Cats are active and playful with a penchant for chasing anything that moves quickly. This natural reaction is due to their predatory instincts, passed down from their wild feline ancestors. Aside from rodents and lizards, cats also like to chase crawling or flying insects and bugs.
Do cats eat bugs?
Yes, cats eat bugs, and they especially enjoy chasing and killing them. This behavior is driven more by their natural hunting instincts and not so much because of the food value of the prey. However, eating bugs could be dangerous for cats, as some of these insects are toxic and could cause serious gastrointestinal problems.
Why do cats eat bugs?
Cats are predators and therefore good hunters, but since they are domesticated they rarely experience the thrill of hunting and catching their prey. Thus, they channel this energy toward the prey that is accessible to them, which are bugs.
Felines are obligate carnivores, meaning they need animal protein to thrive. Bugs are not a good source of protein, but they can be a useful supplement for the diet of feral cats. Indoor cats, on the other hand, are simply fulfilling their innate need to hunt. They catch small creatures and play with them, or even eat them. Bugs are small and quick, which makes them attractive for cats to pursue.
Most cats do not hunt with the end goal of eating their prey. According to Swiss-American biologist Dennis Turner, cats are opportunistic hunters that are ready to stalk and catch any prey they discover by chance, even if they are not hungry at all. When cats chase bugs there is every chance that they will not even eat them after killing them. The achievement of killing bugs provides pleasurable mental stimulation for cats, more than satisfying their hunger. Moreover, sometimes they do not mean to kill the bug: they are having fun playing with it, and kill it by accident.
Is it okay for cats to eat bugs?
Yes, it is typically safe for cats to eat bugs like moths, houseflies and garden-variety insects. However, while some insects are not harmful, others could be poisonous and may endanger the health of your cats.
Many common bugs that are seen at home or in the garden are harmless. These include moths and butterflies. However, although they are not toxic they can still upset your cat’s gastrointestinal tract.
Bugs like beetles, crickets, grasshoppers and roaches are not generally toxic for cats, but eating them could cause some problems. These bugs have hard exoskeletons that could lead to vomiting, oral irritation and gastrointestinal problems. Parasites carried by the insects could also affect your cats.
There are also poisonous bugs that thrive in homes and gardens, and these may also be chased and eaten by cats. Venomous spiders like the black widow and hobo spider are very dangerous, and their bite could cause paralysis, muscle tremors and even death. Less poisonous ones can still cause localized reactions with their bite, which could turn serious if left untreated.
Ladybugs, stink bugs and fireflies are also probable prey for cats. While these bugs are not dangerous, they are also not healthy snacks and can irritate your cat’s gastrointestinal tract. If you notice your cat chasing them, you should find a way to distract her so she does not kill and eat these bugs.
Flying and stinging bugs could also catch a cat’s attention and their stings could be dangerous. Wasps, hornets, bees and ants are examples of such bugs. Your cat could be allergic to bees, just like people, and stings could result in life-threatening collapse or anaphylaxis. If a sting or bite does not cause an allergic reaction, it could still lead to skin irritation if the cat licks or bites the affected area.
Other insects that cats could hunt include caterpillars, centipedes and scorpions. Caterpillars could be somewhat dangerous since they have stinging hairs that could secrete poisonous cells, and if your cat ingested one she could suffer from drooling, gastritis and difficulty swallowing. Centipedes are not harmful but can irritate cats, and scorpions can be venomous and cause hypertensive effects and decreased respiration rate.
Cats are inquisitive and are also natural hunters despite being domesticated. They like to chase and kill bugs and insects that catch their attention, simply for mental stimulation rather than necessarily for food. Cats may eat bugs after killing them, although not all cats will do this. Ideally, you should not let your cat consume bugs regularly since it could cause serious damage to their gastrointestinal tract and could endanger their health.
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