Stink bugs are distinguished by their foul-smelling odor, which is their unique defense against predators that want to eat them. As a result, some people are concerned that eating a stink bug could poison or harm their cat.
Stink bugs aren’t toxic to cats, but their secretions can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Their hard exoskeleton cause stomach pain as it brushes against the digestive tract. If a stink bug secretes in a cat’s mouth, it may cause ulcers and sores. However, stink bugs are a good source of protein, fat, flavonoids, and potassium.
Insects are part of a cat’s diet, particularly when they’re feral. So, cats with strong hunting instincts are naturally drawn to eating stink bugs. However, most cats are just interested in catching and playing with them.
Do Cats Eat Stink Bugs?
Stink bugs, also known as shield bugs and brown marmorated stink bugs, are home invaders. When they get into the home, cats love nothing more than to stalk and chase them.
However, as mentioned, stink bugs have an innovative defense system designed to deter cats and other predators. As described by the Journal of Chemical Ecology, stink bugs secrete a volatile substance through the holes in their abdomen when they’re disturbed. It smells foul and travels a few inches from a stink bug’s body, preventing cats from killing and eating them.
Some people liken the smell to a skunk, while others describe it as being similar to coriander. Every stink bug may have a slightly different odor, but the small is designed to keep cats away. The taste is also unpleasant, so it’s unlikely a cat would want to eat a second stink bug.
Because stink bugs are so smelly, some owners encourage their cats to catch and kill them, which many cats are happy to oblige to. Therefore, whether cats eat stink bugs depends on their personality and circumstances.
Are Stink Bugs Harmful To Cats?
The good news is that stink bugs aren’t toxic and won’t poison your cat if it decides to eat one.
However, they can cause health problems, especially if they’re eaten in large quantities. If your cat’s prone to catching stink bugs, watch out for the following issues:
As the alternative name suggests, shield bugs are well known for their hard exoskeletons. Even though eating one won’t kill your cat, it might irritate your pet’s gastrointestinal tract as it brushes through the system, causing the cat to vomit and drool excessively. If your cat eats too many shield bugs, it may experience:
- Abdominal pain
The smelly secretions are also likely to irritate your cat’s mouth and stomach. They’ll instantly feel the effects of the fluid as soon as it touches their mouth, tongue, and lips.
While some cats will attempt to eat the shield bug, these secretions will likely cause the animal to drop the bug, abandoning the hunt altogether.
If affected, a cat’s symptoms should pass on their own within 8-12 hours without treatment. However, owners must monitor them for any deterioration in health.
In many cases, a stink bug’s scutellum, the hard outer shell, isn’t digestible. If your cat eats a significant number of bugs, a bezoar forms in the body. This is a gastrointestinal mass that’s caused by a foreign body.
Some are vomited out naturally, but because the shells are so tough, most get stuck in the stomach, causing a hard, round mass. When the bezoar is too large, it can only be removed by a surgical procedure. Signs of a bezoar include:
- Loss of appetite
- Watery vomit
- Abdominal pain
You might also notice a hard mass every time you touch your cat’s abdomen. However, you must avoid touching it too much, as it will likely hurt your pet or cause discomfort.
Because some shield bug species can spray their chemicals several inches, a cat’s eyes are vulnerable. The secretion shouldn’t cause blindness or vision loss, but it will sting. It may also cause short-term damage. Signs that your cat is suffering from eye pain include:
- Watery eyes
- Pawing at the eye
- Inability to open the affected eye
If your cat has been hit in the eye by stink bug fluid, wash it with a saline solution and wipe the area with a damp cloth to remove any discharge.
The eye should clear up on its own, but if it doesn’t, take your cat to the vet. It may require antibiotics drops or something similar to manage the irritation.
Similarly, swollen eyes are the sign of an infection or severe irritation and need veterinary intervention.
Shield bugs are considered agricultural pests. They damage crops and feed off fruit, causing a nuisance for farm owners, who must use pesticides to keep shield bugs away.
As a result, there’s a serious risk that by eating shield bugs, your cat could consume harmful chemicals that will make it sick. Poisoned cats display the following signs:
- Abdominal pain
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive drooling
- Severe vomiting
- Incoordination and unsteadiness
- Labored breathing
- Loss of appetite
With instances of pesticide poisoning, you should take cats to a vet straight away for treatment. If it’s left to get worse, cats develop long-term damage.
Are Stink Bugs Good For Cats?
Shield bugs aren’t harmful or dangerous to cats. In fact, they’re commonly eaten in South Africa and boast an extensive range of nutrients that can make your cat strong and healthy, including:
According to the South African Journal of Science, stink bugs are a good source of protein.
Cats need protein for healthy muscles, tissue, skin, blood. Protein also affects the skin and fur. If wild cats can’t find meat sources to sustain them, insects can help sate them until they find something better.
Similarly, they have an excellent amino acid content, with 0.82 mg per 100 g of threonine and 1.32 mg per 100 g of valine. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are required by all creatures, including cats.
