Movie Night at Home? Here's the Skinny on Whether You Can Share Popcorn With Your Cat

Popcorn from many common supermarkets is often loaded with salt and synthetic flavorings that can harm your cat.

Jamie Bichelman - Author

Mar. 19 2024, Published 9:53 a.m. ET

A person holds a piece of popcorn up to a cat who sniffs it.
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Is there anything cozier than a Friday evening, curled up on the couch with your cat, watching documentaries on Netflix while enjoying a bag of popcorn? As you make your way through the buttery goodness, the thought inevitably arises: Can my cat eat popcorn?

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Before you reach for the popular snack in hopes of tossing a handful of popcorn to your cat, keep reading below to learn if your cat can share in the salty goodness with you.

A white cat sits on a red couch with tan cushions and eats popcorn from a large yellow bowl beside a red lamp.
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Can cats eat popcorn?

From personal experience, through conversations with my cats' vet, I have learned that popcorn is best left off the list of snacks to share with your cat — even as a rare treat.

Most popcorn brands have a high sodium content (per the American Heart Association), which means even a few bites may pose a risk for salt poisoning and be fatal to your cat.

According to, while popcorn isn't immediately toxic to your cat (and isn't on the ASPCA's list of toxic foods for cats) because most popcorn is covered in butter, the long-term impact on their health is not worth the risk.

Whether your popcorn is flavored with real dairy butter — cats lack the requisite enzyme to digest dairy, per Fetch Pet Insurance — or loaded instead with synthetic ingredients, both are unhealthy for your cat at best and toxic at worst.

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The unusual shape of popcorn may also pose a choking risk for your cat, according to Especially if your cat is typically a fast eater and gobbles up the snacks in front of him, it's best to avoid this snack altogether.

A woman in a blue hoodie cuddles a gray cat on a couch beside a glass bowl of popcorn.
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Is popcorn good for cats?

It turns out that there is little nutritional value cats can glean from popcorn. According to Gary Richter, DVM, "Cats… have no metabolic/nutritional need for carbohydrates. Small amounts of grains can be OK in a balanced diet but they should be kept to a minimum," he tells

Additionally, some prepackaged popcorn brands sold in grocery stores contain a perfluorochemical (also known as PFC) in the bag itself, which has been linked to both ADHD and thyroid issues in humans.

Diacetyl, a chemical often found in artificial butter, is linked to lung disease in animals, according to

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A female veterinarian in blue scrubs holds an orange cat and listens to its breathing with a stethoscope.
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Is popcorn bad for cats? Can popcorn kill cats?

One bite of popcorn accidentally may not necessarily be toxic to cats, but it is a situation that necessitates your vigilance and careful monitoring.

"Will the occasional fallen kernel be a problem? Probably not," acknowledges, but there are symptoms of distress that pet parents should keep in mind.

Per Pet Poison Helpline, the 24-hour animal poison control service, a few of the more common visual signs of distress associated with salt poisoning in cats include vomiting and diarrhea, excessive thirst (or urination), shaking, and seizures.

While a rare and accidental bite of popcorn isn't too much cause for concern for your cat's health, consistent popcorn consumption, especially for older cats with various health concerns, will be toxic and result in preventable death.

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