Have your cats ever attempted to steal a bunch of popcorn kernels while you get carried away with your favorite series on Netflix? Equally, it seems like the smell of freshly salted and buttered popcorn aren’t only enticing to you but also to your furry friends. Question is, can cats eat popcorn?
You’ve probably thought about letting them nibble on a kernel or two. Well, cats are naturally very persuasive, and you can’t win an argument with them. To clarify, is it okay for them to eat popcorn? Or are there particular reasons why they shouldn’t have it? What to do if my cats eat popcorn?
Is Popcorn Safe For Cats?
There isn’t a quick yes or no answer. Popcorn on its own is non-toxic to your cats. In contrast, popcorn toppings can indeed be toxic to them. Moreover if made of chocolate, cheese and butter.
Popcorn isn’t entirely nutritious to your cats. You might argue that popcorn is a type of corn which is listed among the ingredients in many cat dry and wet foods. Altogether, how can it be bad for your precious cats?
Field Corn vs Popcorn
First of all, the corn used in cat foods is typically field corn, not the sweet corn we eat from the can or off the cob. Field corn is a natural, wholesome ingredient with moisture content about 32%. It’s rich in highly digestible carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, protein and natural antioxidants such as Beta-carotene, vitamin E and lutein.
On the other hand, popcorn is only 4% moisture and contains a starch-based grain which can’t be properly digested by your cats. They lack the right enzymes in their saliva to process carbohydrates in that form. Too much of this undigested grain can lead to many gastrointestinal issues in cats. Popcorn does contain fibre and minerals. However, the number of nutrients that’d be consumed in a few kernels is more or less negligible.
Why Do Cats Love Popcorn?
You might’ve thought that it’s because of the sweet or savoury taste of it. But this is further from the truth. Cats are obligate carnivores. Thus their taste buds favour meat a lot more than veggies. They don’t need sugar or that much carbohydrates in their diet, so there’s no reason for them to have a sweet tooth. In fact, they lack the genetic ‘hardware’ needed to detect sweet things, including those sugar in popcorn.
So what’s the reason cats really love popcorn?
It’s actually the fat content! Cats have an auxiliary biological structure at the roof of their mouth, known as the Jacobson’s organ, that allows them to sense the essence of flavours and smells in a way that we don’t. So, they have superior nasal receptors to ‘taste-smell’ the fat content in food. It’s no wonder that they’re also attracted to ice cream, candy, pudding, etc. It’s safe to say then that anything with fats in will evoke their culinary interests right away.
The Dangers Of Popcorn To Cats
Popcorn presents a choking hazard to the young kittens and senior cats. Kittens tend to have small, delicate baby teeth and jaws. They’re still learning how to chew and familiarizing with hard foods. Senior cats, on the other hand, have probably lost most of their teeth and can only consume soft food. So it’d be best if you refrained from feeding them any hard grain like popcorn.
Your healthy adult cats might have no problem with chewing popcorn. However, the kernels can still potentially trigger airway blockage for them, cutting off the oxygen to the brain. It’s best to observe them attempting to eat popcorn very carefully.
Aside from being a choking hazard, crunching popcorn can damage your cats’ teeth. Unpopped kernels can get stuck in their teeth, so you might want to keep a finger brush handy in case that happens. As a result, if not treated, they can lead to bad breath, or worse, gum diseases such as gingivitis and stomatitis.
The store-bought popcorn usually comes with added cheese and butter toppings. Furthermore, these milk products can upset your cats’ digestive systems since they’re lactose intolerant. Also, if you’ve got your hands on some gourmet chocolate popcorn, under no circumstances may you feed your cats with it. As cat parents, you should know that chocolate is toxic to cats. Briefly, it contains chemical compounds, namely Theobromine and Theophylline. These can induce vomiting in your cats, or worse, seizures, breathing trouble and arrhythmia.
Aside from the toppings, popcorns can also contain a lot of additives that are harmful to your cats. One of them is Diacetyl, the one that gives the popcorn the distinctive taste and appealing smells when it comes out of the microwave oven. In shorty, this chemical compound has been reported to cause damage to airways and lung disease in animals when they breathe it in.
Another harmful popcorn’s additive to cats is hydrogenated oil. It gives the rich buttery flavour that we all love. However, this ingredient isn’t supposed to be digested by your cats. It can likely lead to hepatic lipidosis, or more commonly known as fatty liver.
Risk of Sodium Poisoning
If your cats eat popcorn that has flavorings they can’t have, they’ll start to vomit and show signs of nausea, upset stomach and high blood pressure. Too much salt can cause them excessive thirst and urination. Consequently, if your cats keep eating salty food, the salt can build up in their system and even lead to sodium poisoning and heart failures.
Cats have a sense of taste. They can easily detect the fat content of the popcorn sitting on your lap. If they bug you too much for it, rest assured that occasional popcorn treat is generally safe for your cats, except for young kittens and senior cats.
After reading, can cats eat popcorn? It’s best to serve them with homemade popcorn, so you have control over its toppings, additives and flavorings. Undoubtedly, ready-to-eat popcorn features a high number of calories and fats which more often than not pose a health risk. You would not want to be the cause of diabetes and obesity in your feral sweethearts.