Can I Give My Cat Corn?
Though Americans are not renowned for their vegetable consumption, there is one vegetable that we seem to have no trouble at all getting into our diets: corn. Whether you like it popped, on the cob and slathered in butter, or mixed into soups, bean salads, and burritos, or even straight out of the can with a spoon, corn probably makes its way into your kitchen at least once a week. Because these little golden morsels are around so often, our precious pets have plenty of chances to gobble them up off the kitchen floor. Some pet owners may turn a blind eye, but those who are aware of the potentially deadly effects of some of our favorite foods may be anxious any time their pet gets ahold of ‘people food’ by accident.
So how comfortable should we be with giving corn to our feline friends? Isn’t this ingredient found in cat food anyway? Can cats have corn?
Yes, cats can eat corn—this vegetable is completely nontoxic to both cats and dogs, so, even in the event that your cat manages to gobble up half a can of corn, they will be unlikely to suffer from any lasting effects. Some pet owners in the ‘meat only’ pet food crowd claim that feeding your cat corn is tantamount to animal abuse, but in reality, the occasional taste of this starchy vegetable is unlikely to do any harm. If you drop a few kernels on the floor while cooking, there is no need to confiscate them from your kitty.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Cat Corn
Corn contains small amounts of fiber and antioxidants that may, in theory, aid in digestive and immune health. Even this is questionable— cats do not chew their food, and because they can’t properly digest starchy carbohydrates, they are unlikely to be able to absorb the antioxidants efficiently. There are better antioxidant sources for cats.
It is important to note, however, that corn is not an ideal food for felines. Though it is not toxic, corn is lacking in most of the nutrients that felines need to thrive. To keep your cat fit and healthy, corn should play a minimal role in their diet. Do not feed large quantities of food to them regularly, and search for brands of cat food that have corn towards the end of their ingredients lists.
Most cats eat small to moderate amounts of corn quite frequently—this golden grain is a very common source of cheap calories in low-end brands of pet food. Corn does provide quite a bit of energy compared to many plant sources, so, if your cat is extremely underweight, it may be an efficient, affordable way to boost their caloric intake.
Unfortunately, corn is also rather high in carbohydrates, which makes it a poor calorie source for most healthy cats. Though we like to think of our housecats as tame and well-mannered, they are descended from a long line of predators. Just like bobcats and other wild felines, housecats are set up to be obligate carnivores who live almost exclusively on the flesh of prey animals. Cats’ bodies evolved in such a way that they are perfectly calibrated to pull nutrition from high-protein, low-carbohydrate meat sources. Corn is almost entirely carbohydrates, and what little protein corn does contain does not have the proper ratio of amino acids to meet feline dietary requirements.
Cats who eat large amounts of starchy vegetables like corn over the long term are likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies. These plant foods do not have many of the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids necessary for feline health. Corn may not be poisonous to pets, but it is little more than empty calories. If your cat does not wind up deficient in something, they very well may end up overweight or obese. Fat cats are much more likely to struggle with diseases like heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, and even cancer.
Things to Consider
We may love fresh corn, but we should not share it with our furry friends on a regular basis. This tasty little grain is high in calories and carbohydrates, yet lacking in the nutrients that cats really need to thrive. If your cat has a soft spot for corn, feel free to share small amounts with them as a treat, but do not let it become a dietary staple.