Are Millipedes Poisonous To Cats?

Are Millipedes Poisonous To Cats?

If your cat has access to outdoors, she has likely encountered insects like ladybugs and arachnids such as spiders. While she finds these as great prey, she may also chase and catch wriggly arthropods like millipedes. However, this could be worrisome since these wrigglers emit fluids that are harmful to animals. 

Are millipedes poisonous to cats?

No, millipedes are not poisonous to cats and they do not bite either. However, some species emit defensive fluids that can irritate or burn your cat’s eyes and skin. The fluids contain chemicals like hydrochloric acid, organic acids, phenol, cresols, hydrogen cyanide, benzoquinones and hydroquinone. 

The common symptoms of cats being sprayed with fluids from millipedes include the following:

  • meowing and making noise due to being distressed
  • rolling around in the dirt to try to rub the scent off 
  • pawing and licking the affected area 
  • pacing around due to agitation

If your cat ate a millipede while it was emitting its defensive fluid she may experience stomach upset and manifest symptoms such as vomiting, meowing and discomfort as well as a loss of appetite. However, these symptoms will only last for at least 24 hours and your cat will be relatively okay. If for any reason, she is still not feeling okay after a day you should bring her to the vet for a thorough checkup and treatment. 

Millipedes have long and segmented bodies protected by an exoskeleton, have a pair of antennae on the head and have many legs, around 40 to 400 pairs. There are more or less 7,000 different species of these arthropods, and some of them are either dark brown or black and some brightly colored but toxic in nature. They are slow-moving, not prone to biting and can measure from half an inch to six and a half inches long.

When provoked, their primary defense mechanism is to curl into a tight coil to protect their delicate legs. However, when they are severely threatened such as when a cat swats and bites them, their glands produce a chemical fluid spray that has an irritating effect. Millipedes can spray the fluid up to 80 cm which causes eye burns, irritation and skin discoloration.

Are millipedes poisonous if eaten?

No, millipedes are not poisonous if eaten. However, your cat may experience stomach upset especially if the millipede was emitting its defensive fluid while she was eating it. She will vomit, meow excessively and feel discomfort but these symptoms generally disappear after a day.

Do millipedes hurt you?

No, millipedes do not hurt you except if they are threatened and handled roughly. They are not aggressive and generally slow-moving so they do not pose as a threat at all. However, if they are severely threatened they produce defensive fluids that may cause allergic reactions to humans. The irritating fluid contains hydrochloric acid that causes chemical burns and skin discoloration. 

Are centipedes poisonous to cats?

Yes, some centipedes are poisonous to cats. Larger centipedes that have venoms can bite your cat and this could lead to a localized reaction or fever and weakness.  Bring her to the vet if you suspect your cat was bitten by a large one. The Giant Red-headed centipede and the Texas Red-headed centipede are highly poisonous species but these are not usually found near homes since their natural habitat are rocky woodland areas. 

Final thoughts 

Cats are inquisitive and they love to chase fluttering and wriggly creatures alike.  Like bugs and butterflies, they are attracted to millipedes because of their movement and size. While millipedes are not poisonous to cats, they can still cause adverse symptoms like stomach upset and chemical burns to the eyes and skin. 

Image: / Nils Jacobi