Can Cats Eat Popcorn? 🍿 Is Popcorn Safe For Cats To Eat?

Last Updated on July 8, 2021 by Jenny

Can Cats Eat Popcorn

If you’re asking yourself this question, then perhaps it means that your furry friend curled up with you during movie time and helped himself to some of your popcorn. At this point, like any responsible cat parent, you asked yourself – can cats eat popcorn?

The short answer is that it depends entirely on how the popcorn was made and even then, moderation is key. As for the detailed answer, well, take a look below:

Can cats eat popcorn – yes or no?

Yes, cats can eat popcorn but, no, your cat shouldn’t eat popcorn. And if your cat has digestive issues, especially ones involving a gluten intolerance, then the answer is simple – it’s a hard no.

I posted on our Facebook page, and one reader (who is also a retired breeder) mentioned, “Never at our house. I had the horrible experience of seeing a cat suffocate from getting one stuck in its windpipe.”

Is popcorn bad for cats?

Can Cats Eat Popcorn Problems Warning

I asked her if she could give me a full testimonial and here’s what she wrote:
“This happened years ago but I will never forget it.  We were at a neighbor’s house and they had a sweet, large cat.  I couldn’t tell you the breed.  We were playing cards and eating popcorn and the cat would eat pieces up off the floor.  All the sudden we noticed the cat was weaving and then collapsed gasping for breath.  Normally we would have rushed it to a vet but it was late at night and they lived 10 miles or so outside of Hays, KS.  We wouldn’t have made it in time.  We even tried Heimlich maneuvers to no avail.  I vowed then no pet of mine would ever get popcorn. “
Leanna Steward of House of Steward Ragdolls, Retired

There are healthier options you have available for snacks.

I asked Sarah Brandon, DVM, “Can Cats Eat Popcorn?”  She replied:

Yes, if it meets the following criteria:
  • Fully popped & fluffy.  No hard kernels; better yet, break off the fluffy pieces and offer just that.
  • Organic product (all ingredients)
  • Non-corn ingredients limited to low/no: butter, salt, sunflower/safflower oil
  • Contains no sugar, garlic, onions, food coloring, other additives & seasonings.  (Note: if a cat snuck 1-2 pieces of such a product, I would not worry; just don’t offer as a treat.)
  • Treats are limited to 2-3 pieces.  
If your cat likes the texture of popcorn, consider having a small bowl of freeze dried meat which she can have while you’re nibbling on popcorn. If your cat likes anything you’re eating, offer a few pieces of popcorn from your bowl … and have another bowl nearby or hidden inside with other special treats.   If your cat likes salty things, offer sustainably caught sardines (canned) or a bit of dried organic kelp (2-3 in square is plenty).  If your cat likes popcorn for unknown reasons, the fluffy pieces can serve as meal toppers for those with low appetites.  
Most cats are attracted to the flavorings of popcorn – like white cheddar, butter, salt, etc.  They really aren’t interested in the popcorn itself.  For example, my Ragdoll cat Trigg loves white cheddar popcorn – so I hold it and let him lick off the coating. I do not let him eat the actual piece of popcorn.

Can Cats Eat Popcorn Ragdoll Cat Addie IMG_8804

Cat eating popcorn

Why is popcorn so irresistible to cats?

Popcorn, because of all of it’s coatings can be a tempting snack, but it is also something your cat can play around with. When seeing it from afar, most cats are first attracted to the shape of popcorn before anything else.

As a kitty plays with popcorn, its hunting instincts come in and it starts biting at it and it usually has a pleasant surprise. If the popcorn is warm, then the smell might top the play opportunity and your cat may just be checking out what smells so delicious.

Can Cats Eat Popcorn

Popcorn cat

What is bad popcorn and why should my cat stay away from it?

Can cats have popcorn? Imagine a fresh batch of microwave popcorn with extra butter and salt. You open the bag and the smell is absolutely amazing. It makes your mouth water and you can’t wait to get your hands on it.

And while it is a culinary delight for you, it is simply toxic for your cat. Why? Because it is loaded with processed fats and salt, which can cause your kitty a lot of problems, such as indigestion and diarrhea.

Here are the main characteristics of bad popcorn:

  • Anything that’s fried – including microwave popcorn.
  • Anything that has butter – including low-fat.
  • Anything that has other flavors – including cheese.
  • Anything that’s hot.

These types of popcorn have a very high quantity of processed fats and artificial flavors, which can be extremely dangerous even for healthy cats.

If your cat already has digestive problems, liver problems, or kidney problems, then that delicious popcorn is absolute poison.

So technically, I should not allow my cat, Trigg, to lick white cheddar coated popcorn.

Among the many consequences of your cat eating bad popcorn are – indigestion, acute and chronic diarrhea, bile problems, kidney blockage, skin rashes, allergies, and even fatty liver.

So, the next time you have that fresh batch of popcorn with extra butter, do your cat a favor and present her with a healthy snack instead of the popcorn.

Of course, I have not experienced those things -indigestion, acute and chronic diarrhea, bile problems, etc with Trigg, otherwise I would stop.  However, I eat bagged (already popped) white cheddar organic popcorn, so it’s a wee bit different.

Cats Eating Popcorn

What is good popcorn and can my cat have some?

Imagine the type of popcorn that would be diet-friendly. On its own, popcorn is low in calories and rich in fibers, which makes it a decent snack if you cook it correctly.

