Felines have strange eating habits. You may buy quality cat food, only for your pet to reject it. This is confusing enough, but it becomes increasingly so when your cat starts eating insects.
This guide will explain the various species of insect that your cat may encounter (and eat) in your garden or the wild. Read on to learn why your cat eats bugs, and how you should react.
- 1 Why Would a Cat Eat an Insect?
- 2 Are Insects Poisonous to Cats?
- 2.1 Is it OK for Cats to Eat Flies?
- 2.2 Do Cats Eat Cockroaches and Beetles?
- 2.3 Are Moths Bad for Cats?
- 2.4 Are Ladybugs Poisonous to Cats?
- 2.5 Are Crickets and Grasshoppers Poisonous to Cats?
- 2.6 Can Cats Become Ill from Eating Spiders?
- 2.7 What Happens if a Cat Eats a Bee or Wasp?
- 2.8 Are Ants Poisonous to Cats?
- 2.9 What Happens if a Cat Eats a Scorpion?
- 2.10 Are Slugs and Snails Safe for Cats to Eat?
- 3 How Can I Stop My Cat Eating Insects?
- 4 Toxic Insecticides Used in Gardens
Why Would a Cat Eat an Insect?
Looking at insects and bugs with our human brain, it’s hard to see their appeal. We don’t look at a cockroach and lick our lips, anticipating a snack. It’s likely to put us off our food.
Cats think entirely differently to humans. There are many reasons why a cat would eat an insect. These include the following:
Hunger or Vitamin Deficiency
It’s rare, but some cats will eat bugs and insects to feed their hunger. We say this is rare because the diminutive size of insects has a low protein content.
As a result, your cat will not gain much satisfaction from eating bugs. This will not stop them trying, however, if they haven’t eaten and alternative prey is unavailable.
The most likely explanation for your cat eating insects is instinct. Insects skitter or fly at speed, which can be an irresistible temptation for cats. They’re a more exciting hunt than toys, because they provide a moving target.
Indoor cats that rarely encounter rodents are especially likely to hunt insects in the home. If your cat crunches on an insect’s body, and then spits it out, they’re hunting for sport.
Cats are innately curious creatures, especially while they’re young. When felines encounter something they’re not familiar with, such as bugs, they wonder what it is.
As cats explore the world through their mouths, their next question will be, “is it edible?” Your cat will invariably look to answer this question.
In some cases, your pet may be living with a medical condition known as pica. Cat behavior expert Pam Johnson-Bennett discusses this in more detail.
Pica amounts to a cat eating non-food items, seemingly through compulsion. Eating bugs isn’t reason enough to suspect pica. If your cat also eats plastic bags, clothing or other inedible items, see a vet.
As you’ll see, cats eating bugs is a natural behavior. Is it a safe and healthy behavior, though?
Are Insects Poisonous to Cats?
It’s quite understandable that pet owners would worry when they see their cat eating an insect. After all, bugs have very questionable eating habits and spend their days rummaging through filth. Thankfully, sickness as a direct result of chewing or swallowing bugs is rare.
Despite this, it’s advisable to learn the potential risks and repercussions of your cat eating insects. Let’s take a closer look at the most common bugs that your cat will encounter.
Is it OK for Cats to Eat Flies?
Flies are irresistible to cats. They’re noisy, they’re omnipresent, and they’re tricky to catch. This means that a cat will spend hours stalking and attempting to catch a fly.
Flies are not toxic to cats. If your pet catches such a bug, they will not experience any long-term issues. They may vomit, though. A flies wings may irritate their throat of digestion. Also, don’t forget that flies are not clean. They will likely have previously spent time in animal feces.
As is often the case with insects, playing with flies that could be problematic.
You may not know, but these bugs bite. A fly could bite your cat on the ear, causing irritation. Alternatively, some flies lay eggs on a cat’s body. These will hatch as larvae and maggots. A professional will need to treat your cat.
Cats are also a common pest in the home, so you may be tempted to use bug spray. These sprays are often toxic to cats. Before using such a product, ensure your cat is out of the room. Spray liberally, and close the door. After about an hour, your pet will be safe to re-enter the area.
Do Cats Eat Cockroaches and Beetles?
Few things make us shudder more than the sight of a cockroach. Your cat will be considerably less creeped out. They’ll relish the opportunity to track down the bug and make it a snack. This could end badly for your pet though, so proceed with caution.
