The good news is that plain popcorn is not toxic to cats. Cats are naturally curious and if you drop a piece of popcorn during a movie marathon or leave a bowl of popcorn on the side, your cat will more than likely help itself to a piece or two.
While popcorn isn’t toxic to cats, it should be given to cats with caution as it can be a choking hazard and it’s not a healthy snack for them to munch on.
What If My Cat Ate Popcorn?
If your cat ate air-popped popcorn, they will more than likely be fine. Just make sure that they’ve swallowed it and that it isn’t visibly stuck in their mouth or throat.
A cat that has eaten popcorn that has been topped with a toxic ingredient from the list below should be taken immediately to a vet for help.
Why Does My Cat Love Popcorn?
Does the smell of popcorn get your senses going and make you want to tuck into a bucket? That’s exactly how cats feel when they smell it. The warmth of popcorn is also comforting to cats. Plus, popcorn tastes nice, which is why many cats want to treat themselves to a piece.
Will Popcorn Hurt a Cat?
As a general rule, one or two pieces of plain popcorn won’t hurt a cat. But if your cat manages to break into the popcorn bag while your back is turned and devours lots of popcorn, they may experience stomach discomfort due to eating too much fiber.
A bag of popcorn usually contains at least a couple a handful of unpopped kernels. Unpopped kernels can get stuck in a cat’s teeth. They’re also difficult for a cat to chew and can be a choking hazard.
Another problem with a cat eating unpopped kernels is that they can bind together and get stuck in their digestive tract.
Will Popcorn Hurt Kittens?
Popcorn could hurt a kitten. A kitten won’t have experience chewing big pieces of food as kitten food is specifically designed for their small mouths. If a kitten eats popcorn, it could get stuck in its throat and it may choke on it.
Kittens also have baby teeth until around four months of age. Baby teeth are not designed for chewing food like popcorn.
Will Popcorn Make My Cat Ill?
- Salt – there is 2 mg of sodium in 3 cups of popcorn. Sodium poisoning is a serious health issue in cats that can cause sickness, diarrhea, fatigue, convulsions, and kidney damage.
- Butter – butter is packed full of fat. If a cat eats too much fat, it may experience cholesterol issues and put on weight. This can lead to heart disease.
- Caramel – caramel contains excess sugar, which isn’t good for any human or animal to eat in large quantities. The main risk associated with caramel is that shop-bought brands often contain xylitol. The smallest amount of xylitol is toxic to cats, and it’s often fatal.
- Garlic – garlic might taste great on popcorn, but it’s another highly toxic ingredient to cats. A cat that eats garlic-topped popcorn could experience organ damage, organ failure, or even death.
- Spices – Any spices containing onion or chives are toxic to cats. Other spices can cause allergy-like symptoms and stomach issues, so it’s best to keep spicy popcorn away from your feline companion.
- Cheese – cheesy popcorn is a delicious, indulging snack that is sure to get your cat’s interest. However, the high dairy and lactose content in cheese isn’t very well tolerated by a cat’s digestive system and is likely to cause gastrointestinal upset if eaten.
Check our list for salt substitutes on popcorn.
Factors That Determine Whether Popcorn Is Safe for Your Cat
If you’re looking to make an informed decision as to whether to feed your cat with popcorn or not, here are some of the main factors that you should keep in mind:
Presence of Toppings, Additives, and Seasoning
The presence of salt, butter, or any other kind of popcorn flavoring and toppings that make this amazing snack all the more delicious for humans can often have a detrimental effect on the health of your cat.
According to the ASPCA list of harmful foods that pet owners should avoid feeding their pets, salty snack foods such as popcorn are featured as one of the potentially toxic human foods that can lead to excessive thirst and even sodium ion poisoning in pets.
Onions, garlic, chives, nuts, raisins, and chocolate, which are all common popcorn toppings, also feature on the list as foods that should be avoided in pets. For this reason, if your cat really wants to nibble on some popcorn, then you need to make sure that it is completely plain popcorn, devoid of salt, butter, and other additives or flavorings.
