Is It Okay for Cats to Eat Bugs?

By Julia Williams

Like their wild cousins, our domestic kitty cats are natural born hunters. Their motto is “If it moves, chase it” which includes everything from rodents and insects to human toes that unwittingly wiggle under the bedcovers. For many cats, hunting is the fun part; they either bring their catch to us in exchange for praise, or leave it lying around for our bare feet to step in.

Sometimes they will eat what they catch. It’s not about hunger though – my cats get two square CANIDAE meals a day plus treats, yet they still munch on that juicy grasshopper like it’s the best feline caviar on the planet, the stuff of every kitty’s dream. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they eat their kill with even more gusto when I am watching, because they know how much it grosses me out. Yep, there is nothing quite like seeing your cat wolf down a fly and come running over for a kiss. I love my cats dearly, but there will be no kisses until that little snack is washed down with copious amounts of water or the “incident” is forgotten, whichever comes first.

So while many cats do relish eating things like flies, spiders, grasshoppers, ants, crickets, June bugs and moths, is there any harm? With a few exceptions, the answer is no. Most household and garden-variety bugs aren’t harmful to cats. Although it may turn your stomach to witness the carnage, eating bugs is a natural behavior for cats that in most cases is not cause for alarm.

As I said, though, there are some exceptions:

Gastrointestinal upset

If a cat eats a lot of bugs in one sitting, or a certain kind of bugs, this could result in stomach upset. Bugs with hard exoskeletons, such as beetles, are really irritating to the cat’s digestive tract. Typically, this doesn’t end well – as in, the cat barfs up a pile of bugs. Per the Cat Golden Rule, this will be done “always on the rug, never the linoleum.” Additionally, if kitty doesn’t chew thoroughly, a chunk of bug can get stuck in his throat, causing choking. Diarrhea is also a strong possibility.

Poisonous Bugs

Some bugs, such as stink bugs, are not poisonous per se but their secretions can cause excessive drooling or vomiting and can also irritate the cat’s gastrointestinal tract. A few bugs – lovebugs and fireflies, for example – are actually poisonous for your cat and can cause severe intestinal problems. If a cat tries to eat a black widow spider and gets bitten by it, this can cause a long list of serious health issues and even death.

I have read that cats instinctively know which bugs to avoid. However, I wouldn’t want to put that theory to the test and have my cat suffer the consequences if it proved not to be true. In any event, figuring out which bugs are safe and which ones are not can be tricky. If you see a bug you know to be poisonous or any bug you can’t identify, it’s best to procure the professional services of an exterminator.

Insecticide Toxicity

Bug bait traps can be deadly for pets. Even if you place the bug bait where kitty can’t get to it, the insect may drag some of the poison out where your cat can come into contact with it. Cats can also become severely ill from eating poisoned bugs. I personally would never take that chance, especially since there are pet-friendly alternatives for killing bugs when necessary.

I may not enjoy seeing my cats devour the occasional fly that sneaks into my house, but I don’t panic either, because I know that hunting and eating bugs is a perfectly natural feline behavior. Does your cat like to eat bugs?

Top photo by Simon Evans
Middle photo by Ian Barbour 
Bottom photo by babbagecabbage 

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