The cat is a born hunter. So, it is not surprising that it is attracted from time to time by insects which make excellent prey. Indeed, a fly, a spider, an ant or even a bug have the merit of moving quickly and therefore making any feline want to chase them. While some cats will just kill them, others will eat them whole. If this is the case with your cat, you are entitled to wonder if this pronounced taste for insects might not make your feline sick… Let’s find out!
Without being toxic, some insects could be greatly harmful and endanger the health of your cat if he eats a lot. Here are some tips and precautions to observe if you have a cat that likes to eat insects.
Why do cats eat bugs?
There may be two possible explanations why cats like to eat insects. The first reason is food. Indeed, if they are so fond of it, it is probably because they appreciate the taste of insects. In addition, insects are a natural part of the carnivorous diet of cats and are a great source of protein just as good as meat or fish.
A second explanation for cats' interest in insects is simply linked to their natural hunting instinct. Indeed, cats are born predators. And it is quite logical that they assimilate insects to pray that they have fun hunting from time to time and which, moreover, can be appetising.
With that being said, if some cats love nothing more than to taste these little animals, other cats will be content to kill them for the simple pleasure of fun.
Is it dangerous for a cat to eat bugs?
If your cat has a habit of eating insects, you don't need to be worried about your furry friend. This is for the simple reason that eating insects is a completely natural and normal behaviour. Indeed, cats like to eat insects, which is why they sometimes hunt them.
In addition, most of the insects that they are likely to encounter around the house are not poisonous. Whether it is butterflies, flies, dragonflies, bees or small black ants, your cat will normally have no problem digesting them.
However, it would be wise to remain vigilant and watch your feline, especially if he tends to swallow too much at once. Because if they are not toxic, some insects can harbor harmful parasites, cause digestive disorders, or even other serious problems.
Most insects are not poisonous but beware of some
In most cases, eating insects is an all-natural behaviour that is not harmful to your cat. Indeed, the majority of insects that we meet in our houses or in our gardens are not toxic for it. Thus, they will have no problem digesting a butterfly, a ladybug or any other little beast.
However, it is still necessary to be vigilant. This is because worms, bees and spiders can contain parasites that are harmful to your cat. Especially intestinal worms.
In addition, it is better to monitor your feline during the hours following ingestion. So, if he suddenly has trouble breathing, saliva abnormally, vomits, or if you notice any other unusual symptoms, contact a veterinarian immediately.
It goes without saying, but some insects are more harmful to your cat than others. This is particularly the case with bees, wasps, bumblebees and even hornets. Indeed, if one of these insects were to bite your cat in the mouth, it could be particularly dangerous for him. Even more so if he is allergic to them!
Also, if your cat were to eat a lot of insects all at once or if they ingested an insect with a hard exoskeleton, such as the beetle, it could be very irritating to their digestive tract. Your cat would then be likely to have stomach ache, vomiting or diarrhoea. In addition, a piece of insect could get stuck in your cat’s throat and cause suffocation.
Some insects, such as bedbugs, can also be particularly irritating because of the secretions they produce.
Pay attention to the type of spider your furry friend is hunting. While most spiders and especially small house spiders are harmless to cats, there are poisonous spiders which can harm people and cats too. Indeed, the false widow spider, the tube web spider or the cardinal are spiders that can be found in the UK and are particularly poisonous. Cats are a lot smaller than humans, so the venom from a spider bite can do more damage to them. Some bites cause localised reactions and could turn into a major wound, others can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, paralysis and muscle tremors.
If your cat has eaten a poisonous spider, the venom is unlikely going to hurt your cat as the stomach acids tend to counteract the venom. It’s still very important to monitor your cat though just in case. Now, if you suspect your cat has been bitten by a poisonous spider, go to see your vet immediately!
Wasps, bees and other stinging insects
Bees, wasps, and other stinging insects aren’t toxic for your cat, but you should still be careful. Their stings are painful and just like humans, cats can also have an allergic reaction to a sting. If your cat has been stung by a wasp, bee or another stinging insect, he will most certainly lick the area where he was stung and further irritate it. This is why, if you’ve noticed your cat has been stung, you should go see your veterinarian.
Butterflies, moths, caterpillars, fireflies
Cats really enjoy chasing butterflies and moths and it’s a good thing they are not dangerous for your feline friend. There is however one type of moth which is toxic to cats: the garden tiger moth. Even though little is known about the toxic effect, if your cat ingests this insect, it will be poisonous. Keep in mind that mothballs are extremely poisonous to cats, these are basically a solid, concentrated pesticide. The signs of mothball poisoning are vomiting, lethargy, weakness, trouble breathing, tremors and seizures. You should go see your vet immediately if you suspect your cat has eaten mothballs.
Your cat should be careful of caterpillars as some sting and that will cause pain. The sting of this insect is rarely dangerous, but some large and exotic caterpillars can be toxic.
The most dangerous may be the fireflies. Fireflies, like some exotic caterpillars, are very poisonous and can cause intestinal disturbances if ingested by your little feline.
Most ants are harmless to cats. Some ants may bite a cat, but this won’t cause any harm. Fire ants on the other hand, are dangerous for our feline friend. Their venomous bites are very painful and could cause a serious allergic reaction. If your cat has been bitten by one of these ants, you should go see your veterinarian immediately.
If you wish to use products against ants, make sure they are pet-friendly!
Roaches, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers
You should also be careful with insects with a rigid exoskeleton such as beetles, cockroaches, grasshoppers and beetles. Although non-toxic, ingesting these can cause lesions or injuries in your cat's mouth. When consumed in large quantities, they can suffocate your cat or cause an upset stomach and digestive upset.
Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and flies
Fleas and ticks are extremely common on cats. Fleas cause itchiness and are often ingested by cats when they groom themselves, this causes tapeworm infection. It is super important to use monthly flea control products to avoid any problems. Ticks on the other hand, are more common on cats who go outside (even though any cats can get them). Ticks are vectors of diseases, such as tick borne disease and Lyme disease. If you see a tick on your cat and aren’t sure how to remove it correctly, make sure you go see your veterinarian and ask for the best option for tick prevention.
Let’s admit it, mosquitos are super annoying! Well, not only that, but they are actually dangerous to cats because they transmit the heartworm disease to cats. If a cat gets heartworm disease, the worms take up residence in the lungs. There is no treatment against this disease, this is why it’s recommended to use a monthly heartworm prevention treatment.
Flies are fun to run after for cats and if your feline decides to eat the fly after it’s chasing session that’s fine, it won’t harm him. Now, flies can cause problems for cats. Certain feline’s are susceptible to fly bites on their ears.
Your cat eats a lot of insects: Beware of the insecticides you use
Note that the threat or risk does not always come from insects, but from the insecticides that we use to get rid of them. These contain chemical compounds such as permethrin classified as poisons and known to be highly toxic. These components are dangerous and can easily poison your cat, causing serious irritation that can damage your little feline's transit, serious health problems and in the worst case, can be fatal.
These products can end up in your cat's body after it consumes an insect that has itself been poisoned by exposure to the insecticide. We would recommend using natural products at home, as much as possible.
So, does your cat eat bugs? You might get the heebie-jeebies when you are watching your cat eating a bug, and actually enjoying it (yuck!), but at least you can rest assured that, most of the time, it won’t cause your feline any harm. Do monitor your cat and if you suspect anything, don’t hesitate to go see your vet.