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Home > Cats > Can Cats Eat Popcorn? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Can Cats Eat Popcorn? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Plain popcorn isn’t toxic to cats. However, salt, butter, and other flavorings need to be avoided, as they can be potentially dangerous to your feline. Furthermore, as it doesn’t contain the high amount of protein that cats need it is not a recommended part of your cats’ daily diet.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must consume meat to survive. Popcorn doesn’t have much protein or other beneficial nutrients at all. It’s mostly empty calories, making it a poor choice for anything more than the occasional treat.

Let’s examine some pros and cons of your cat eating popcorn.

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What Kind of Popcorn Can Cats Eat?

Cats can only eat plain, unflavored popcorn. It should be free from salt and flavorings. While popcorn itself is safe, many of these flavorings are not. Therefore, they should be avoided. Air-popped and microwaved are both suitable. However, beware of popcorn that is popped in oil. Many microwave popcorn varieties have oil already added, so be sure to check the ingredient list. Some may even have added salt, which is extremely bad for cats.

Always check the ingredient list before feeding your cat popcorn. Even if it looks plain, you may be surprised that it includes other ingredients.

Popcorn on a table
Image Credit: stevepb, Pixabay

Benefits of Popcorn for Cats

There aren’t many benefits of popcorn for cats. Popcorn is a whole grain, meaning that it is mostly carbohydrates. There are some other nutrients within it, like fiber. However, there isn’t enough to make a huge difference for most cats.

Therefore, the only benefit is the novelty. Some cats are drawn to popcorn for one reason or another. Being able to share a little bit of your popcorn with your cat is plenty enough reason for many cat owners.

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Downsides of Popcorn for Cats

1. Additives

Popcorn is rarely plain unless you air-pop it yourself. Many popcorns come with added flavorings, butter, and salt. Salt and flavorings can be highly toxic to cats, and butter is too high in fat for most felines. Therefore, it is best to avoid it.

A few pieces of popcorn won’t harm your feline. However, if your cat eats too many, they may develop toxicity symptoms. For instance, your feline may develop salt toxicity if too much salty popcorn is consumed. Cats are far smaller than people, so a normal amount of salt for a human is far too much for a feline.

Onions, garlic, and other ingredients can also cause problems. Many foods consumed by humans are toxic to cats, so we recommend only plain popcorn.

Some flavorings common in popcorn are known to be toxic to cats. For instance, diacetyl monoxime is an artificial buttery flavor commonly found on store-bought popcorn. This chemical may affect your cat’s breathing and muscular control.

Popcorn can contain other additives, too. For instance, perfluorooctanoic acid can cause cat hyperthyroidism and is commonly added to microwave popcorn. As always, double-check the ingredient list before giving anything to your feline.

plain pop corn
Image Credit: Alex Munsell, Unsplash

2. Gastrointestinal Problems

Most cats aren’t used to consuming popcorn. Therefore, most felines will develop gastrointestinal problems after eating popcorn—even if it is just plain popcorn. Their stomachs just aren’t used to digesting popcorn, causing them to get stomach aches and diarrhea. Luckily, these symptoms are often minor and go away within 24 hours.


3. Weight Gain

Popcorn may lead to weight gain, as it is very carbohydrate-heavy. If your cat consumes  popcorn regularly, they may consume too many calories. Over time, this can lead to weight gain. However, a piece of popcorn or two doesn’t cause your cat to suddenly gain a pound. They’d need to eat it regularly.

Of course, weight gain is associated with a range of different health problems. For instance, cats may develop joint issues as their joints try to carry more weight. Obese cats don’t live as long as healthy-weight cats, so keeping your cat at a healthy weight is vital.


4. Nutritional Deficiencies

Cats need a range of different nutrients to survive. As obligate carnivores, your feline needs to consume meat. Popcorn obviously doesn’t fall into this category. Therefore, your cat may develop health issues if they consume too much popcorn over an extended period. Filling up on popcorn instead of balanced cat food may cause them to develop nutritional deficiencies.

Cat eating from a ceramic bowl
Image Credit: Sweetlouise, Pixabay

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How Much Popcorn Can a Cat Have?

Many cats can have small amounts of plain popcorn without experiencing negative effects. Even a small amount of popcorn may cause gastrointestinal issues in some cats though. Your cat may get an upset stomach or vomit, for instance.

Don’t give your cat any flavored, buttery, or salted popcorn. These additives aren’t healthy for your cat and may even be blatantly toxic. Therefore, they should be avoided at all costs.

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Conclusion

Popcorn may be a healthy snack for people, but it isn’t the best option for our felines. Popcorn is high in carbohydrates and low in protein, which doesn’t line up with what our cats need at all. Additionally, popcorn doesn’t include any of the nutrients our felines need to thrive. It may cause stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea—even in very small amounts in some cats.

If fed long-term, popcorn can lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight gain. Popcorn can also contain many additives, which may be toxic to your cat. Salt, onions, garlic, and other common flavorings can cause serious cat health issues. Therefore, if you decide to share popcorn with your feline, only plain popcorn should be given.

If you have any concerns about your cats’ health contact your veterinarian for advice.


Featured Image Credit: 41330, Pixabay

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