Can Cats Eat Popcorn?

Can Cats Eat Popcorn?

Author WCF Staff

28.03.2022.


What do you do if you've just sat down to watch your favorite movie with a big bowl of popcorn and your cat comes over and starts eating a few fallen kernels?

Popcorn is a popular snack for humans, but should you include your four-legged friend in the fun? Before we go any further, the answer to the question of whether cats can eat popcorn is both yes and no!

Popcorn is safe for cats to eat in small amounts, but it doesn't provide much nutrition. However, the toppings used to flavor your popcorn may be unhealthy. Here's everything you need to know about cats and popcorn.

Popcorn's health benefits for humans

This crunchy delicious snack contains various nutritious benefits for humans. Popcorn falls in the whole grain food category. That means it can offer us a lot of health benefits; at least, that’s what nutritionists say. Popcorn is one of the best sources of fiber for your body, as well as vitamins B1, B3, and B6, minerals like zinc, magnesium, and potassium.

RELATED: What Human Foods Can Cats Eat? List of 24 Safe Human Foods

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Popcorn contains a very interesting nutrient called polyphenol antioxidant. These nutrients have been linked to specific health benefits. Those benefits are improved circulation, reduced risk of breast or prostate cancer, and it actually helps with digestive issues. While polyphenols can be found in many fruits and vegetables, this compound is frequently diluted by the water in produce. Popcorn is pretty dry, and it contains only 4% water. That means this helpful nutrient comes in a rather concentrated amount.

Can cats safely eat popcorn?

Yes, but there is a snag. There is nothing toxic to cats of any age or breed in freshly popped popcorn. That is, however, only true for plain popcorn. Toppings such as butter, salt, caramel, and various spices and seasonings such as garlic, can all be harmful to your cat's health.

"Because butter contains so much fat, your cat could easily develop vomiting or diarrhea from it," says our resident veterinarian. "A couple of plain pieces without toppings, straight from the bag is fine, but keep the amounts you give your cat low."

There's also not much going on in terms of nutrition. This means that popcorn will simply take up a lot of space in your kitty's stomach without providing much in the way of vitamins or protein.

RELATED: Can Cats Eat Chocolate? Is it Safe?

Is popcorn harmful to cats?

The additives in popcorn, particularly easy-to-make and convenient microwave popcorn, make it dangerous, if not toxic, to cats. Restrict your cat's access to pre-made varieties of popcorn, especially if the popcorn contains a lot of onion, garlic, butter, or salt. Candied gourmet popcorn, such as popcorn coated in caramel or chocolate, or varieties heavily powdered with cheese flavorings, is also prohibited. These additives and seasonings, when combined, negate any potential health benefits your cat might derive from untreated popcorn.

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On the other hand, air-popped, plain popcorn is fine for cats in moderation if it is freshly made and still warm when it reaches the bowl. The warmth and scent of air-popped popcorn are appealing qualities that cats are naturally drawn to. Popcorn, in small quantities — a few pieces at a time — can be relatively safe for your cat to chew on and certainly to play with. Even the most basic popcorn doesn’t offer much nutritional value to our feline companions. Still, it also does not present a significant risk, so why not indulge our cats if they seem to like it?

RELATED: Can Cats Eat Cheese? Here's What Your Vet Might Say

Can cats eat unpopped kernels?

Unpopped kernels can be difficult for a cat to chew on. Plus, if consumed in large quantities, they can cause blockage in a cat's digestive tract. Anyone who has eaten popcorn knows that not every flake, as popped corn is known, arrives fully cooked in our bag, bowl, or carton. We've all slightly gagged on a piece of popcorn husk and spent a long time trying to get a shell fragment out of between our teeth.

Remember to check for any potential obstructions or kernel remnants before offering your cat a popcorn flake. If your cat comes across an unattended piece of popcorn on the couch or floor, keep a close eye on them to see if the cat is in any pain. If you clean your cat's teeth at home, keep a finger brush nearby and a water dish nearby in case the cat has trouble swallowing.

RELATED: Can You Give Bread to Your Cat? Is It Safe?

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Healthy alternatives to popcorn

If you really want to share a snack with your cat, there are some common human foods that cats can eat without risking choking or poor digestion. According to our veterinarian, the following foods are safe for cats:

Whatever type of treat you give your cat, always do so in moderation and consult with your vet first to ensure it's safe. A high-quality cat food should be their primary source of calories and nutrition, with treats given on rare occasions.

World Cat Finder Team

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