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While for most of us the thought of encountering a bug and a flying insect might make our skin crawl, our cats don’t seem to share the same feelings.
Thanks to their excellent eyesight they’re also great at detecting even the smallest fly, which can result in a good chase, but what happens if they catch this creepy-crawly?
Do cats eat bugs? Cats enjoy chasing, killing, and eating bugs. This behavior is driven not so much by the food value of insects, but by your cat’s natural hunting instincts. This playful pursuit can be harmless, but some bugs are more dangerous than others and can cause gastrointestinal issues.
If you want to know more about your cat’s bug-eating habit, the dangers behind it, and how to deal with it, we’ve got you covered!
Feline Hunting Instincts
Seeing our gentle kitties spend their days lounging by the window or curled up in soft blankets can make us forget that “like their wild relatives, domestic cats are natural hunters able to stalk prey and pounce with sharp claws and teeth.”
Cats need to satisfy their natural instinct for hunting and their sight, hearing, and scent detecting capabilities all work together to keep them alert even during the night. Because of their small size, our cats usually look for smaller prey like rodents and birds. Their eyes are capable of tracing even the smallest of movements and detecting changes in their environment.
Of course, living indoors makes it a bit difficult for them to explore those instincts, but that’s what toys are designed for, as well as the occasional buzzing intruder. When a bug flies into your house or some other incest crawls on the wall, they’ll be the first ones to notice, and that could easily spark your cat’s inner hunting needs.
Do Cats Eat Insects?
While not all cats might like how bugs taste, being superb hunters means that they will indeed eat the bug. Some cats will playfully chew on the bug and spit it out, while others might end up swallowing the whole thing only to vomit the insect later, especially if it irritates their bellies.
One of my cats chooses to spend all summer on our balcony and I get to witness the occasional bug chase, as well as the massacre that follows. No matter how rarely it happens, this habit still makes me shudder, but my cat seems to enjoy the process-including the part where I chase him around in hopes of saving the poor grasshopper.
Why Do Cats Eat Bugs?
It’s A Hunter’s Game
As mentioned above, hunting is part of feline nature and it’s something they have to practice every day. If you’ve ever noticed the kind of toys your kitty enjoys playing with, they’re usually quite bouncy and can make a light sound as they move. Bugs seem to be perfectly crafted to catch our cat’s attention and chasing response.
Bugs and all sorts of insects can easily become attractive by the way they move. They’re small and quick, one moment they stand still, and next thing you know they’re suddenly darting in an unpredictable direction and hide in hard-to-reach places. That might be unnerving to most of us, but to our cat, it’s an invitation to have fun!
This black kitty for example seems to be a part of the bug-hunting campaign. Fortunately for both of them, the little insect is too far away!
It’s also important to remember that cats don’t necessarily hunt with the end goal to eat their prey. I’m sure most of our cats, indoor or outdoor, are well-fed, but they’ll still simulate a hunting session by playing with us or they’ll hunt outside only to bring their toy or their killed game back to us as a trophy.
Dennis Turner, a Swiss-American biologist, explains the reason behind such behavior by saying that “cats are opportunistic hunters and must be ready to stalk and catch any prey they discover by chance – even if they’re not hungry.” So, when we see our fluffballs chasing after a fly or a grasshopper, there’s a chance that after killing it they won’t even eat it.
Catching a bug can of course also result in consumption as part of the complete hunting experience. In any case, this achievement is bound to send signals of pleasure and satisfaction to your cat’s brain, because in a way it offers pleasurable mental stimulation!
Some Bugs Are Nutritionally Suitable For Cats
It’s true that insects, according to pet nutrition consultant Mark Fink, Ph.D. “are generally good sources of protein, b-vitamins, and trace minerals.” But there’s little evidence that cats would hunt down a bug specifically for the protein, and not simply because they’re fun to chase.
The food market, on the other hand, seems to have caught up with the idea of feeding insect-based foods to pets. Simon Doherty, the President of the British Veterinary Association states that “There’s a really exciting future for the use of insect protein for companion animals.”
He also adds that “It’s a fantastic opportunity – looking at insects to provide alternative sources of some of the nutrient ingredients we use in pet food diets.” Insect-based pet food in Europe has been slowly moving forward, releasing 12 dry food for dogs and 2 dry cat foods.
They claim to be hypoallergenic, high in protein, and environmentally friendly, but there’s a lot of research yet to be done. It’s also quite possible that our fluffballs may enjoy the occasional bug treat that has entered their domain, specifically for the protein, and taurine, which is a critical part of a cat’s diet.
Is It Okay For Cats To Eat Bugs?
As pet owners, we’re responsible for our cat’s wellbeing and that includes their diet. While not all insects are harmful, your cat’s reaction to eating one can depend on both your cat and the type of bug they’ve ingested.
There are common bugs that can fly into our home or spend their lives in our yard, which are mostly harmless, but even if they’re not toxic it doesn’t mean they can’t upset your cat’s gastrointestinal tract.
