While corn is often used as a filler ingredient in commercially available cat foods, should you consider kernels from the cob part of your cat’s regular diet?
A fresh ear of corn is a hardy, readily available food source for humans that’s super easy to pair with just about anything else for a quick, satisfying meal year-round. But if you're thinking your feline friend would appreciate a few kernels as a snack, read this before you give them a nibble.
Absolutely. In fact, not only can your cat eat corn, your cat probably already is eating corn. Due to its ready availability and good fiber content, corn and cornmeal is a very common filler ingredient in many commercially available pet foods and snacks.
However, the real question here shouldn’t be whether cats can eat corn, but if they should eat it. While corn certainly won’t harm your cat (and in fact, some cats may really enjoy the sweet taste of corn kernels as a treat!) it’s not really doing that much else for them in terms of nutritional value.
Cats are obligate carnivores, so their bodies are really set up to process meat protein most efficiently. This means that, while corn will provide some minor nutritional benefit in B vitamins and fiber, it is going to mostly act as a blank filler in their stomachs, which can cause them to eat less.
“Filler snacks (like corn) aren’t going to be the best options,” says Kaci Angelone, DVM, MS from Denver, Colo. “I always recommend something meat-based. Dehydrated chicken breast, liver, salmon—these are all healthy options.”
So if you’re going to give your cat a few kernels as a snack (or if they steal a couple while you’re cooking), just make sure it’s happening in moderation, and be aware of how you’re serving it to them.
After moderation, the next most important thing to remember about giving corn to your cat is the more plainly you prepare it, the better. For many corn products, the issue isn’t the amount of corn, it’s everything else that comes with it. You'll want to watch out for additional ingredients like salt, milk, and butter.
Grilled or boiled and removed from the cob, this is going to be the best option for your cat. It will still retain most of the corn’s nutritional value and, when given to them plain, sweet corn will be tasty without causing them digestive distress.
These should probably be a hard 'no' for your kitty's snack session. At their very best, corn chips tend to have a lot of extra salt added. At their worst, they’re covered in cheese, spices, and preservatives that can be harmful for cats.
A light, tasty treat for humans, plain popcorn doesn’t really benefit your cat nutritionally. And if it’s covered in butter or seasoning, popcorn can cause issues like vomiting and diarrhea, Angelone says.
Breads of just about any kind should get passed over as kitty treats, usually because they're so devoid of any nutritional value for cats and they take up a lot of room in small stomachs. The same thing can be said for polenta and cornmeal, which brings nothing to the table nutritionally, and can expand to take up a lot of room once eaten.
While corn might not be the absolute best choice, there are some other human fruits and vegetables that are safe for cats in moderation. However, the best way to provide your cat with the nutrients he needs is to keep them on a balanced diet with specially formulated cat food. But there are a few human treats that can be an OK snack for your healthy cat now and then.
On the flip side, several foods that can be potentially toxic for cats include the following:
- Garlic and onions
- Xylitol (a common sugar substitute)
- Grapes and raisins
- Bread dough with yeast
- Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits