Cat Food and Hydration

Is It Safe For Cats To Eat Ladybugs?

Cats eat all manner of bugs and insects, including ladybugs. But as insects are a large part of a feline’s diet, are ladybugs safe for cats to eat?

While cats eat insects, ladybugs aren’t good for them. Most ladybug species bite, and they have an unpleasant, bitter taste that cats don’t enjoy. Some species of ladybug secrete a toxic substance when they’re in danger. As a result, if your cat attempts to eat one, it’s likely to suffer from mouth ulcers and gastrointestinal irritation. However, ladybugs aren’t poisonous and won’t kill cats.

It’s impossible to keep track of the things your cat eats, but if you spot a ladybug in the garden, it’s best to deter your pet from eating it.

Do Cats Eat Ladybugs?

Cats commonly eat insects, especially wild ones who hunt for food. Bugs make up around 1/3 of a cat’s diet, so they’re an essential source of sustenance and nutrition.

Hungry cats hunt live insects to sate their hunger and improve their hunting skills. Felines with strong predatory instincts can’t resist chasing anything that moves, including small ladybugs they see wiggling about in the grass. Some cats, but not all, eat their prey as a reward.

That being said, a ladybug tastes bitter and unpleasant. Animal Direct explains that many cats play with their prey either before, after, or instead of killing.

Because ladybugs don’t taste very nice, it’s more likely that cats hunt ladybugs for fun. Cats may eat a ladybug once to experience the taste, but they rarely make the same mistake twice.

However, many cats are put off altogether by the bright coloration of various ladybugs. As described in a journal by Scientific Reports, many creatures have bright colors that warn predators of their defense mechanisms.

The brightest ladybugs are often the most toxic, so cats will leave them alone.

Are Ladybugs Bad For Cats?

If you’re wondering, “are ladybugs toxic to cats?” the answer depends on the type of ladybug your cat comes into contact with. Domestic ladybugs are generally harmless, but other species are more harmful to cats.

In a study published by Scientific Reports, researchers found that the most toxic ladybug species (from most to least) are as follows:

  • Orange ladybug (orange)
  • 2-spot ladybug (red)
  • Pine ladybug (black)
  • 14-spot ladybug (yellow)
  • Larch ladybug (brown)

Asian ladybugs have a particularly nasty bite and cause issues for cats who attempt to eat them.

This ladybug species is the one you need to be most wary of, as it can cause the following health issues:

are ladybugs toxic to cats?

Mouth Ulcers

Most ladybug species, including the Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis), cause chemical burns inside the mouth. As described by Science Daily, that’s because they secrete a fluid from their hemolymph as soon as they are attacked.

This fluid contains microsporidia, which are tiny fungus-like protozoa parasitic body cells. Ladybugs are resistant to these parasites, so they’re used as an effective defense mechanism, burning any creature that comes into contact with it.

As the fluid is secreted reactively once the ladybug is in danger, it’s most likely to affect a cat’s mouth just before the bug’s imminent death, causing ulcers and oral irritation.

This fluid also causes ladybugs to stick to the roof of your cat’s mouth instead of being swallowed.

If your cat suffers from any of the following symptoms, check inside its mouth for any evidence of ladybugs:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to eat or drink
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Drooling or salivation
  • Excessive licking
  • Depression
  • Vocalization
  • Drowsiness
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Noticeable oral lesions

Gastrointestinal Irritation

Similar to mouth ulcers, if your cat manages to ingest the fluid a ladybug secretes, its gastrointestinal system is likely to become irritated by the toxins.

Similarly, when consumed in large quantities, ladybugs can cause stomach upset or ulceration thanks to the unhealthy amounts of toxins in the body.

In the worse cases, your cat may display the following unpleasant signs:

  • Ulceration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stools
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

While the fluid isn’t toxic or poisonous, it can make your cat unwell for a few days. It may also put the cat off its food, causing weight loss.

The problem usually sorts itself out when the cat eliminates the toxin from the body, but it’s always best to get these issues checked out by a vet in case treatment is required.

Exoskeleton Irritation

Ladybugs have tough exoskeletons, which acts as their spine. As a result, it’s not just the secretion that causes mouth and gastrointestinal problems, but the hard outer shell can also irritate if chewed.

When crunching through the hard outer shell, sharp pieces break off, cutting your cat’s mouth in the process.

When bacteria enter the wound, they cause painful ulcers, making it difficult for cats to eat. As a result, many cats lose weight while waiting for their mouths to heal.

Cats with cuts caused by a ladybug’s exoskeleton may exhibit the following signs:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling
  • Bleeding gums
  • Excessive swallowing
  • Pawing at the face
  • Teeth chattering

Your cat’s mouth will probably heal on its own, but you might need to take your pet to the vet for some pain relief.

Pesticides

As with all insects, ladybug consumption increases the risk of cats coming into contact with harmful pesticides.

This chance is increased if cats hunt in public grassy areas, like parks and farms treated with mosquito sprays and various other insecticides.

If a cat consumes a ladybug contaminated with pesticides, it’ll display the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive drooling
  • Head tilt
  • Incoordination and unsteadiness
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors
  • Twitching
  • Seizures
  • Severe vomiting
  • Watery eyes

Chemicals are more harmful than ladybugs, so resist the urge to treat your lawn or yard with a pesticide to get rid of ladybugs.

Similarly, some ladybug species can fend off harmful pathogens, thanks to their robust immune systems. Once exposed to chemicals, they release antibacterial peptides that reduce the effects.

