Certain insects consume cat food and end up laying their eggs in it. This is why many cat owners have shared stories of finding worms or bug larvae in their dry cat food.
Why are these insects attracted to dry cat food? Is it harmful for my cats to ingest the cat food with worms in it? What do I do to keep the insects away from my cat’s food?
If these are the questions you want answered, then keep reading.
Where do these worms in dry cat food come from?
These insects usually come into your home through dry food packages. These products are heat-processed before leaving the manufacturer to eliminate any pests. The insects find their way into the cat food either in storage or when they are in the pet store.
Pet stores have bird feed which is also a common food source for these pests. Bird feed does not go through a heating process during manufacturing to eliminate the pests, which is why cross contamination is possible in pet stores.
These insects are attracted to the grain ingredients of most pet food. So if you open up your bag of cat food and see worms, do not panic; it is not that unusual.
It is also possible that these insects are from your other dry food packages, like cereals, and made their way to the dry cat food in the pantry.
What are the most common insects in my cat’s food?
These moths are called pantry moths or “miller moths.” They can be easily spotted flying around because of their colorful appearance. Their larvae look like yellowish worms, and they leave a silken webbing wherever they crawl. The larval stage is the most destructive. They can chew through bags of food, even soft plastic and cardboard. They feed on grain products like flour, cereal, bird seed, and pet food. Adult meal moths do not feed, but they should still be dealt with because they will lay more eggs.
The Red Flour Beetle and the Confused Flour Beetle are two species that look very similar. They are both 1/6 to 1/5 of an inch in length and are reddish brown in color. They are usually found in flour, but they may infest any product with grain. Female flour beetles lay eggs into the dry cat food, where they develop into the wormlike larvae. They create a pungent odor and often contribute to the growth of mold in food. They also contaminate packaged food with their feces and shed skin.
Why are these insects attracted to dry cat food?
These insects are attracted to dry cat food because their eggs can be hidden easily. When the eggs hatch, the larvae start the feeding stage right next to an abundant food source, the grain in the dry cat food.
Is it harmful to my pets to ingest cat food with worms in it?
These insects, in any stage of the life cycle, do not pose any significant health risk when ingested by your cat. But it is not ideal for them to be eating it either. If you have just opened the bag of food and find the worms or adult moths or beetles, return the bag of food to the retailer. They should take it back and replace it, no questions asked.
What do I do to keep the insects from my cat’s food?
- When buying a new bag of cat food, sift through the first four inches of the food and inspect it. These insects rarely go deeper than four inches. Look for small white eggs, worm-like larvae, silken webbing, and adult moths or beetles.
- Avoid stockpiling your cat’s food. Buy food for shorter cycles. This ensures that the cat food is fresh and gives pests fewer chances to infest the cat food.
- Pour the entire bag of food into an airtight container after inspecting it. This keeps similar insects nearby from accessing the cat food.
- Feed your cat away from your house’s entry points, because these are easily infiltrated by bugs.
- Wash and store your cat’s dish after each use.
- Remove and recycle any boxes and food packaging in your house because eggs may be hidden in the seams of cardboard boxes.
- Clean storage areas where cat food may have been present. Vacuum and wipe away crumbs to eliminate attractants to the space.
- If you see these insects in your home, act quickly and remove them from your home. Sanitize the surrounding area.
- If you notice these pests in other dry food packages, contact a pest extermination service. The meal moths cannot be killed by pesticides, so professionals have to use biological agents.
Worms found in dry cat food can come from either the meal moth or the flour beetle. The larvae of both these insects feed on the grain components of cat food. There is no significant health risk to cats when they ingest the dry cat food with the insects in them. Keep these insects from eating your cat’s food by inspecting all of your newly purchased cat food before storing it in an airtight container.
Make sure to clean any surfaces around your house that may have crumbs or remnants of dry cat food, because the smallest amount can attract these insects. If you suspect a full-blown infestation, call a professional pest extermination service because normal insecticides are ineffective against the meal moth. Make sure to take care of the pests as soon as possible because they can easily make their way into your family’s food.
Image: istockphoto.com / Magone