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Clearly, the internet agrees that corn kid’s onto something: Corn is awesome, and it has the juice. Plus, when it comes to humans, it’s an indisputably healthy snack choice, packed with fiber and vitamin C. But what about our cats? Can they share in the joy of a summer BBQ corn on the cob, or are the golden pebbles off-limits? Below, everything you need to know about sharing corn with your kitty.
Can cats have corn?
Technically, yes — a little bit of corn won’t hurt your cat. In fact, Dr. Autumn McBride Vetter, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, points out that corn is a super common ingredient in many cat foods. Go check your kitty’s packaging; they might already be eating corn on the daily. It’s rich in fiber, low in fat, and helps your cat feel fuller for longer.
Small amounts of plainly prepared corn — that means no added salt, butter, or other seasoning — can be a yummy treat for a cat. Corn removed from the cob and grilled or boiled is the best option. It’s easily digestible and can give a hungry cat a burst of energy.
But is corn good for cats?
Short answer: Not really, but it’s not not. Yes, it’s used in cat foods, but largely as a filler ingredient; it doesn’t contain the nutrients cats need to be healthy. Cats aren’t great at digesting carbohydrates, which corn is full of, and eating a lot of sugar-heavy foods over a long period of time can increase a cat’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.
Cats are carnivores, so a grain like corn won’t sustain them in the long-run, and a corn-heavy diet could lead to digestive upset. They need much more protein and vitamins than corn contains — plus, some of the components of corn inhibit the absorption of other minerals, such as iron and zinc. “Because corn is high in fiber, eating too much whole corn can cause a cat to get full and then not eat enough of its balanced diet (i.e. commercial cat food) for the day (not to mention it may cause some additional stomach upset),” Dr. Vetter says.
But hey, loads of humans snack on things that we couldn’t exactly survive on alone, so treating your kitty to a small amount of corn once in a blue moon is fine. Moderation is key. According to Dr. Vetter, treats should make up no more than 10 percent of a cat’s daily calories.
“It’s important to realize that any diet for our animals should be complete and balanced, meaning that it needs to contain all the right amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). If we give too much of one thing at any given time, it unbalances the other aspects of our pets’ diet,” Dr. Vetter says.
Keep in mind that, though corn itself is safe, a lot of corn-based treats are really bad for cats. Never give a cat corn chips, tortillas, or corndogs — any seasoned, sugary snack can harm a cat. Corn husks are also off-limits because they can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Plain, unbuttered, and unsalted popcorn is safe for cats — though heads up: They’ll probably love batting it around as much as they love eating it.
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Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.