If this is your first time caring for a feline family member, you may not yet be fully familiar with how much cats enjoy chasing bugs.
Sometimes, cats will just play with the bugs, and other times your cat might decide to eat bugs.
This last part tends to mystify cat owners more than anything else. After all, you provide complete and balanced nutrition to your cat, including meals and treats. Why on earth would your cat want to eat bugs?
We take a closer look at this mysterious and sometimes confusing cat behavior in this article.
Why Do Cats Eat Bugs?
As PetMD points out, cats may eat bugs for a few different reasons.
But the main reason seems to relate back to the innate feline instinct to hunt, give chase, and catch fast-moving things. Your cat may not eat every bug they stalk. In truth, the thrill is often more about giving chase than needing a quick pick-me-up snack.
Watch a Compilation Video of Cats and Bugs
Chances are good you have never in your life thought that playing with bugs sounded like fun.
But to your cat, bugs can make for a pretty good time, as this YouTube video compilation clearly illustrates.
In fact, many people who are familiar with this cat behavior think of cats like an all-purpose, pesticide-free exterminator service, as Animal Planet highlights.
But just because your cat can keep bugs away from you doesn’t mean you should let your feline shoulder this responsibility. It may end up causing your cat unnecessary pain and suffering.
Is It Safe for Cats to Eat Bugs?
In this modern age of pesticides and insecticides, one of the biggest concerns you may have as a cat owner is whether it is safe for your cat to chase and eat bugs.
This is a valid concern and one that deserves to be taken seriously.
As Germantown Veterinary Clinic points out, pesticides are just one of several safety issues that it is important to stay mindful of as you manage your cat’s environment.
Let’s take a look at each of these important concerns next.
Some bugs are actually venomous or poisonous.
A good example is a harmless-looking caterpillar crawling across your cat’s path. While the caterpillar itself may or may not be toxic, the hairs covering its body are likely to be extremely irritating.
Some spiders can also deliver a potent venom. Asian lady beetles stink bugs (which are aptly named!) and walking sticks secrete irritating toxins that can lead to mouth or stomach ulcers.
And fireflies contain lucibufagins, potent toxins that can be fatal in smaller pets, as the ASPCA points out.
Biting or stinging insects
Wasps, bees, ants, horse flies, mosquitoes, spiders, hornets, and other biting or stinging insects can deliver quite a potent allergic punch as well as a very painful sensation.
If your cat is stung repeatedly, this could quickly become life-threatening.
Insect-born diseases or parasites
Parasites and insect-born diseases can be another significant health threat to your cat. This is true whether your kitty is an indoor cat or is allowed to roam outdoors.
Many insects carry diseases and their waste also attracts parasites that your cat might ingest. Many insects do eat the feces of other animals and can ingest parasites in this way that may then pass to your cat.
Insects that have encountered insecticides
No one likes to wake up to a kitchen full of sugar ants or a bathroom where cockroaches and silverfish are leaping out of the towel bins. Insecticides are a fact of life in many modern metropolitan areas today.
But insecticides can be harmful to more than just the insects they are designed to target. If your cat eats insects that have encountered insecticide, your kitty may get poisoned as a result.
It is important to remember that your indoor/outdoor cat might also encounter insect baits, slug pellets, granular herbicides used on plants or vegetables and fruit trees, and similar toxins.
Even if you don’t use any of these products in your own yard, if your cat is permitted to roam the neighborhood, these are very real dangers that your cat might very well encounter in a neighbor’s yard.
Insects in the cat kibble
Unfortunately, one of the most common ways that cats may encounter household bugs that have contacted insecticide is when those same bugs invade the kitty kibble.
Bugs like cat food just like cats do. It is very important to keep your cat’s food sealed and stored safely away from any hungry household bugs.
Symptoms of Toxic Insect Contact in Cats
Clearly, there is a lot to worry about when it comes to your cat’s love of hunting and eating bugs.
But how can you know whether your feline’s encounter with the neighborhood insect population has turned dangerous?
These are some of the most commonly reported symptoms associated with cats that have eaten insects.
Remember, these symptoms may or may not be caused by the specific bug your cat played with or ate. They could be caused by the toxin or poison that insects encountered before your cat found it.
As International Cat Care urges, If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms, it is vital to reach out to your feline veterinarian immediately or rush your cat to the nearest veterinary emergency room.
- Depression or over-excitability.
- Shaking or trembling.
- Skin itching, inflammation, or swelling.
- Pale gums.
- Couching, wheezing, sneezing.
- Movement issues or lack of coordination.
Do Cats Eat Bugs to Get Protein?
As DVM 360 explains, a feline in a wild setting is going to be an obligate carnivore – an animal whose digestive tract has evolved to require pure animal protein to function properly.
This understanding from the scientific community has prompted a very understandable question among cat owners – do cats seek out and eat bugs because they are trying to get protein?
While stray or feral cats may actually eat bugs for the protein content, it is highly unlikely a companion feline (a true pet cat) will do this. Cats typically get all their nutrient needs met if they are eating a complete and balanced feline food.
It is far more likely that your cat just enjoys chasing and stalking bugs and if those bugs wind up in the kitty’s mouth, so be it.
Can You Keep a Cat From Eating Bugs?
With all the potential hazards that bugs may represent to your precious cat, you may be wondering at this point if there is a way you can keep your cat from eating bugs.
Unfortunately, cats are instinctively wired through countless centuries to hunt, stalk, chase, and eat anything that flies or moves. For this reason, it is a rare cat indeed that can resist the urge to chase or ingest bugs.
Because of this, by far the best method to at least limit the number of bugs your cat may encounter is twofold: to keep bugs out of all of the spaces that your cat occupies and to use safety measures to send any bugs that do come in packing.
Keep your cat indoors and the home sealed from bugs
From this perspective, your cat will clearly be safer as an indoor-only cat. When you keep your cat indoors, they will be far less likely to encounter toxic insects as well as insects that have come in contact with poisons or parasites.
If you enjoy opening your windows and doors seasonally, using window screens and door screens will help keep bugs out.
Use great caution when choosing household and lawn pesticides
As the National Pesticide Information Center shares, you should never take someone else’s word for it that a pesticide or toxin is safe to use around cats.
Rather, read the labels and follow the manufacturer instructions precisely. In many cases, a pesticide is far less directly hazardous once it has dried thoroughly (the premise here is that your cat is unlikely to lick it up from the floor or wall).
Granular solid or gel pesticides or insect traps, pellets, or baits present a special risk since your cat may be able to ingest them whole or even dig them up from where they are buried and eat them.
Cats have an amazing sense of smell and this makes food-baited insect traps especially risky.
Can Cat Toys Keep Your Cat From Eating Bugs?
Cat toys are designed to cater to a cat’s instinctive desire to chase, leap, stalk, hunt, and capture prey like fast-moving, small insects, and bugs.
The more you can engage your cat in interactive safe play indoors each day, the less time and energy your kitty will have leftover to stalk, hunt, and eat bugs.