I remember when I was a child, my first cat Lucretia LOVED popcorn. We’d always throw a kernel or two her way when we had some just freshly popped. But now thinking back on it, I’m left wondering is popcorn bad for cats? Is it safe?
My cat was certainly unharmed, but the dangers of feeding cats any type of human food wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind when I was young.
Popcorn isn’t in itself harmful to a cat. If your feline really enjoys it, the safest way to give it to them is a few fluffy (fully popped) kernels with no salt, butter, or other seasonings.
What is popcorn, anyway? Is it healthy?
Popcorn is just a variety of corn kernel that pops when heated. It’s actually incredibly healthy (for us humans) if eaten without all the extra additives, salt, butter, and oils. (Although that’s what makes it so tasty!)
Just 1 ounce alone contains 3.5 grams of fiber, or nearly 15% of your daily recommended intake.
Popcorn also contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that has been shown to help with digestive health, blood circulation, and even lower your risk of cancer.
In addition, it contains iron, magnesium, and vitamin b-6.
Although is popcorn healthy for cats? … not so much
Even though popcorn can be very healthy for us, it’s not really the same for cats.
First of all, your cat is not going to eat much popcorn. They may munch down a few kernels, but certainly not several cups worth, which is what you would need to consume to get any real nutritional benefit.
Plus, cats have different nutritional requirements than humans. Even if they WOULD sit and eat several cups worth of popcorn, it’s just not a great choice for their little bodies. They’re obligate carnivores, and need a particular type of diet in order to stay healthy.
It’s best to make sure they’re getting fed a diet that meets their nutritional needs, which can be achieved with any commercial cat food. While it’s perfectly fine to give your cats treats, they shouldn’t make up a large percentage of their daily calorie intake.
Also check out: People Food Cats can (and can’t) Eat
Do cats actually like popcorn?
Well I’m not sure if the majority of cats like popcorn, but I know some really do. I’ve had cats that like fresh popcorn, but usually when it gets cold and stale they’re no longer interested. Something about the aroma and warmth of freshly popped popcorn is attractive to certain cats.
But as with anything, some like it, some don’t. All cats are different. If your cat is showing interest in your popcorn, it may just be out of curiosity. They may take one whiff or lick and turn away.
But if your cat does devour a few kernels, there’s probably nothing to worry about. But keep in mind certain flavorings and spices that is added to popcorn aren’t the best things for your cat to consume.
Why popcorn can be dangerous to your cat
Even though popcorn itself isn’t dangerous or toxic, the things added to popcorn are a different story.
Seasonings and flavors
Garlic and onion: Watch out for popcorn that is full of seasoning like garlic, onion, or other types of spices. Garlic and onion are actually toxic to cats!
Cheese popcorn: Popcorn that is cheese flavored can also cause digestive upset, since many cats are lactose intolerant.
Caramel popcorn: Caramel corn is also a no-no to give a cat as it contains way too much sugar (and they are unable to taste sweet things anyway). This is the same for any other of the plethora of sugary popcorns out there – kettle corn, blueberry, strawberry, etc.
Butter and salt
Probably the most common way to flavor your popcorn is with lots of butter and some salt. In particular, the high quantities of butter added to popcorn are just not good for you cat to ingest.
If you use microwave popcorn, that is going to contain artificial flavorings that are unknowns. Even though the most dangerous chemical – diacetyl (which gave popcorn a butter flavor) – has been removed from microwave popcorns, it still may contain other chemicals like MSG.
This is also true if you flavor your home-made popcorn with artificial shaker seasonings or spray butter.
It also can present a choking hazard!
All the different toppings aside, the un popped kernels themselves can be a choking hazard, especially for small kittens. If you throw some popcorn at your cat, try to make sure it’s the fully popped fluffy pieces. And to be extra safe, don’t give kittens popcorn at all.
Plus, we all know how annoying it is when we get a partially popped popcorn kernel stuck between our teeth!
What about Smartfood popcorn (and other bagged varieties), can cats eat that?
Smartfood popcorn, the kind that is prepackaged and typically flavored like white cheddar, is non-toxic and probably won’t harm your cat much especially if they’ve only eaten a small amount.
However, it does contain milk and cheese cultures, along with buttermilk. Since many cats are lactose intolerant, it’s possibly it could cause a little digestive upset in a cat.
The safest way to feed popcorn to your cat
The safest method for feeding popcorn to your cat is to make it yourself at home, air popped. You can use a little bit of oil and lightly salt it if you wish, but avoid butter and other artificial flavorings like those popcorn seasoning shakers.
Before you throw any kernels their direction, make sure they’re not partially popped. The extra fluffy pieces will help prevent any kernels from getting stuck in their teeth, and also reduce the risk of choking.
And last, only give them a few pieces. It’s better to limit extras in your cat’s diet to avoid obesity and obesity related illnesses.
Our favorite healthy treats for cats
At Happy Cat Corner, we love to feed our cats Greenies treats. They’re healthy and made just for your cat, plus, they help keep your cat’s teeth clean as well!
Keep a bag on hand, and if your cat begs for popcorn or other snacks, give them a couple treats instead. It’s a win-win. They’ll love it, and you won’t have to worry about if what you’re feeding to your cat is dangerous for them or not.
Is your cat obsessed with any unusual people food? Let us know in the comments!