Yes, cats do eat ants. In fact, it is safe and even good for a cat to ingest the occasional ant because they contain the chemical alpha-linolenic acid. This helps soften a cat’s coat. Cats like to play and paw at ants on the ground, except maybe the fire ant, whose bite packs quite a punch that your cat might not want to mess with.
If you see your cat eating ants and are wondering why they do this or if it will cause them any harm, keep on reading.
Why do cats eat ants?
Cats, like most carnivorous animals, have a strong prey drive. They are hard-wired to chase and pounce on anything that moves. Cats hear, smell, and taste more acutely than humans do, and they can see quite well in the dark.
Due to their heightened senses, they consider anything in their line of vision that moves as prey, including ants. Most cats love to chase and play with ants, while some go further and eat ants.
Ants are known to contain certain chemicals that cats seem to be super attracted to. When an ant dies and gets crushed, oleic acid is released into the air. It is a chemical with a scent cat will pick up easily. To humans, the smell is akin to that of licorice.
Oleic acid acts as a pheromone that kitties cannot resist. It has a calming effect on cats. Cats respond to oleic acid similarly to how they would react to catnip. So, do not be surprised if your cat starts rubbing and rolling in dead ant guts. It is completely normal behavior for cats.
What happens when a cat eats ants?
Ants contain the chemical alpha-linolenic acid that can help soften your cat’s coat. Alpha-linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid that is typically found in plants and oils. Cats normally get this from their cat food. Compared to dogs and other animals, cats do not process this type of Omega-3 fatty acid as efficiently.
Even though ants are not toxic to cats per se, it is reasonable to wonder what exactly the effects on your cat will be.
Generally, most ant species are not poisonous to cats, with a few exceptions. One such exception is fire ants, which may sting your cat with an alkaloid venom that might cause an allergic reaction, or worse, anaphylaxis. If you see fire ants around your home, be sure to keep your cat away from them. If an exterminator needs to be brought in, do it. The same goes for red ants because they are venomous and should not be eaten.
If your cat eats ants that are neither fire or red ants, they should be alright, but if they start displaying worrying symptoms, it is always best to take them to the vet.
Vitamins and Minerals in Ants
Ants are quite small to really offer any nutritional value to an animal much larger than themselves. However, ants are still a good source of protein, zinc, iron, and calcium when ingested.
Ants are also low in carbohydrates, fat, and calories. It may seem strange to those in the western world, but ants are consumed in several cuisines all over the world.
Do ants make cats high?
When ants are stepped on or crushed, they excrete chemicals that behave like pheromones for cats. The smell has a calming effect on cats and will cause the cat to spread around some of its own pheromones that emit from its face. That is why cats rub ant guts all over their faces and even bodies.
“High” is not the correct term for the effect the chemicals have on cats. Rather, the chemicals have a calming influence because of the scents that promote natural feline behavior.
How do I get rid of ants without harming my cat?
Even though most ant species will not cause your cat any harm, it is still quite annoying to have ants in your home.
Using pesticides that have harmful chemicals and ingredients may be too risky to use around your cat in case it accidentally ingests it.
The best way to rid your home of ants without putting your cat in danger is to use an ultrasonic pest repeller. These devices use electricity rather than chemicals to take care of your ant problem. It is 100% pet safe, and, because it does not emit radiation, safe for humans as well.
How do I keep ants out of my cat’s food?
Most cat owners who have ant problems have probably noticed that ants are attracted to their cat’s food dish. For ants, cat food is sweet and delicious. Here are some ways to make sure that ants do not come crawling out when there is cat food around.
The first thing you have to do is to throw away any cat food with ants in it. This may seem wasteful, but it certainly beats having to pick out each ant from the cat food; you are never going to be able to remove all the ants. Just cut your losses and throw it away.
After throwing away the infested cat food, wash the bowl thoroughly. This step is very important, so make sure to not skip it. After washing the bowl, move it to a different area that is far from the line of ants.
Vacuum the area with the ants, and wash with soap and water.
Next, locate the source of the ants. Sprinkle a combination of pepper and table salt around the area where they are entering your home. Do not be stingy; sprinkle liberally.
After you have done all of this and noticed that all the ants are gone, consider buying a no-ant pet food dish from Amazon, such as this one.
Yes, cats eat ants. Most ant species are harmless when ingested by cats, aside from fire ants and red ants, which are venomous.
Cats are attracted to crushed ants because they emit pheromone-like chemicals that have a similar effect on cats as catnip does.
If your cat has run-ins with fire ants or red ants, it is best to take them to the vet in case they have been bitten or have ingested a concerning amount of ants.
Take care of your home’s ant problems by purchasing an ultrasonic pest repeller. Replacing your cat’s food bowl with a no-ant food bowl can also be helpful.
Image: istockphoto.com / veghsandor