Is Popcorn Bad For Cats? You May Be Surprised!
Cats can be such picky creatures. But isn’t that why we love them so much? In my experience, my cats have always been the pickiest when it comes to what food they want and don’t want. The majority of the time, it’s my own food they want most!
Have you ever been tempted to feed your cat “people food”? This temptation arrives most when you’re eating a bag of chips, and suddenly your cat is going crazy about them! Or they just won’t stop sniffing and licking into your soupy bowl of ramen!
Something like this happened to me just the other day. I was watching a movie with my cat, enjoying a nice big bowl of popcorn fresh out of the microwave. I had just popped a big handful in my mouth when some stray pieces fell into my lap.
Before I could even reach my hand down to grab the tasty treat, my cat was already doing the job for me! Immediately, the question came to my mind: is popcorn bad for cats?
Luckily, I took them from him before he could eat much, but I still needed to look this up and see if my cat would be hurt by the popcorn bits he may or may not have digested. And so I began my trek for answers!
Nutritional Benefits of Corn
Long story short, there aren’t really any nutritional benefits in popcorn for a cat. However, even though that is the case, it still gets a little more complicated than that. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Ground yellow corn -- aka corn meal -- is often found in dry cat foods as both a binder and a filler. Along with these purposes, it also provides a very, very small amount of nutritional benefits in the form of things like energy, fiber, iron, protein, and vitamin B.
Now, even with that said, there is a difference between the ground yellow corn in dry food and fresh popped corn. Although all corn does have the trace amount of these nutrients, feeding your cat popped corn isn’t actually going to do much good for the little ball of fur.
This doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily do much bad either, though. Although, it is true that corn is a starch-based grain, and cats are unable to process carbohydrates in this form (due to not having the right enzymes in their saliva). Too much of this undigested grain can cause problems to your cat’s stomach.
Even then, in the end, it’s not actually the popped corn that makes the difference here. There is no nutritional harm in your cat having a couple of pieces of popped corn, but there is also definitely ZERO nutritional benefit, either. What really makes the difference here is the stuff you put on it!
Harm in the Toppings
The kicker here lies in the toppings you put on your popped corn. I’m talking about the butter, salt, caramel, seasonings, et cetera. While popped corn itself has no major good or bad about it, these toppings are the real decision breaker.
Dairy toppings, especially, can cause problems in your little furball because cats are lactose intolerant. Your cat can experience a great deal of stomach discomfort from being unable to digest the dairy in toppings like butter or cheese. Not only will your cat be in some pain, but you’ll also probably have a big mess in the litter box to clean up after!
Perhaps the biggest harmful topping is salt, and I know I sure do use a lot of it when I make my popcorn. This stuff is seriously bad for your cat, being toxic and sometimes fatal. If your cat takes in too much sodium, this imbalance can cause problems down the road like high blood pressure and even heart failure.
So, Is Popcorn Good or Bad?
Over all, the answer is a little more complicated than just a “good” or a “bad”. But we need a definitive answer here, because you don’t want your baby kitty getting sick. So, the answer is more like… “somewhere in between”.
When it comes down to it, freshly popped corn with no toppings whatsoever isn’t bad. I wouldn’t advise you feed your cat any, though, purely because it has no nutritional benefit, and you’d be better off just not risking anything at all.
In the end, though, it’s not the end of the world if your cat has a couple of bites of some plain popped corn! Just don’t let them have the salty bits -- you know, save that good stuff for you.