As a result, Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences explains that if you use pesticides against some ladybugs, such as the Asian ladybug, their resistance against pathogens may render the chemicals ineffective, posing a threat to your cat.

Are Ladybugs Good For Cats?

As already established, ladybugs cause many problems for cats if they’re eaten. While domestic ladybugs aren’t anything to worry about, it’s impossible to know what species your cat is hunting.

It’s also difficult to stop them if they eat ladybugs away from the home when they’re out at night.

There are also significantly few health benefits associated with ladybug consumption. However, that doesn’t mean they’re all bad, as they offer your cat the following things:

Mental Stimulation

Ladybug hunting offers cats all-important mental stimulation. A cat’s mind thrives when it’s active and keeps the animal healthy for longer.

Even indoor cats need to entertain themselves to stop themselves from becoming bored and badly behaved. Signs of boredom in cats include:

  • Excessive grooming
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Fighting with other pets
  • Lack of curiosity
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy
  • Overeating

While many pet owners don’t like their cats to hunt, it stimulates their senses and sharpens their minds, especially when cat owners are out throughout the day.

Plus, as ladybugs are a common feature in a grassy yard, your cat doesn’t have to go far to hunt one, allowing you to keep an eye on your pet.

Protein

Some insects are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins. While there are few studies into the nutritional benefits of ladybugs, they have exoskeletons made out of protein, meaning they possess a small amount that could benefit cats.

This may benefit wild cats in particular. As obligate carnivores, feral cats adjust their food intake according to what’s available for them to eat.

When they can’t find small rodents and birds, insects provide cats with enough nutrients to survive.  

While cats would need to consume lots of ladybugs to get the protein they need, protein gives them energy and helps the body’s tissues, organs, skin, hair, tendons, blood, and muscle grow healthy and strong.

When the amino acids found in protein are missing from a cat’s body, it can’t function properly, leading to deficiencies.

Are Cats Allergic To Ladybugs?

It’s not common for cats to be allergic to ladybugs, especially as most will never come into contact with one. However, that’s not to say it’s not possible.

There’s a link between human allergies and ladybugs, particularly after they’ve invaded the home. They trigger respiratory problems and cause an itchy sensation.

The problem is that cat allergy signs are similar to the irritation caused by eating ladybugs. If your cat displays allergy symptoms after eating a ladybug, it’s more likely that the toxic fluid is upsetting both its mouth and gastrointestinal tract. Cats that suffer from allergies display the following signs:

  • Itchy skin
  • Sneezing, coughing, wheezing
  • Swollen paws
  • Snoring 
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Your cat may also lose its appetite. While an allergy to ladybugs isn’t likely, take your cat to your vet, who will run some tests to determine the cause of your pet’s symptoms.

How To Prevent Your Cat From Eating Ladybugs

When it comes to stopping your cat from eating ladybugs, prevention is vital.

Once the bug is in your cat’s mouth, it’s usually too late to prevent your pet from swallowing the bug. Similarly, the ladybug will have already secreted the harmful fluid.

As already mentioned, if your cat hunts for ladybugs at night, it’s much more difficult to control what they’re eating.

However, when it gets colder, ladybugs tend to head indoors, seeking refuge inside your home. As a result, cats are more tempted by the insect, and they trigger their hunting instincts.

This also means that you have a better opportunity to stop your cat from eating the bugs. Follow these steps to prevent your cat from eating ladybugs:

  • Seal exterior cracks and entry points to prevent them from getting inside your house.
  • Install screens on roof vents where ladybugs can squeeze into the gaps.
  • Check your vents and window frames for any damage. If so, fix them.
  • Deter ladybugs with lavender and chrysanthemums, as ladybugs hate the smell.
  • Trap ladybugs using light traps. However, note that these cause them to die once they’re trapped.

If you have a ladybug infestation, sprinkle diatomaceous earth where they’re most likely to hide.

This non-toxic powder kills unwanted pests by scratching their exoskeletons and absorbing the ladybug’s essential fluids and oils, causing them to dehydrate and die.

It’s also safe for use around animals, so the powder won’t harm them.

can ladybugs kill cats?

Can Cats Eat Asian Ladybugs?

As already described, Asian ladybugs are one of the worst kinds for cats to eat because they cause nasty oral burns.

Unfortunately, they’re considered a true pest and commonly invade buildings and homes. You can tell when they’re inside the house because they leave yellow stains and a nasty odor.

Their color ranges from orange to red and tend to have black spots on the wings. However, some don’t have spots at all.

If you see your cat playing with a ladybug of this description, district it with toys or tasty treats. If your cat catches one, it’s in for a nasty shock.

Can Cats Eat Black Ladybugs?

As the name suggests, black ladybugs are black with small red spots. They’re also known as pine ladybugs. These are bugs for cats to avoid because they’re one of the most toxic species.

Cats are more drawn to black ladybugs than red ones because black isn’t a classic warning sign like red is.

Black ladybugs tend to live in trees and shrubs, hiding in leaf litter and foliage. Thankfully, their appearance is highly distinctive, so you’ll be able to spot one of these in your yard or house straightaway.

You shouldn’t encourage your cat to eat ladybugs. While your cats must be mentally stimulated, it’s better to play with them using their favorite toys than allowing them to chase after potentially harmful bugs.

Some insects, such as crickets, are safer for them to eat, but it’s almost impossible to monitor your cat’s eating habits.