Quantity and Frequency of Popcorn Servings
As mentioned earlier, cats have little need for carbohydrates in their diet, and since popcorn is a high-carbohydrate snack, pet owners are advised to keep the servings few and far between. One or two kernels during movie night might not cause much damage, but a serious problem can arise if you make it a habit to feed your cat popcorn on a regular basis.
This is mostly due to the fact that popcorn offers little to no nutritional value to your pet, and this means that it would be taking up space in your feline’s tummy at the expense of other more nutritional cat food options.
But what happens when you host weekly movie nights at your house and your cat is already used to the habit of hurrying to the kitchen when they hear kernels popping? Well, here are some healthier alternatives that you can feed your cat so that they don’t feel left out during the movie snacking fun:
Size of Kernels
The crunchy texture of popcorn, which makes it so delicious for humans, can pose a serious threat to cats. Since felines have small mouths, large kernels can easily get stuck between their teeth or even lead to choking. In order to avoid this, you should opt for kernel-less popcorn, which tends to be much smaller with minimal hard hull pieces.
If you notice that your cat has a piece of kernel stuck in its throat while eating popcorn, here are some immediate steps that you can take to solve the problem:
- Try gently sweeping their mouth with a clean finger to see if you can remove the kernel if it is stuck in the oral cavity.
- If you can see the popcorn kernel, however, it is out of reach, try and use a rubber tweezer to remove it. Be careful to make sure that you don’t push it down further. You can stick out your cat’s tongue to ease access and visibility.
- If steps 1 and 2 fail, attempt the cat Heimlich by holding your cat with their back to your chest and placing your fist beneath their ribcage. Gently pull your fist in and out with moderate pressure and sweeping movements to make sure that you don’t hurt your cat.
- If the Heimlich maneuver fails, head to your local veterinary clinic immediately for professional help.
Will Popcorn Hurt an Older Cat?
Possibly. Older cats tend to have fewer teeth than adult cats. This makes it more difficult for them to chew the popcorn, and they may swallow it whole. If this happens, there’s a risk that the popcorn will get stuck in their digestive tract.
Is Popcorn Healthy for Cats?
No. Even if your cat only eats air-popped popcorn, there are no nutritional benefits for your cat. Corn is not naturally part of a cat’s diet. However, it is often used as a filler ingredient in commercial cat food so your cat may already be used to the taste of it.
Which Breeds of Cat Shouldn’t Eat Popcorn?
Flat-nosed cats, such as Persians, Exotic Shorthair, and Himalayans, shouldn’t eat popcorn. These breeds are prone to chewing problems, choking, and retching due to them having smaller upper airways than other domestic cats.
How to Safely Feed a Cat Popcorn
If you want to treat your cat to some popcorn, only ever give them the air-popped variety. Ready-made bags of popcorn should be avoided because the packaging contains chemicals to keep the popcorn fresh. There are also likely to be unhealthy additives in ready-made popcorn.
Always make sure that you’re given your cat popcorn that has fully popped and is nice and fluffy. You can make chewing easier for your cat, by breaking the popcorn up into smaller pieces before giving it to them.
What to Do If Popcorn Makes My Cat Sick?
If you’re sure that your cat has eaten non-toxic popcorn, but they still fall ill, keep a close eye on your pet. Stomach issues are common after eating popcorn and the problem may soon pass.
Should your cat’s condition worsens or they don’t get any better, call a veterinarian for advice. They may want to see your cat straight away, or they’ll advise you on how to manage your cat’s symptoms at home.
When a cat falls seriously ill after eating popcorn, veterinary help should be sought straight away.
Most cats can get away with eating a small amount of popcorn. But you should always be aware of the risks associated with cats eating popcorn and choose only safe varieties for your feline friend.
Next, check our article on other household pets and popcorn.
Sue’s favorite pastime? Watching a good movie with a giant tub of popcorn by her side. Her friends and family know that if they want to get her something, popcorn is always a safe bet. Sue has an adventurous spirit and loves to travel exploring new places – she’s been to more than 40 countries!