Q: My cat likes to catch and eat bugs. Can they make her sick?
A: Cats do love to stalk bugs. Anything that flies, hops or crawls – flies, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, spiders – catches their attention and activates their hunting instincts. Insects make up a third of the diet of small wildcats and are popular with domestic cats as well.
In most cases, crunching a few bugs isn’t going to do your cat any harm. Think of them as the feline equivalent of potato chips. As always, however, there can be exceptions.
Stink bugs, for instance, may exude a nasty-tasting liquid when bitten. (We know this because humans have reported accidentally biting into them.) It’s not necessarily poisonous, but it can cause drooling or vomiting or irritate your cat’s digestive tract.
If spiders such as black widows or brown recluses bite back, their venom can cause serious illness or death. Bees or wasps may sting the mouth. Seemingly harmless ladybugs (Asian lady beetles) can cause chemical burns in a pet’s mouth or digestive tract. Lightning bugs, also known as fireflies, produce chemicals that give them a bitter taste and may cause your cat digestive upset. Certain caterpillars are highly toxic or are protected by painful spines or stinging hairs. As with plants, the most colorful insects are most likely to be toxic.
Bugs can carry parasites. Cats can get stomach worms from eating beetles, cockroaches and crickets. That’s one good reason to give your cat a parasite preventive year-round. And if bugs have been poisoned by insecticides and are then eaten in large numbers by your cat, he could become sick.
Otherwise, just think of insects as an additional source of protein for your little carnivore.