Here are the characteristics of good popcorn:

  • It is not fired – this does not include microwavable popcorn.
  • It does not have any oil – regardless of the type of oil added.
  • It does not have any butter – even bio butter can be dangerous.
  • It does not have any type of flavors.
  • It does not have any type of added sugar.

As you can see, this leaves you with very few popcorn options and none of them are available at your local supermarket.

If you are willing to put in the time to air fry or oven cook your popcorn oil-free, which is bio and lacks any artificial additives and flavors, then we can start talking about quantity and popcorn control.

Cat Eating Popcorn

What is popcorn control?

Before you can feed your cat any popcorn, you have to do a full check-up on every single flake. That’s right, you have to do the full popcorn control for every flake.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Check that it is properly cooked – uncooked popcorn is more difficult to digest, so you may want to sort out the flakes that are not cooked all the way through. It is also quite difficult to chew through and insisting can lead to dental issues.
  • Check that it is not overcooked or burnt – overcooked popcorn and especially burnt popcorn can cause indigestion, so make sure you sort out the flakes that are any shade of brown or black.
  • Check that it doesn’t have the thin membrane – before you feed your cat any popcorn, check for those thin membranes and remove them. Removing them from your cat’s mouth or throat will be much more difficult than you think, so you may want to save yourself the trouble.

I would never just pour a bowl of popcorn and offer it to Trigg. I offer him one piece that I have carefully inspected and again, he usually just licks it – does not EAT the popcorn.

While it might seem that checking every popcorn flake is a lot of work, it is extremely important because it can save you a lot of trouble. Both undercooked and overcooked popcorn could lead to indigestion and other digestive issues.

As for the thin membranes on the popcorn, imagine how annoying it is when you get them stuck in your teeth or even worse, in your throat. Now imagine not being able to use your fingers to get them out. This is why popcorn control is an absolute must.

How Much Popcorn Cat You Feed Your Cat

How much popcorn can I feed my cat?

The ideal quantity of popcorn for your kitty is 3-5 pieces.  If that.  Honestly, it’s so subjective, it depends.  I  think I let Trigg have 3-5 pieces to lick and that’s it.

Any more than that and you risk your cat getting indigestion. Popcorn may be delicious and low in calories when cooked correctly, but it is still a snack that should be consumed with caution, especially by your cat.

Can Cats Eat Popcorn Ragdoll Cat Trigg IMG_8817

There is also a matter of frequency. Feeding popcorn to your cat should not become a habit.

Even if it is good popcorn that has passed popcorn control with flying colors, having too much of it is not healthy for your cat. Its diet should have very small amounts of gluten and starch, which popcorn is rich in.

As you can see, popcorn is a very tricky snack for your cat, even after passing all the quality control measures we’ve listed above.

So, the next time your cat wants to get in on your TV time, you may want to keep the popcorn to yourself, just to be on the safe side.

You can even set up a snack pack for your cat to nibble on while sitting with you in front of the TV, one that is healthy and better-suited for your furry critter.

Can Cats Eat Popcorn Ragdoll Cat Addie IMG_8803


Do you have any popcorn stories with your cat? Does it love to play with it or is it more interested in eating it? Please tell us about your cat meets popcorn adventures in the comments section below. We’d love to hear about your experiences!

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5 thoughts on “Can Cats Eat Popcorn? 🍿 Is Popcorn Safe For Cats To Eat?

  1. Kattolio says:

    Neither of our cats like people food. There are a few exceptions. One of them is that Seven just loves to lick the cheese coating off of cheese puffs. She meows until you let her have a few licks. I hold it out to her, she has her few licks and the proceeds to take a bath. They could care less about popcorn. If a piece falls on the floor, she will try to cover it up. If we eat while watching TV and set our plate on the couch, Seven tries to cover it up. Don’t ever have to worry about food being stolen.

  2. JLSmithson says:

    Love this! My Maine Coon Mackey LOVED popcorn. We would sit and watch movies together with each of us taking turns reaching into the bowl. Since Artemis has digestive issues, I will be monitoring this more closely. And to be honest, they like playing with the occasional kernel more that eating it. Thanks Jenny!

  3. Joel Schmid says:

    Shelby likes popcorn too. Leo does not. We let her have ONE piece when we make it. We have a whirly pop machine. We buy hull less popcorn. (That thin shell is called the hull) you can get hull less on line, or at gourmet or whole food groceries.
    Great article btw !

  4. Patti Johnson says:

    WOW! SUPER FABULOUS & PAWESOME POPCORN POST, Jenny honey! I HAD NO IDEA ABOUT ANY OF THIS WITH KITTIES! Of course, that being said, we’ve never fed any of the kitties in our life popcorn (dogs, yes…kitties, no) because all our previous kitties never showed any interest in it. I don’t allow popcorn in our home anymore since I went Keto/NSNG back in 2017 and learned many years ago how very toxic microwave popcorn is (much to my hubby’s disappointment)! NOTE: I used to love to eat the organic white cheddar pre-popped popcorn you find in the chips aisle at the grocery store (not knowing of course just how very toxic all those carbs, and the resulting large dose of insulin I had to inject to keep my blood sugar from getting dangerously high, were from all that snacking).
    Soooooo, Miss PSB doesn’t even know what popcorn is. 🙂 <3

    I really enjoyed the education you provided in this incredible post! TYSVM, honey! Just fascinating! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

    • Jenny says:

      Yes, Patti, I still eat the popcorn in the chip aisle – sigh. yes, long story short on popcorn and cats – shouldn’t be eating it, but denying chiggy of a few licks of ice cream or popcorn isn’t worth the angst.

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