It’s a familiar experience for many of us who have cats. You are sitting on the sofa watching something on the tv, or perhaps your favourite film, you are eating a bag of popcorn and then you find your curious little kitty is nibbling its way through your popcorn snack. Should you be concerned? Is it a problem? Can cats really eat popcorn?
The answer to this question is not as simple as yes or no.
In theory, cats can eat it and won’t suffer adverse effects as long as there are not any really bad additives or if its coated in something sickly sweet. Of course, if your cat is very young (a tiny kitten) or very old you should keep them away from popcorn as the little kernels could be a choking hazard for them. Similarly, popcorn can cause other respiratory and teething issues. After all, many of us have suffered a brief coughing fit as a result of lodging a kernel of popcorn in the back of our throat or getting a grain stuck between our teeth. If a kitten were to experience this, it could be rather serious.
Most cats will not suffer like this though.
Looking at the ingredients of your average tin of cat food is revealing. A major ingredient is actually ground yellow corn. It tends to fill out the food and can be a source of energy through carbs for your kitty. There are of course lots of different types of corn and popping corn is one to itself. However, it does have some nutritional benefits, as long as it is just the corn itself. For example, it can provide B vitamins, fiber, a small amount of protein and iron. This is not harmful to cats.
However, there is a but.
It is actually quite rare for popcorn to be eaten without some form of additive or coating, such as salt, sugar or chocolate. Easy to make microwave popcorn is particularly dangerous as you don’t really know what it has in it, and it can even be toxic to cats. Garlic, butter or salt will be an issue, as would be candied popcorn, chocolate, cheese or caramel. It is actually quite difficult to find an easy to make popcorn that doesn’t have issues. It’s best to stay clear of them if you want to sit with your cat, or make sure the cat doesn’t come in the room when you are eating, and make sure you don’t spill the kernels anywhere, or clear up after yourself.
If you have made your popcorn from scratch (air popped popcorn) then a small amount is probably fine for your cat. It is nothing to worry about.
Make sure that they do not eat the non popped grains, and as we know there are often quite a few lurking at the bottom of the box or bag. Keep these away from your cat, no matter what age they are. They could choke on it.
It’s obviously important that we think about the health of our cats and do our best to look after their nutrition. However, occasionally an animal will eat something by mistake. Eating a few kernels of popcorn is not going to be a huge isue if your cat is fit and healthy. However, you should keep an eye on them if you are eating popcorn and make sure you pick up any dropped kernels as soon as possible, removing any temptation from the cat. Keep a watchful eye on them, stay vigilant, and you and your cat will be fine.