Cockroaches are filthy. They are immune to just about every disease under the sun, and carry many of them. This means that, if your cat eats one, they are at huge risk of parasites. If your cat tends to interact with roaches, you must keep their preventative treatments up to date.
Next, think about the crunching sound that a cockroach makes when you step on them. This is because these bugs – and many other beetles – have a hard exoskeleton. This is cartilage, rather than bone, but it’s very tough indeed. This makes a cockroach fun for your cat to munch, but they’re tricky to digest. They may find that this exoskeleton irritates their stomach, leading to vomiting.
In some cases, the cartilage can even break up in the throat. In a best-case scenario, this will tickle and potentially lead to regurgitation. At worst, it could block your pet’s airways and cause difficulty breathing. These bugs also have wings, which can irritate the throat and gut too.
Cockroaches and beetles are rarely toxic to your pet. However, that doesn’t mean that they are safe. If you live close to cockroaches, try to keep an eye on your pet’s interaction. If your cat acts strangely after eating a roach, see a vet. They may have picked up a secondary sickness. Also, be careful about the use of repellent and bug killer.
Are Moths Bad for Cats?
Moths are a real pain in any home. Anybody that has opened their closet to holey clothes can testify to this. Can cats eat moths? Thankfully, yes. Your pet may track down these irritants, and make a meal of them. They actively enjoy the crunchy sensation of doing so, too. This makes your cat a beneficial family member for pest control.
The only exception is the Garden Tiger Moth, which is identifiable by their zebra-style wing pattern. This moth is toxic, although it’s never been made clear just how dangerous they are. Butterflies are usually toxin-free, though it can be heartbreaking to see such a beautiful insect hunted.
If your cat dwells outside, they should also be cautious of caterpillars. These bugs sting, and while that’s rarely dangerous, it can be painful. If your pet is limping, or pawing at their face, a caterpillar may have stung them in self-defense.
We have previously mentioned how moths tend to congregate in closets. As pet owners will be aware, cats enjoy hiding in such locations too. This means that you’ll need to be careful about keeping mothballs in your closet. These are essentially concentrated pesticide, and can make cats sick. If you must use mothballs, protect your cat from them.
Are Ladybugs Poisonous to Cats?
Ladybugs are beautiful insects, and many people welcome their sight in their home. Naturally, your cat does not care for such aesthetic splendor. They’ll eat a ladybug without a second thought.
This will not harm your pet, if the insect in question is a domestic ladybug. The trouble arises if your cat encounters an Asian lady beetle. These insects look very similar, but have one fundamental difference. Asian lady beetles are as harmful as conventional ladybugs are harmless. They essentially disguise themselves as ladybugs as a defense mechanism, and infiltrate homes.
Bearing this in mind, it’s probably safer to keep your cat away from all ladybugs wherever possible. If you’re confident that you’ll be able to tell the difference between the species, however:
- Asian lady beetles are larger than conventional ladybugs. They can grow to around 7mm. The visual difference can be negligible to a layperson though, so don’t take chances.
- Ladybugs have a deep red body and black head, with small white facial markings. An Asian ladybug’s shell is more orange then red. They also have more prominent white facial markings.
- Ladybugs tend to stay outside, as that’s where they find food. Asian lady beetles enter homes to stay warm.
- Ladybugs are usually found alone. They rarely move around in colonies. Asian lady beetles, however, stick to each other like glue. If you encounter a swarm of ladybugs, they’re far more likely to be Asian lady beetles.
An Asian lady beetle’s bite is not poisonous, as such. It can be irritating for your cat, though. Symptoms include excessive drooling, and chemical burns around the mouth. Your cat may also experience digestive tract irritation. This will make them vomit, and leave them devoid of appetite.
Are Crickets and Grasshoppers Poisonous to Cats?
Crickets are a common, and popular, wild snack for cats. These bugs are noisy, plentiful, and offer the opportunity for hunting in long grass. Thankfully, they are not toxic to your cat in any way. Crickets are the closest things to an insect that’s good for your cat to eat. If your pet crunches down on a cricket, they’ll get a small protein fix for their troubles.
The same also applies to grasshoppers, which are aesthetically similar to crickets. The fundamental difference is the size of the insect’s antennae. Those found on a grasshopper are much smaller. Grasshoppers also make a less melodic sound than crickets. They tend to click incessantly, rather than chirp and sing.
