Cats love to hunt bugs, including cockroaches. When a cat’s predatory instincts are strong, they eat the roaches they’ve caught as a reward. But can cats get sick from eating cockroaches?
While cockroaches are a good source of protein and vitamin B12, they’re unsanitary creatures. Roaches harbor parasitic worms and bacteria that make cats sick. Their strong exoskeletons can also cause oral irritation and gastrointestinal upset. Similarly, if a cat eats a cockroach that’s been poisoned, it can become seriously ill.
Cockroaches are a huge problem. As a result, it’s tempting to set your cat loose on the infestation, but this runs the risk of sickness and injury.
Is It Normal For Cats To Eat Cockroaches?
Insects are a natural food source for cats, especially feral cats that hunt to eat. Cats are opportunist eaters, and insects make up around 1/3 of a cat’s diet, as they’re much more accessible than small rodents or birds.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology describes how cats will eat whatever they can find, taking small meals, and adjusting their intake according to reflect the amount of food available.
As a result, it’s normal for cats to eat cockroaches when there are no other protein sources for them to catch and kill.
Similarly, cats can’t help but hunt anything that moves, including cockroaches and flies. As soon as a roach scurries off, a cat’s curiosity is piqued, and it’ll want to flex its predatory skills. Not all cats eat their kills, but some do.
Are Cockroaches Good for Cats?
Cockroaches aren’t the most obvious food choice for cats, but they contain a range of beneficial nutrients.
Cats require a nutritionally-balanced diet that contains all the vitamins and minerals they need. Without it, they become malnourished and prone to a range of health conditions due to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Cockroaches offer the following nutritional benefits:
Cockroaches are a good source of animal protein. While cats would need to eat several cockroaches at a time to consume all the protein they need, they’re a complete source and provide cats with a protein boost.
Cockroaches have a higher amount of protein than crickets, containing 35% compared to a cricket’s 21%. Cockroaches also have all the amino acids – which are the building blocks of protein – a cat needs to remain healthy. Cats need protein to:
- Build and repair tissue and organs
- Regulate metabolism
- Create energy
- Fuel the nervous system
- Maintain muscle mass
Without it, cats are at risk of blindness, muscle wastage, and improper organ function. This leaves wild cats vulnerable to starvation and predation, as they don’t have all the energy they need to catch prey or flee from danger.
Roaches contain large amounts of vitamin B12. A study by Food Chemistry shows that cockroaches are higher in vitamin B12 than mealworms, crickets, and grasshoppers. When compared, these insects contain:
- 1.08 µg per 100 g of mealworm
- 2.88 µg per 100g of cricket
- 0.84 µg per 100 g of grasshopper
- 13.2 µg per100 g dry weight of cockroach
Vitamin B12 is essential for the function of the immune system, digestive system, digestive tract, and cognitive function.
Cats also don’t produce their own B12, so they rely on it through high-quality food sources. A B12 deficiency causes:
- Digestive issues
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of mobility
- Limb weakness
- Neurological problems
As a result, cockroaches provide cats with ample amounts of the vitamin, keeping them healthy and well-nourished in the absence of their preferred food sources.
Can Cockroaches Hurt Cats?
Cockroaches aren’t toxic for cats to eat, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe. Roaches can do cats harm. These are the reasons why:
The cockroach your cat has eaten may have been poisoned as a result of pest control. Unfortunately, poisoned cockroaches are often slow and sluggish as the toxins kill them, making them easier to catch and eat.
Even small traces of poison are enough to make your cat sick. If your cat has eaten more than one, it may become extremely unwell rapidly. If an affected cockroach has poisoned your cat, you’ll notice:
- Salivation or drooling
- Breathing difficulties
- Persistent twitching
- Skin inflammation
- Changes to urination
You must see a vet straight away to receive treatment. Without it, your cat’s nervous system could stop functioning, causing your cat to die.
Like many insects, cockroaches have exoskeletons to protect them, which are thick, cartilage-like coverings that act as a backbone.
In a paper described by the Department of Integrative Biology, researchers found that cockroaches can withstand weights up to 300 times their own in small crevices and 900 times their weight in other situations.
