Can Cats Eat Popcorn? To POP or not to POP!

helen roberts DVM

Published by Helen Roberts

Updated on

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Can Cats Eat Popcorn? Yes or No?

Picture this: you settle down in front of the TV with a big bowl of popcorn. Before you know it, your cat appears and begs for a popped kernel. Can cats eat popcorn? The answer is yes and no. 

can cats eat popcorn

While popcorn is not toxic, it can cause problems if it is covered in butter and sugar. Plus, cats are obligate carnivores, which basically means they need meat to survive. Therefore grains, such as popcorn, are not needed. 

In small quantities, popcorn is unlikely to cause a problem, but there are exceptions. Read on to find out more.

Is Corn Toxic to Cats?

Like popcorn, corn is not toxic to cats. However, it provides little to no nutritional benefit to cats and should not be fed in large quantities. It is crucial cats are fed a well-balanced cat food, and treats like corn should be kept to a minimum.

Feline Side Effects in Eating Popcorn

Eating too much popcorn can cause digestive issues such as vomiting and diarrhea as your cat’s body struggles to digest the excessive amounts of fiber. In addition, choking in cats can occur if it attempts to eat a piece of popcorn too big for its mouth.

Also, side effects from salt and butter that may have been on the popcorn include dehydration and more severe vomiting and diarrhea. Any artificial kinds of butter or sugars applied to microwave popcorn can be toxic and should not be given to cats.

When is Popcorn Okay For Your Cat to Eat?

It is probably safe if your cat eats a small piece of plain popcorn. If you notice that your cat snuck a rogue piece of popcorn that had fallen from your bowl, don’t panic. Check the ingredients for any possibly toxic products, and if there aren’t any, just make sure to monitor your pet for any signs of gastrointestinal upset.

When Popcorn is Bad For Cats

Popcorn can be bad for cats if it is fed in excessive quantities, is covered in butter and salt, or if other potentially toxic ingredients are on the popcorn, such as artificial butter and sugar, which can be on microwave popcorn.

Popcorn can also block your cat’s airways if they cannot swallow it and cause them to choke. If you think your cat is choking, seek medical advice as soon as possible. If you do not think your cat will make the journey to see a veterinarian, you can attempt to dislodge the popcorn. 

How to Help Your Cat if it is Choking

First, if it is safe to do so, you can attempt to remove the popcorn from their mouth by pulling on your cat’s tongue and grasping the popcorn. Remember, a choking cat will not be thinking straight and may bite.

Do not attempt to remove the popcorn from your cat’s mouth if you are concerned about this. Another option is to perform a Cat Heimlich. To do this, you hold your cat with its back against your chest and use your hands to gently but firmly push on its belly in short quick successions. 

After a few thrusts, pause and check your cat’s mouth to see if anything has been dislodged, and then you can try again. Make sure to keep yourself safe. A cat in distress can be dangerous. Do not attempt to handle a cat that could bite or scratch you.

Alternative Cat Treats to Popcorn

It is recommended to feed cat treats designed for cats instead of popcorn. Options include freeze-dried chicken or biscuit treats. Another great alternative is to provide your cat’s pet food as a treat. 

This will make sure the treat is healthy and can be especially useful in situations such as cats with food allergies or if they are on a special diet (for example, if they are on a kidney diet for kidney disease). 

It is important to remember that treats are just that, a treat, and should not make a large part of your cat’s diet. Instead, ensure that you provide well-balanced cat food as the majority of your cat’s food options and keep treats for special occasions.

Which Human Foods Are Toxic to Cats?

Anytime you think to offer your cat human food, make sure to do some research before you do, as some foods may surprise you. 

Here is a list of some human foods which are toxic to cats:

  • Alcohol in beverages or food 
  • Onions, garlic, and chives
  • Heavily salted snack foods and salt itself
  • Xylitol (artificial sweetener)
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Uncooked eggs
  • Spoiled food
uncooked eggs

If you think your pet has eaten something toxic, stay calm and contact your veterinarian or the animal poison control center on (888)-426-4435 anytime day or night for advice. Make sure to have some information ready, like the size and age of your pet and how much your pet might have eaten.

Kittens and Popcorn

It is not recommended that kittens eat popcorn because even a tiny amount could act as a choking hazard. Instead, make sure to feed your kitten a well-balanced kitten food high in protein and the essential nutrient taurine to keep them healthy. 

If you think your kitten might have eaten some popcorn, contact your veterinarian for advice.

Is There Any Nutritional Value in Popcorn for Cats?

Popcorn does contact B vitamins, iron, fiber, and minerals, but these are likely to be negligible in a cat eating a well-balanced cat food. Remember, cats are obligate carnivores meaning animal products must make up the vast majority of their diet. So skip the popcorn and give them some cat food instead.

Is Popcorn Safe for Senior Cats?

A small piece of plain, air-popped popcorn is likely safe, but popcorn is unlikely to provide any nutritional value to your senior kitty, so it is probably best to avoid it. In addition, popcorn toppings such as butter, salt, sugar, and spices are toxic to cats of all ages and should not be given to them.

If you notice that your cat has eaten some plain air-popped popcorn and has swallowed it without incident, it is probably ok to just monitor them for signs of gastrointestinal upset. 

However, if your cat has possibly ingested a toxic topping along with the popcorn, choking, vomiting, or diarrhea, seek veterinary advice.

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helen roberts DVM


Helen's journey in veterinary medicine is marked by her dedication to small animal practice and a thirst for diverse experiences. She graduated from Massey University in 2016, embarking on her career at a rural clinic in Canterbury, New Zealand, before venturing to the UK in search of new challenges. Helen's love for animals has always been at the core of her passion, and her dream of working with them has become a fulfilling reality.


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