The only way that a cricket could harm your cat is if they’re dosed in pesticide. Many farms cover their crops with bug-killing chemicals to protect them. A solitary cricket is rarely big enough to pose a risk. If your cat spends several hours chasing and eating them, however, monitor them carefully.
Can Cats Become Ill from Eating Spiders?
Spiders are omnipresent in many homes, especially during the colder months of the year. As temperatures drop outside, eight-legged intruders seek comfort indoors – much to the horror of arachnophobes.
The good news for anybody afraid of spiders is that cats love to hunt them. The rapid skittering of a spider offers felines a great hunting challenge. This means that a cat is likely to eradicate arachnids with the same abandon as rodents.
Where this becomes problematic is the fact that some spiders are venomous. Venombyte lists all the toxic species that can be found in the USA. If you’re afraid of anything on eight legs, avoid this link as it contains pictures. As a summary, venomous spiders in the USA include:
- Hobo spider
- Yellow sac spider
- Black-footed spider
- Recluse spiders
- Widow spiders (including the infamous Black Widow)
Thankfully, most spiders will flee from a cat before attempting to bite. The size discrepancy means that a spider is much more afraid of cat than vice versa. If the arachnid does bite in self-defense, however, your cat will need medical attention. These spiders have necrotic venom, which damages the skin and causes open sores if left untreated.
Your pet is likely to become very lethargic and withdrawn. They may also show localized swelling around the bitten area, and run a fever. Naturally, they will need assistance from a vet ASAP. The sooner you have your cat seen, the more likely they will make a full recovery.
If your cat eats a non-venomous spider, they’ll be fine. The worst–case scenario is long legs or body hairs tickling their throat before digestion. This may result in vomiting or regurgitation. The same will also apply if your cats eat a venomous breed before they can bite. The digestive acids in your cat’s stomach will neutralize the dangerous venom in the dead spider.
What Happens if a Cat Eats a Bee or Wasp?
Bees and wasps can make natural enemies for cats. While an outdoor feline will be fascinated by these flying insects, interaction rarely ends well. A cat will likely chase, and try to eat, a bee or a wasp. A sting to the tongue or inside the mouth will usually follow. Bees and wasps can sting after they’re dead, so fast reactions will not spare your cat.
The first thing that you’ll need to know is whether your cat is allergic to bee or wasp stings. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing this until it happens. That’s a painful lesson for any feline.
The common symptom of any sting is pain, which leads to agitation and discomfort. Your cat may start pawing at the side of their mouth, and could experience significant swelling. This will resemble a trip to the dentist, and could see your pet drooling.
Where things get a little more dangerous is the sting takes place at the back of the throat. This means that your pet’s airways could become blocked, leading to trouble breathing. Your cat’s tongue may also turn blue. Both of these are serious concerns, and require immediate medical attention.
A cat should always be investigated if they have been stung inside their mouth, For a start, it always pays to check for any allergic reaction. Also, not every symptom of a serious health concern will become immediately obvious. There is little to gain by taking a, “wait and see” approach.
Your vet may also recommend offering cat Benadryl to ease their immediate post-sting symptoms. Human medications should never be used without advice, so you should wait for instruction.
The golden rule with Benadryl is 1mg per pound of body weight. Remember that Benadryl makes us drowsy though, and cats are no exception. If your cat has numerous symptoms, it may be safer to keep them awake.
Are Ants Poisonous to Cats?
Your cat is sure to encounter ants whenever they go outside. If this should lead to snacking on ants, your cat will rarely experience too many health concerns.
Black ants are the most common kind of ant. You’ll find these insects trooping throughout the street, and maybe even in the home. Black ants are toxic, and will bite your cat if they feel threatened.
Thankfully the insects are so small, and their venom so weak by comparison, your pet will barely notice. Cats that feast upon a host of live ants may experience some irritation around their mouth. This will not last long though, and should not provoke any long-term problems.
Fire ants are a different story. Identifiable by their reddish-brown coloring, fire ants are never shy about biting a cat. What’s more, your pet will know about it.
These bites are very painful, and can have a longer-term impact, including anaphylaxis. If you spot fire ants, do whatever you can to keep your cat away from them.
Another thing that you may have noticed that is that cat cannot resist eating dead ants. Don’t fear – your pet is not being morbid. The explanation is the oleic acid found in an ant’s body, and released when dead. Oleic acid contains pheromones similar to those released when cats rub their face on a surface. This is calming for felines. Essentially, snacking on dead ants is comfort food for cats.
