Can Cats Eat Popcorn Or Is It Bad For Them?

Have you ever caught your cat stealing popcorn kernels while you’re watching a movie on the TV or computer? Have you wondered if it’s okay for your cat to eat popcorn?

You’re not the only one! Many pet parents ask themselves if cats can eat popping corn, standard corn, air-fried popcorn, unseasoned popcorn, and other versions of this tasty snack.

Truthfully, there’s more to the answer than just a simple yes or no.

Cats are complex creatures, and the nutrients they require to thrive and prosper are different from what humans need. As such, what’s healthy for us is not as healthy for feline furballs.

Fortunately, that doesn’t mean popcorn is toxic to cats (although some types of popcorn toppings could pose a danger).

Some might even argue that it offers traces of healthy nutrition. After all, corn is listed among the ingredients in many cat food items. And since popcorn is a type of corn, it should be good for your precious fluffy friend, correct?

Corn vs. Popcorn vs. Cats

As carnivores, kitties get their primary nutrition from meat. However, they also can benefit from the fiber, protein, and carbs in veggies, fruits, and various crops.

Let’s talk about corn a little bit.  The corn in cat food is typically field corn, not the sweet corn you and I eat from the can or off the cob.

  • Field corn is rich in moisture, sugars, protein, and carbs.
  • Popcorn is low in protein, fiber, and sugar but still contains a lot of carbohydrates and calories.

No type of corn, be it field, sweet, sour, processed, fried, steamed, boiled, microwave-popped, air-popped, or stovetop, can provide enough nourishment to your kitty.

So, no, you can’t use any type of corn or popcorn as a truly healthy treat.

It’s way more appropriate to stick to specialized cat treats or real meat. These types of snacks will offer benefits to your pet’s overall health, as well as to its taste buds. Then why is corn in so many cat foods if it’s not good for your pet?

Corn is used as a filler agent in wet and dry cat food. Grain-free foods lack corn and other similar fillers, which is what makes them healthier and more expensive.

Corn isn’t necessarily bad for your pet, but as a food ingredient, it doesn’t put any significant advantages on the table. And truth be told, popcorn is even less nutritious.

Is popcorn toxic to cats?

As I mentioned in the beginning, this is a complicated matter that goes beyond the simple yes or no answer.

Popcorn on its own isn’t toxic to cats of any breed or age.

It’s not a good option for a snack, be it frequent or not, because it can’t meet your pet’s dietary requirements. However, kernels of plain popcorn are purrfectly safe for your feline friend’s body.

Popcorn toppings, on the other hand, can indeed be toxic to cats and other pets.

We often overlook this, but the extremely high amounts of salt, butter, sugar, caramel, spicy seasoning, and other types of popcorn flavoring can be more unhealthy than the popcorn itself.

Buying plain popcorn and seasoning it yourself is better, but it’s still not good for your kitty.

The sugary and spicy seasonings are the worst option for cats. They can indeed cause a toxic reaction and digestive problems.

Giving your cat popcorn regularly with these flavorings can cause your cat to develop high blood pressure and develop other complications.

I don’t recommend using the salty toppings, either. Cats don’t have a strong sense of dehydration, and high sodium concentrations can cause some nasty complications for them.

Do cats eat popcorn?

Of course they do!

Just because you have a finicky eater on your hands, don’t assume it won’t attempt to steal a few kernels of popcorn from you!

Thanks to its tasty smell, warmth, and crunchy texture, popcorn is quite appealing to feline furballs. What’s more, the fact that you’re eating it makes your pet want to try it even more.

You can test this theory with some plain air-popped popcorn since it’s the safest option available on the market.

If your cat doesn’t want to eat the popcorn for some reason or another, the kernels will make great toys for a play session. Just check out some videos of cats playing with popcorn kernels if you don’t believe me – you’ll be laughing out loud!

To sum it up – yes, cats can eat popcorn. It’s not toxic for them if it’s air-popped and doesn’t have strong seasonings (salty, sweet, spicy, and so forth).

But even if it’s plain and unseasoned, you should only give it to your pet rarely and in small amounts as a treat.

Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!