Is It Okay for Cats to Eat Bugs?

November 15, 2013

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 

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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  1. BansheeLudia says:

    Our 9 month old kitten Baxter loves moths and spiders. I came on here because he just dived under our sink and snapped up a moth that was hiding. He came out with a little wing tip on his lip looking very pleased with himself haha! I just wondered if it was him or if this was typical cat behavior, which led me here.

  2. alicia says:

    my cat loves to hunt she does this strange thing with her mouth it almost vibrates when she stalks her prey flys and such, I injoy watching

    1. Tess says:

      My cat does this same exact thing. I think this is their hunting call

  3. I think my 3 yr. Old cat ate a mayfly. Can that cause foaming at the mouth?

  4. Sometimes my cat bring cockroaches into my bed when I’m asleep

  5. brenda says:

    My 4 yr old cat ate a moth worm the ones that are in fruit trees. shortly after she threw up. and now has been vomiting for past 2 days. she still has appetite. is this type of worm making her sick?

    1. Abbey moss says:

      Yes that type of worm can make your cat sick case my cat eat the some kind of mouth worm and the vomiting will stop and a couple of weeks or days it depends on how your cat eat it did it eat hole or did your cat reap it in half case there are Manny different way your cat can eat a mouth worm and you really shouldn’t let your cat eat worms you can let them eat bugs and spiders and that is it

  6. sheyla says:

    Can my cat eat a katydid? It’s like a type or big bug
    I’m just scared can someone help me

  7. Carolyn says:

    My kitty loves to catch and eat grasshoppers. There was an influx of them here recently and he ate about 6. He now has diarrhea. I’m hoping it will go away on it’s own. Is there anything I can give him to ease the diarrhea? Or should I just let it run it’s course? He seems fine otherwise and is still eating his regular food and drinking water.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Every summer our house gets infested with moths which our new cat just loves to munch on. She’s eaten 2 in the last hour. I’ve heard the dust on moth wings is harmful to kitty organs. Is that true or would she have to eat a ridiculous amount of them to get any adverse effects?

  9. Pj says:

    It is a difficult task to keep indoor cats happy and bordom free. I think this cricket thing could be a big help!

  10. Layla ' s mom says:

    We get the occasional cricket from pets mart for a little extra fun for our kitty. She loves it.

  11. Eve says:

    My cat just ate a small roach right in front of me. I’m grossed out but glad at the same time for the natural pest control.

  12. McGregor Lass says:

    Is it true that some bugs….grasshoppers and cricket maybe….can give cats worms?

  13. We have roaches here in Florida – the cats don’t eat them – they just like to bat them around like hockey pucks until they get them to roll over onto their backs!

  14. Nadbugs says:

    My cats had WAY more sense than I did, when it came to a certain very scary bug over at our place . . . .

  15. meowmeowmans says:

    That sure is good to know. Thanks, Julia. Yes, Moosey has been known to eat a fly or two. Ewwww. 🙂