On the subject of dead ants – it’s potentially tempting to sprinkle ant killer around your home. Try to avoid this, as many ant repellents are hugely toxic to cats. We’ll discuss general insecticide elsewhere in this guide. Just be aware that ant killer can be among the most dangerous.
What Happens if a Cat Eats a Scorpion?
If you live in the southwest, you will be familiar with scorpions. Humans are typically sensible enough to avoid tangling with these toxic arachnids. Sadly, the same cannot always be said for felines.
Your cat may attempt to hunt and eat, a poisonous scorpion. Forget what you may have heard about cats being immune to scorpion venom. It isn’t true.
If your cat eats a scorpion, they are unlikely to experience anything too untoward. If your cat is fast, they’ll creep behind the bug and devour it before it retaliates.
It’s when your cat plays with their food that you need to worry. Scorpions will typically be afraid your cat, and defend as a form of attack. This will invariably lead to a sting on the nose, paws or somewhere else painful.
The good news is that the most common scorpion in America is rarely deadly. The Arizona Bark Scorpion is found in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and California. This arachnid is nocturnal, so getting your cat on a diurnal schedule can limit interaction. Your cat may still disturb a nest in the yard during the day, though.
The impact of a scorpion sting is likely to be similar to that of a bee or wasp. A lot depends on your particular cat’s health. Older and younger cats will suffer more, due to generally decreased immunity.
Are Slugs and Snails Safe for Cats to Eat?
Aside from insects, your cat may also develop a taste for slugs or snails. These are typically a little more dangerous than bugs and other pests.
The first risk is exposure to slug pellets. Slug pellets, however, tend to be even more dangerous. If your cat eats slug pellets, they will drool, enter seizure and generally behave very agitated. They will need urgent medical attention in such an instance.
Another risk associated with slugs is lungworm. Lungworm are tiny parasites that, as the name suggests, set up home in your pet’s lungs. This can become hugely dangerous, and even fatal. Common symptoms of lungworm include:
- Discharge from the nose.
- Frequent, increasingly intense coughing.
- Difficulty breathing, often resulting in wheezing through an open mouth.
- Lethargy and depression.
- Sudden, inexplicable weight loss.
Don’t take any chances with lungworm. Ensure that your cat takes regular preventative medications, and consider an annual vaccination. A vet will be able to provide this service. Naturally, keeping your cat away from slugs and snails will also help.
How Can I Stop My Cat Eating Insects?
It’s difficult to convince your cat not to eat insects. It comes down to them following their nature. A cat hunting and eating a bug is no different to them stalking mice.
If you are perturbed by this behavior, all you can do is attempt humane distractions. If you spot your cat hunting an insect, make a noise to change their focus.
Naturally, keeping your cat indoors will minimize their opportunities to eat insects. A cat that roams will interact with bugs constantly, including potentially dangerous insects.
This is especially likely if you live in a state that’s home to venomous or toxic invertebrates. If your cat stays home, they only encounter very occasional insect intruders.
You have to remember that cats are going to be cats. Eating insects is part of thousands of years of hardwired instinct. As long as your cat is not hurting themselves, it’s best to leave them to it.
Toxic Insecticides Used in Gardens
Eating bugs leave cats open to the risk of ingesting insecticide. Your pet may end up with toxicity poisoning by proxy. Common symptoms of this condition include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- High body temperature and fever
- Muscular tremors and general weakness
- Increased heartbeat and difficulty breathing
- Depression and lethargy
- Loss of coordination and basic motor function
- Sudden weight loss
If you believe that your cat is suffering from toxic poisoning, see a vet ASAP. According to PetCareRx, the most dangerous ingredients found in insecticide are:
- Tetrachlorvinphos (aka TCVP)
If you have any household products, including insecticide, that includes these chemicals, keep them locked away. It’s unlikely that your cat will become ill by eating a single bug that’s been exposed. Insects are tiny, after all. A cat that consumes substantial amounts of these toxins, however, could be in real trouble.
Eating insects could not be described as a healthy habit for cats. Bugs will not supplement a feline’s diet with any essential nutrients. It is a common behavior, though. As most insect species native to the United States are relatively harmless, you will rarely have anything to worry about.
If you do believe that your cat has eaten a bug, watch them closely for a while. Insects that sting or bite may cause problems after your pet’s snack. There’s no need to race to the vet as soon as your cat tucks into a cricket, though. Sometimes, it’s just a harmless way of allowing your pet to embrace their hunting instincts.