Stink bugs contain high levels of fat, including 10 fatty acids. Fat is a concentrated energy source for cats, providing twice as much energy as protein and carbs. Healthy fats also transport nutrients to other parts of the body where it’s needed. As well as this, fat also:
- Speeds up nerve signal transmissions
- Controls inflammation
- Helps to form hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen
- Protects against bacteria and viruses
- Makes cats feel fuller after eating
- Improves the body’s absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K
Fat is a vital nutrient for cats, so stink bugs actually make a healthy addition to their diet.
Stink bugs contain 4 flavonoids, according to a journal published on Plos One. Flavonoids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, regulating cellular activity while fighting off disease-causing free radicals.
Flavonoids help cats function more efficiently and contain health benefits associated with:
- Maintaining a healthy respiratory system
- Reducing the effect of allergies
- Boosting energy levels
- Reducing autoimmune problems
Cats need flavonoids because they play an essential part in their growth and development. Without them, they’re prone to health conditions and pain.
Phosphorous is another dietary requirement for cats. After calcium, it’s the mineral that cats are most deficient in.
Phosphorous plays a significant function in metabolic processes and helps cats utilize energy. It also helps to transport fatty acids and amino acid exchange.
Phosphorous works alongside calcium to keep bones and teeth healthy and strong. However, excess phosphorous damages the kidneys, so cats shouldn’t be allowed to eat too many stink bugs.
While stink bugs have several health benefits if they’re consumed, they also offer cats mental stimulation.
Without entertainment, cats get bored quickly and are at risk of aggression and depression. Bored cats will also exhibit the following behaviors:
- Fighting with other pets
- Excessive grooming
- Lack of curiosity
- Lack of energy
- Repetitive behaviors
Hunting is a way for cats to release energy and stimulate their mind, keeping them active and alert.
Are Cats Allergic To Stink Bugs?
Cats are rarely allergic to stink bugs. However, their defense mechanism causes sickness and diarrhea, which can seem like the cat has a stink bug allergy.
A stink bug’s secretion can also affect a cat’s sinuses if it’s sprayed in the mouth or facial area. An inflamed tongue and sore eyes are also commonly mistaken for an allergy. Other symptoms of an allergy include:
- Itchy skin
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Sneezing, coughing, wheezing
- Swollen paws
- Upset stomach
As a result, it’s more likely that your cat’s experiencing a reaction to the stink bug’s fluid rather than the insect itself.
Do Stink Bugs Bite Cats?
Thankfully, stink bugs don’t bite, which means they can’t pass on nasty diseases or parasites to cats. This lack of bite also eliminates the risk of abscesses and infections.
However, as we’ve already explained, a stink bug’s defense mechanism compromises its hard shell and foul-smelling liquid. This normally deters cats from putting the insect in their mouth, as the secretion is enough to put them off.
Similarly, the hard shell is enough to piece a cat’s skin, which may feel like a bite.
How To Prevent Your Cat From Eating Stink Bugs
It’s difficult to prevent your cat from eating stink bugs if they hunt at night or roam away from home during the day.
However, you can prevent stink bugs from getting in the house. An effective method is to place a bowl or pan of soapy water under a light. The light attracts stink bugs, and while they’re distracted, they fall into the water and drown.
To keep stink bugs out of the house in the first place, try the following methods:
- Rub all screens inside the house with dryer sheets. This method is thought to reduce stink bugs by 80%.
- If you’re prone to getting stink bugs in the house, hang a damp towel in the yard (on a chair, for example). This will attract stink bugs, allowing you to move them safely.
- If you find any dead stink bugs, squish one to release the odor and leave it near your home’s entry points. This will deter other stink bugs.
- Seal exterior cracks and entry points.
- Check vents for any damage and fix them.
Similarly, to distract your cat when it sees a stink bug, try the following things:
- Say “no!” firmly every time you see your cat playing with a stink bug.
- Distract it with its favorite toys. However, avoid games that are designed to improve their hunting skills.
- Feed your cat tasty treats, especially if it leaves the bug alone by its own accord.
- Isolate over-excited cats to a different room while you remove the shield bug.
Once stink bugs are inside your home, be careful not to touch them with your bare hands. The odor is hard to get rid of and often lingers for a few days.
Shield bugs are slow-moving and easy to catch, so use a plastic bag or wear gloves to scoop them up and chuck them outdoors.
You mustn’t use pesticides in your yard to get rid of stink bugs, as they’ll affect your cat. Even if your cat doesn’t eat an infected bug, it could walk in the pesticides, ingesting it through its paws while grooming.
As a result, it’s best to prevent your cat from eating stink bugs altogether. Their secretion can make cats unwell for a few days, which is unpleasant for both you and your cat.
Similarly, the chance of the exoskeleton causing a blockage is high. To prevent this from happening, whenever you see your cat playing with a stink bug, use some of our methods to stop it.