Moths and Butterflies
Most moths and butterflies might not cause harm to your cat, which means that your cat can enjoy chasing them, but what can be dangerous about moths are the mothballs you might use to keep these creatures away from your clothes.
Mothballs and any pesticides are very poisonous to cats and since cats like to hide in places where it’s dark, secluded, and filled with soft fabrics, they might end up eating them. Instead of using pesticides try natural ways of fighting your moth problem, that won’t hurt your kitty.
Roaches, Beetles, Crickets, and Grasshoppers
While insects like roaches, beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets are usually not toxic for cats, ingesting them can still cause some issues. The hard exoskeletons can lead to oral irritation, vomiting, and overall gastrointestinal issues.
Sometimes the bug itself isn’t necessarily so dangerous, but the parasites they might be carrying could affect your furry friend. Making sure your house doesn’t have an infestation of bugs like roaches is very important, as well as a monthly preventive product prescribed by your vet, that helps keep parasites and worms away!
Venomous or Toxic Bugs
Plenty of harmless house bugs can reside in our homes and garden, but there are those who are dangerous to our kitties, and they need to be dealt with!
Humans and cats may be quite different, but the same poisonous spiders that can harm us can do the same to our kitties. Since cats are smaller than us, a spider’s venom can also spread quicker and make more damage than it would do to us.
Spiders like the Hobo Spider, the Brown Recluse, and the Black Widow can be extremely dangerous. A bite from them could cause vomiting and diarrhea, paralysis, muscle tremors that will give your cat a drunken gait, even death.
Other less poisonous spiders can create a localized reaction with their bite, which can turn into a serious wound if not treated. You can also find information on spiders found in your area to be aware of the dangerous species, and the ways you can stop them from entering your home.
Stink Bugs, Ladybugs, Fireflies
Stink bugs get their name from being stinky when they feel threatened and of all the bugs this one my cats hate the most. I think this is a very reasonable response, but there are cats that will still try to catch them and eat them. While they might not be as dangerous as a spider, they certainly aren’t a healthy snack!
Ladybugs and fireflies are also some of those insects that can catch your cat’s attention, but unfortunately, they too can irritate your pet’s gastrointestinal tract or even lead to serious health issues. So, if you see your kitty playing with them, you should stop it before they get the chance to eat them.
Stinging or Biting Bugs
Flying and buzzing insects can be very tempting for your playful kitty, but their stings can be painful and dangerous. These same bugs that will go out of their way to harm humans can also attack our cats.
Wasps, Hornets, Bees, and Ants
According to the Animal Dermatology Clinic, cats can be allergic to bees “Just like people, your dog or cat’s reaction to a bee sting can vary from swelling at the site of the bite to multiple skin hives, through to life-threatening collapse (anaphylaxis). Reactions can occur within seconds or minutes of the sting.”
Even if your cat doesn’t have an allergic reaction, they still might start licking and biting at the inflicted area and cause further irritation to the skin and possibly release more venom out of the stinger.
Cats that are allowed to go outside can accidentally step on an anthill or disturb a wasp nest or a beehive. These insects are very protective of their colonies, so they’ll immediately start stinging your cat’s whole body. If this happens to your kitty it’s important you take them to the vet to tend to these bites.
These little creatures might be fun to watch and play with, but they also can be quite dangerous. ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center explains that “Caterpillars have two types of hair: urticating and stinging. Urticating hairs are itchy, non-venomous, and can cause localized dermatitis by mechanical irritation or foreign body reaction. Stinging hairs are hollow spines with poison-secreting cells at the base that cause local or systemic effects after they enter the skin and break off.”
Exposure to caterpillars can be more uncommon depending on where you live, and whether you have an indoor or outdoor cat, but it’s still something to look out for. If your cat has ingested a caterpillar, look out for drooling, difficulty swallowing, and gastritis, as well as irritation in the overall oral area, and signs of discomfort, and don’t hesitate to take them to the vet!
Small centipedes that are common in our house are not necessarily harmful, but they still can cause irritation. Some of these bugs have venom and the larger species of centipede could even bite your curious cat.
The famous toxic centipede called Texas Redheaded Centipede uses its appendages to inject venom into the prey, which should be treated immediately.
Perhaps you’ve never seen a scorpion in your area, but if they’re quite common there’s a chance your kitty might run into them. A scorpion’s sting can be venomous and toxic to cats, usually causing hypertensive effects and decreased respiration rate.
If you find your cat attacking a scorpion, or trying to eat it, try to stop your cat and remove the scorpion from your house. Check your kitty for any marks, and if there’s any change in their behavior take them to the vet.
As we can see, cats do eat bugs occasionally and while some of them are less harmful there are those who not only are dangerous, but they’re difficult to spot because of their tiny size.
