Cheesy, salty and crunchy…
Popcorn is quite pleasing to our taste-buds and sometimes you may be tempted to share this lovely treat with your beloved cat.
But is this really a good idea?
You might think that there is no harm in feeding your cat plain popcorn or popcorn kernels. But unfortunately this isn’t the case as you can cause long-term metabolic damage to your feline friend.
In this article we will cover the following:
Popcorn is a lovely treat for us humans, but is it really acceptable to feed your cat popcorn?
The truth is, popcorn is a human food that is full of additives and artificial flavors.
It is essentially a form of cereal grain that is full of starch and carbohydrates all of which isn’t really healthy for an obligate carnivore like your cat. Many sites suggest that popped popcorn can provide certain nutritional benefits for your pets.
These include things like additional fiber, vitamin b1 and 2, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and much more. Some websites even claim that popcorn is rich in antioxidants which means they can benefit an animal’s health by increase immune response and function.
Even though popcorn may indeed have these vitamins and minerals, it is just too small of a portion to actually benefit your cat. In fact, popped popcorn and its derivatives is said to be pretty unhealthy for a cat’s digestive and metabolic health.
Now, you may be wondering, why are corn kernels found in your cat’s kibble?
Truth is, lots of pet food companies do add corn as a filler to cat dry food and this in itself has caused much debate and speculation regarding how healthy certain dry kibble food is for your cat. Click here to find out more about if cats can eat corn.
Microwave popcorn tends to have terrible things like high levels of salt, butter, artificial cheese flavoring, hydrogenated soybean oils, onion and garlic seasoning. All these additives can cause toxicity as gastrointestinal distress to your feline friend if fed on a regular basis.
Yes, cats can eat popcorn. They may even develop a liking towards these crunchy corn treats. However, popcorn has little to no nutritional value for cats and isn’t essential to their diet. Furthermore it can cause a lot of health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and colic. Therefore, if you do feed popcorn to your cat, limit how much you give them and never overdo it.
Here’s a cat stealing popcorn from her owner’s bowl, so you can tell she loves it!
Kittens tend to have small, delicate baby teeth. They have small jaws and are still learning how to chew and eat most hard foods. Popped popcorn and popcorn kernels can thus be a choking hazard for kittens aside from providing very little nutritional benefit as well.
Kittens also tend to have very sensitive stomachs, generally above 4 weeks of age is when a kitten slowly transitions onto solid food (weaning). Giving popcorn to a kitten can result in horrible things like diarrhea and vomiting which can in turn lead to dehydration.
It’s a choking hazard for kittens and senior cats! Kittens and senior cats tend to have poor dental formation and often may have difficulty chewing or eating. As a result, eating popped or un-popped popcorn may lead to choking in these animals. Corn kernals stuck inbetween teeth could lead to kittens having bad breath.
The excessive salt found in popcorn can be quite toxic to cats. Salt in high enough dosage can result in seizures, tremors, vomiting, lethargy and coma. If left untreated and prolonged than salt toxicity can eventually lead to death.
Onion and garlic seasonings found in salt can cause discomfort and illness in cats as well. Consuming high enough amounts of seasoning can result in colic, ataxia (uncoordinated movements), vomiting and eventually death if not treated.
Cheese and dairy additives can result in a lactose intolerant cat that may have severe stomach aches, persistent vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.
Another big concern is the excessive carbohydrate consumption. Remember, cats are obligate carnivores. Which means they don’t have the necessary enzymes (like us) to breakdown carbohydrates.
Corn kernels and popcorn is essentially starchy carbohydrates. And so an excess in carbohydrates in a cat’s diet can lead to long term issues such as diabetes, obesity, stomach aches.
There is some speculation that suggests that popcorn or kernel meal can provide small amounts of fiber, vitamin B and iron to your cat.
However, these nutritional values are quite small and insignificant. In fact, it simply isn’t worth the risk to feed popcorn if you can get similar and more extensive nutritional benefits elsewhere.
This video will help you understand more about carbs in a cat’s diet:
There are many alternatives available if you want to feed your cat a yummy, crunchy treat similar to the texture of popcorn. Blue Buffalo Wilderness has a wide range of crunchy cat treats that come in an array of flavors ranging from chicken,trout and salmon.
One of the most popular crunchy, dental treats currently out there is also quite a healthy alternative to popcorn. These are called Greenies! They too come in a variety of flavors your cat will crave.
My cat’s favorite treats include Purebites. These are wholesome treats that have a crunchy texture. They are one of the healthiest treats out there as they only content a single ingredient and are freeze-dried which means they are packed with nutrients.
Whole life is another great freeze-dried treat alternative that is predominately US made. It is a human grade line of treats that uses only Alaskan Salmon as its fillets.
If you have an older cat or younger kitten that may have difficulty eating crunchy treats then why not try some grain-free, moist wet food for your cat that will be rich in protein and vitamins. My personal favorite is the WERUVA line.
If you want treats for your kitten then the Get Naked line has a special sized kitten treats that is free of corn, gluten and grain.
The short answer is Yes….and No! It’s simply not a healthy treat you should be feeding your beloved cat. If fed over a long period of time and if fed in excess then this can lead to many health issues such as toxicity, intolerance, and diabetes.
If occasionally you find your cat stealing a few pieces of popcorn, then it’s okay as long as the cat can safely chew it. If, however, you find your little kitten or geriatric pet trying to eat popcorn then it’s best to take the popcorn away in order to prevent a choking hazard.
There is little to no evidence suggesting that popcorn is a healthy treat for your cat. It will do more harm than good and so should be avoided as treat. Remember there are many alternatives I’ve listed above that your cat is bound to love.
If you have any questions or comments you’d like to share or any experiences of your cat eating popcorn then please share it with us in the comments below!
I began my studies in zoology and realized I wanted to work more in the medical field and so I applied to the Veterinary program at Massey University in New Zealand and was accepted. Throughout my student life, I’ve worked as a veterinarian assistant in my hometown pet hospital. At present, I work intensively rotating to and from veterinary hospitals, dairy and sheep farms.