They’re able to do this because of their flexible, strong exoskeleton. As a result, cats can suffer from oral irritation from the small pieces after chewing on them, causing inflammation and pain inside the mouth and tongue. Other symptoms of oral irritation include:
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
- Excessive swallowing
- Pawing at the face
- Teeth chattering
The cat might also suffer from loss of appetite and weight loss as it struggles to eat while the mouth heals.
While the exoskeleton causes oral irritation, it can also cause stomach problems, especially if cats have sensitive stomachs.
Large, rough exoskeleton pieces irritate the stomach as they’re digested, causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Cats with food intolerances or allergies are most likely to have an adverse reaction to eating a cockroach. Other symptoms of gastrointestinal upset include:
- Excessive lip-licking
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
If your cat’s symptoms don’t dissipate within 24-48 hours, take it to the vet for emergency treatment.
Cockroaches have been found to carry 33 different bacteria and 6 parasites, many of which are responsible for causing harmful diseases that cats are prone to. The most severe include:
- E. Coli
Bacterial diseases are serious and usually caused by contaminated food, including cockroaches. Cats with weakened immune systems are most affected because they can’t fight off the harmful bacteria, leaving it to multiple and attack other areas of your cat’s body.
Cockroaches also carry parasitic worms. According to the Journal of Parasitology Research, these include:
- Hook worm
All of these worms can infect cats and live inside their intestines, feeding off the body’s nutrients. Cockroaches found by cats in toilets are most likely to carry worms, followed by roaches found in kitchens.
Not all cats show symptoms of a parasitic infection, but many do. Cats with worms display several noticeable signs, including:
- Weight loss (as the worms steal the nutrients)
- Increased appetite (from the lack of nutrients)
- Dull coat
- Lack of energy
- A swollen or distended belly
- Excessive cleaning of the area around the bottom
- Blood in feces
- Abdominal pain
Cats left with untreated worms eventually suffer from anemia, blocked intestines, and death – especially in kittens.
However, cats that are put on a regular deworming treatment are less likely to be affected, as the medication kills all worms in the cat’s system. As a result, this is the best way to prevent roaches from making your cat unwell.
How Do Cats Detect Cockroaches?
Cats boast an impressive skill set when it comes to their hearing, smell, sight, and vibration detection.
Because cockroaches aren’t the quietest or cleanest of creatures, they’re not too difficult for cats to detect. This is how cats find them:
Can Cats Smell Cockroaches?
A cat’s sense of smell is 14 times stronger than a human’s. They have 70,000 smell receptors compared to our 20,000.
They can also taste smells with a sensory organ at the back of their mouths called the Jacobson’s organ. When cats taste a scent, they produce the flehmen response, where they open their mouths, scrunch their noses, and tilt their heads upward.
Cats do this to grab on to the air molecules with their tongue, pushing them to the Jacobson’s organ. This allows them to smell potential prey, such as cockroaches, and helps them locate the pests.
Similarly, cockroaches emit a distinctive musty odor that gets worse over time. This is because cockroaches store uric acid in their fat.
As described by the National Science Foundation, cockroaches store waste nitrogen in the form of uric acid instead of excreting it like other insects. When they die, the acid is released, leaving a pungent stench.
Roaches also give off pheromones that allow them to communicate with each other. Dead cockroaches smell even worse. When they die, their carcasses release oleic acid, also known as the “death stench.” This acid smells so foul because it alerts other roaches of danger and hazards.
As a result of your cat’s smelling capabilities and a roach’s distinctive odor, it’s not difficult for your cat to locate the pests using their scent.
Can Cats See Cockroaches?
Cats have a sophisticated sense of sight, allowing them to identify cockroaches at night when they’re most active.
Cats have a reflective layer of tissue behind the eye’s retina called the tapetum lucidum. It allows cats to see 7 times better than humans in the dark by bouncing light back to the sensory cells. This allows the retina to receive more than 50% of available light.
Cat also have more rods in their eyes, making it easier for them to see in dimmer light. Their pupils also expand widely, allowing them to take in more light to help them see better.