Fleas And Ticks
Fleas and ticks can be found anywhere around the world, and even indoor cats can catch them since we so often come and go to the outside world. According to Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH at VCA Hospitals, fleas and ticks can cause “discomfort and skin irritation through their bites, and in some cases can cause severe allergic reactions in both pets and people.”
According to veterinarians, “these tiny, wingless creatures often carry infectious agents themselves, such as tapeworm eggs and a variety of pernicious bacteria—including the organism that causes feline infectious anemia—which can be passed among cats that are in close physical contact.”
Flies And Mosquitoes
While not all flies might be dangerous, and they can be fun to catch, there are those that can cause major problems. Cuterebra for example is a North American rodent botfly, and there are different species of this fly across the U.S. and Canada. The best way to prevent your cat from catching this fly is to keep your kitty from hunting rodents.
Cats can become accidental hosts of the Cuterebra larvae, which can be detected around their head and neck. The larva looks like a small lump under the skin topped with a tiny, perfectly round hole.
Some mosquitos can also be the carriers of a blood-borne parasite called Heartworms. The larvae pass through the bloodstream and end up in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries. There are no specific clinical signs to show that your kitty has heartworm disease, apart from coughing and rapid breathing, which could also be caused by several other diseases
How To Stop A Cat Eating Bugs?
Getting rid of bugs can be tricky depending on the country you live in, but it’s also a way of keeping your cat from harm’s way.
Using Bug Baits
Using bug baits is an easy solution but will require some research on your part. Before hiring a company or using pesticide baits, try homemade alternatives made out of safe for your cat ingredients. Securing your windows with mosquito nettings could also decrease the number of bugs that enter your home.
If hiring a company is the only option for you make sure to ask them for pet-friendly methods and pesticides, or let your cat stay at another house while you’re dealing with the issue. Keeping the house clean and checking for dead bugs laying around can also prevent your kitty from eating them and getting sick.
Keep Your Cat Indoors
If you find bugs and other small animals laying at your doorstep or you notice your cat nibbling on spiders in your back garden, perhaps it’s time they moved permanently into your house. No matter how fun the outdoors can be, there are many dangers, besides bugs that can harm your feline kitty cat.
Your cat can run away, lose their way back home, or get hurt by a passing car. Since they like to hunt and are extremely curious creatures, they might end up consuming a toxic bug, or a rodent carrying a lethal disease. Keeping an eye on your cat when they’re outside can also be very difficult, and you can miss the early signs of an infection.
Signs Your Cat Is Sick After Eating A Bug
Cats can be tricky to understand, and they can also be good at hiding pain and discomfort. That’s why it’s important to read your cat’s body language and pay attention to small changes that could be indicators of a minor or even serious condition and illness.
What To Watch For
Cats may love to play with bugs but eating them can lead to health problems. If your cat is allowed outside, or you know their love for bug-hunting then you should try and be extra careful and be on the lookout for signs of poisoning.
If your cat starts coughing, having trouble breathing, and vomiting after eating a bug take it as a clear indication that you should take them to the vet. Since bugs can have harsh exoskeletons it’s possible that they can create an obstruction, making it difficult for your cat to breathe. Itching, excessive licking, and scratching could also be an indication that your cat got stung or bitten by a bug.
An intense reaction can also be the result of an allergic reaction. If your cat spends their time outside, on the balcony, or the place where you live has a variety of toxic bugs, then make sure to regularly check your cat for bug bites, red spots, bumps, and anything unusual about their skin and fur.
Treating A Cat Bug Bite
The best way to help your cat with a bug bite or a painful reaction after consuming an insect is by taking them to the vet. Self-treating and diagnosing should never be our number one choice when it comes to our furry friends because we can never be 100% sure of what exactly is the problem and what’s the best solution.
If you notice any strange reaction or signs of bites or swelling on your cat’s skin the vet will know how to help. Cats are prone to skin infections and flea bites particularly can be very harmful. Your vet will be able to detect such signs and prescribe to you the right medication, as well as tick and flea control shampoos designed for cats.
According to ASPCA, “cats are notorious for hiding or masking signs of a condition or illness. Even if cats are itchy, they might wait until their cat parents leave the house or seek out private spaces to satisfy that itch.”
If your cat is uncomfortable, they may show signs of aggression instead, they might be meowing more than normal and they might change their daily routine. Even purring in these circumstances can be misleading since cats also purr when they’re in pain.
That’s why regular vet checkups are important and help detect any sort of infection in time, especially if your cat is hiding it!
Our feline companions can be great hunters and will use their exceptional skills to catch anything that flies and crawls away from them. Unfortunately, they can’t always know if what they’re after is going to bite them back in their fluffy buttocks.
That’s why as their guardians it’s our responsibility to keep them safe even from something as small as an insect! It might be difficult, because we have to deal with the creepy-crawlies ourselves, but I’m sure we’ll do anything for our cats!
Now you tell us, do your cats eat bugs, and do you have a unique way of dealing with your cat’s unusual bug-cravings?