Cats tend to run after or pursue fast-moving objects including insects like ladybugs. However, as any concerned cat owner should be, you are concerned if pursuing and eating these bugs could be dangerous for your cat.
Are ladybugs poisonous to cats?
Yes, ladybugs may be poisonous to cats, particularly the Asian ladybug or Harmonia axyridis species but only if they are eaten in large quantities. These ladybugs or ladybeetles secrete defensive compounds that irritate the mouth and cause ulcerations or chemical burns in your cat’s mouth or digestive tract especially if they get attached to the mouth’s roof. If your cat ingested a large number of these ladybugs, she may develop a stomach ulcer.
The common signs of a cat poisoned by ladybugs include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, constipation and lethargy. Immediate at-home treatment may include encouraging your cat to drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration and loss of appetite. However, if the symptoms persist for more than a day, take your cat to the vet for proper treatment.
What are ladybugs?
Ladybugs belong to the Coccinellidae family and are also known as ladybirds in Britain and England although entomologists prefer to call them lady beetles. They range from .03 to .71 inches in size and there are more or less 5000 species with a majority of these species considered as useful insects since they prey on herbivorous homopterans like aphids which are considered agricultural pests. Surprisingly, a single ladybug can devour up to 5000 aphids which makes these insects useful to farmers and the agricultural industry.
Lady bugs come in various sizes, colors and shapes and predominantly have red with black spots. Most species have round to elliptical or dome-shaped bodies and depending on the species, they may have spots, stripes or no markings at all. They may have as few as two or as many as 14 spots but most species have two, seven, nine, 13 or 14 spots. Aside from the usual yellow and deep red colors, most ladybug species are entirely black, gray, brown or dark grey.
In areas like the US and UK, the most common type is the seven spotted lady beetle which is orange or red-colored with three spots on each side and one in the middle plus a black head with white patches on each side. All ladybugs have six legs but they can fly although their wings are usually tucked in their dome-shaped bodies. They are both arboreal or tree-dwellers and terrestrial or ground-dwellers.
These are the common ladybug colors and their level of toxicity:
- black – black-colored ladybugs with small red spots are one of the more toxic species and may cause allergic reactions. They are called pine ladybirds.
- brown – these brown ladybugs are called larch ladybugs and they rely on camouflage to avoid predators. They are the least toxic among the ladybug species.
- red – red ladybugs can defend themselves and their color makes it a deterrent to large predators like birds. They are not as poisonous as orange ladybugs.
- orange – orange ladybugs, mostly the Asin lady beetle species, have the most toxins among the ladybug species. They cause allergies and are toxic to cats when ingested.
How to keep ladybugs away from your home and cat?
Ladybugs tend to go indoors during cold weather and may also reappear during warmer months since they tend to feed on soft-bodied insects or food like grain, pollen and fruits. They are attracted to sunny areas and cracks in attics and walls.
Here are ways to prevent ladybugs away from your home and cat:
- install screens on roof vents and check window screens for any holes or damage
- seal cracks and openings where ladybugs can crawl through
- plant mums and lavender that deter ladybugs
- spray insecticides outside your home but take great precaution as insecticides and pesticides are toxic for cats
- put light traps as they attract ladybugs
- apply diatomaceous earth around windows and doors since ladybugs dry out and die when they come in contact with it because of the silica
Other insects that are toxic for cats
These are the insects that are considered toxic for cats:
- tiger moths – These moths have black and orange stripes in the abdomen and they are toxic for cats especially if ingested.
- centipedes – The larger types of centipedes are dangerous for cats since they have venoms and may result in fever and weakness if your cat is bitten by them.
- cockroaches – They carry harmful parasites that may lead to worm infestation if they are ingested by cats.
- fleas – They may cause itchiness and anemia as well as tapeworms if ingested by cats.
- bees – If your cat ingested bees, it may cause a life-threatening allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.
- fireflies – If ingested, these insects may cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhea in cats. They release self-defense toxins that may harm and kill smaller animals like lizards.
- walking sticks – These insects secrete a foul-smelling compound that may irritate the eyes and mouth and may lead to drooling, shaking, vomiting and pawing at the mouth or eyes if ingested by cats.
- poisonous spiders – These include the Black Widow, Hobo Spider and Brown Recluse. They contain venoms that may cause vomiting, paralysis, diarrhea and muscle tremors if your cat is bitten by one of them.
You may also check out our earlier article on my cat ate a fly for additional information.
Cats are curious and they tend to pursue and catch moving and skittering objects and insects. However, while these insects such as the Asian ladybugs look harmless and cute they can be poisonous for your furry baby. They secrete defensive compounds that may cause chemical burns in your cat’s mouth and digestive tract and if ingested in large quantities may potentially cause stomach ulcers.
Image: istockphoto.com / Leoba