As houses are rarely pitch black, cats have access to enough light to see cockroaches at night and in dark corners where they prefer to reside.
Can Cats Hear Cockroaches?
When cockroaches are in colonies, they make a surprising amount of noise. Many species make a hissing or chirping sound. Some create acoustic vibrations by rubbing their legs or wings together. You can also hear them scuttling around in cabinets and walls.
Cats can hear up to 64kHz. In comparison, humans can hear to 20kHz. They move their ears back and forth to locate the sound and can find them 3 inches from where they originate, even if they’re a yard away.
As a result, cats can hear noisy cockroaches, even when we can’t, and can pinpoint their exact location.
Can Cats Feel Cockroaches?
It’s not just scent, hearing, and eyesight that cats use to detect cockroaches; they can also detect them with their whiskers. Whiskers pick up even the slightest movements and vibrations. Cats also have whiskers on their legs, which allows them to become aware of their surroundings.
To make them work effectively, cats have 100-200 nerve sensors per whisker, allowing them to translate irregularities of something they’ve brushed past to be translated into movements.
As a cockroach scurries across the floor, the whiskers detect the movement and give cats information about its direction and duration, helping them locate the insect.
Are Cats Good Cat Killing Cockroaches?
Cockroaches are large insects with a distinctive shell, making them easy for cats to spot. However, cockroaches are fast and get into small gaps and cracks, making them a challenge for cats to catch.
Many cats love the thrill of the hunt and spend hours stalking their prey, waiting for them to emerge from their hiding spaces. Cockroaches eventually need to leave the safety of their shelter to find food. However, your cat may become bored if it stops seeing cockroach hunting as a fun game.
That said, a cat’s presence can prevent cockroaches from infesting the whole home. Roaches can recognize danger and warm each other using pheromones. If their colony’s becoming depleted by a cat, they’ll stick to the safe area of their environment.
If you spot a lone cockroach in your house, your cat can deal with the problem. But when larger colonies are present, you’ll need to call pest control.
Relying on cats for pest control won’t eradicate the problem. Cats are effective at killing one roach at a time, but they multiply too quickly for felines to keep them under control.
Do Cockroaches Bite Cats?
Cockroach bites are uncommon and only really occur when the colony outgrows its food source.
In extreme hunger cases, when no other food source is available, cockroaches are known to feed on a cat’s outer skin. While rare, roach bites make the skin sore, itchy, and inflamed. It also leaves cats vulnerable to harmful bacterial and fungal infections.
However, roaches tend not to get close enough to live animals and prefer to feed on dead skin where there’s no risk of danger.
Though, cats that regularly eat roaches have an increased risk of receiving cockroach bites inside the mouth before cats have had a chance to bite down. This can be painful and leads to painful sores forming.
How To Prevent Your Cat From Eating Cockroaches
As established, cockroaches aren’t the healthiest insects for your cat to eat. As a result, it’s best for their health to stop them from eating cockroaches.
This isn’t always possible because of their hunting instincts. Instead, keep the house clean of things that may attract roaches, including:
Clean Litter Tray
Cockroaches eat practically anything, including soiled cat litter. While the cat litter itself is rarely edible, a cat’s urine and feces are.
Organic, decaying matter is a cockroach’s preferred choice of food. Feces and urine contain discarded nutrients that roaches need to thrive. They also find the smell attractive.
As a result, cleaning out your cat’s litter tray as soon as your pet’s done its business is the only way to prevent cockroaches from eating the contents. It also prevents them from coming inside your home.
Hide Cat Food
Wet and dry cat food is another attractive food source for cockroaches. Both are a rich source of nutrients, and cockroaches love the taste.
To prevent cockroaches from feasting on your cat’s food, cover it up as soon as your pet’s done eating, or throw the contents away. Don’t leave the dirty bowl on the side but clean it up straight away to remove residue and smells that may attract roaches.
Cats shouldn’t be encouraged to eat cockroaches, even if you have an infestation. Roaches are unsanitary and harbor diseases and worms that make cats unwell. While they’re a good source of protein and B12, providing your cat with a healthy diet provides all the nutrients it needs.