it won’t provide any nutritional benefit if included in her diet. We recommend skipping out on adding it to her daily menu.

What Should I Do if My Cat Eats Popcorn?

Picture this, you just finished popping a fresh batch of popcorn and left the bowl unattended for a few seconds while you fetch a drink only to find your cat nibbling on the kernels.

Chomping on a few pieces won’t hurt your cat and is no reason to worry, however, if she helped herself to half of your popcorn bowl, that’s another story.

Once you get your kitty away from the popcorn bowl, monitor her for any signs of choking, gagging, or vomiting. If your cat is showing severe symptoms, contact your vet to schedule an appointment.

Risks of Feeding Popcorn to Cats

While popcorn isn’t toxic to cats, according to the ASPCA, it doesn’t necessarily rule out other risks, such as:

  • Choking hazard. Kittens and adult cats can easily choke on a popped kernel if ingested whole. Especially if they munch on unpopped kernels
  • Seasoned popcorn can cause vomiting and diarrhea
  • Extra salt in popcorn can cause excessive thirst and urination
  • If your cat is allergic to starch, it may cause an allergic reaction

When planning a movie night and you know your cat will stuff its face in the popcorn bowl, you can make a very small batch of plain, air-popped popcorn to distract her from your own.

Healthy Snack Alternatives to Feed Your Cat

Whether your cat is used to canned food or homemade meals, incorporating snacks into their days is a great way to add variety, as well as treats alternatives to their diets.

Although their main source of nutrients should be meat-based, there are other non-meat options that can make great snacks.

Broccoli

If your cat is always going after your plants, you can offer them broccoli to nibble on instead. Broccoli is full of antioxidants and can help with any digestive problems your furry friend has.

It’s best served cooked and without the stems and leaves.

Watermelon

This fruit is 92% water, making it a nice, thirst-quenching snack to share with your kitty during the hot months of summer. It should be cut into small pieces with the seeds removed.

Watermelon Chunks

However, avoid giving it to your cat in large amounts, as it contains a high amount of sugar that can lead to diabetes.

Carrots

Although our felines can’t taste the sweetness of carrots, they do enjoy different textures in their food. You can feed your cats raw carrots, but steamed carrots will be easier to chew and reduce any choking hazard. They can also be incorporated with your cat’s food when mashed.

Zucchini

A great source of magnesium, manganese, and potassium, zucchini is an ideal veggie snack. The best thing about them is that you can mix them with dry or wet food, but remember to steam or boil them thoroughly till they’re chewy.

Spinach

Another leafy snack to consider as a snack, spinach is packed with nutrients. As healthy as it is for humans, it’s also a superfood for cats. Filled with vitamins, fibers, and Omega-3 fatty acids, it’s no wonder that it’s incorporated in cat food.

You can serve your cat some spinach uncooked or steamed. However, if your cat suffers from any urinary tract or kidney problems, avoid feeding her spinach.

Pumpkin

This fall favorite can ease your kitty’s digestive problems. Pumpkin is filled with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin A. You can incorporate it as a snack when cooked and cut into small pieces, or serve it as juice.

What to Avoid Feeding Your Cat

We all know cats are very finicky about their food, however, sometimes their curiosity leads them to munch on unexpected snacks. Here’s a list of what you should keep away from your kitten.

Cheetos

Another movie night snack favorite, whether the regular cheesy bites or the flamin’ hot type, you shouldn’t let your cat dive nose-first into the bag. The high sodium content of Cheetos isn’t necessarily toxic to cats, but it provides no nutritional value to them.

Bowl of Cheetos

If your cat happens to steal a bite, it’s fine, but keep the open bags away from her curious paws.

Citrus

Anything with a zest shouldn’t be left in paw’s reach. This includes lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and limes. Both the fruit themselves and the peels are extremely toxic to felines.

Chocolate and Caffeine

Filled with methylxanthines, this compound is toxic to cats and can cause unpleasant symptoms like excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, and diarrhea. This includes tea, coffee, and all types of chocolates.

Grapes

Fresh off the vine or dried and sweet, grapes and raisins are a big no-no for felines. Although the cause is unknown, according to the ASPCA, grapes are highly toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure when consumed.

Raw Fish and Meat

Yes, cats are carnivores, but feeding your cat raw protein can expose them to bacteria that may lead to health issues. Always make sure that if your cat is eating fish or meat that they’re cooked thoroughly and not have any additives.

Cherries

These are an absolute no for cats. Stems, leaves, seeds, and pits should be kept away from their paws at all times. Especially, the pit which contains cyanide which is highly toxic and can be lethal to cats.

Final Thoughts

Can cats eat popcorn? The answer is a simple “yes, but”. Popcorn is a great and healthy snack between meals or when binge-watching, and if your cat sneaks into your bowl or munches on a dropped popcorn, no need to worry.

Remember to keep a close eye on your kitty after chomping a few kernels for any signs of choking or vomiting. Your cat should always have less than a handful of popcorn to avoid vomiting and diarrhea.

Next time you’re making a fresh batch of popcorn, opt for a healthier, air-popped preparation method, this way you’ll get all the health benefits, and can share with your furry friend while catching up on your favorite shows.

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