Marilyn Connor from Brisbane writes:
I have two indoor cats, they can go anywhere in the house and I let them out into garden when I am outside. As the weather becomes warmer, we are getting more insects coming out, and my cats love hunting them. I was wondering if there were any insects that were toxic to cats?
There is nothing as natural as hunting to a cat. They love a good chase, and hunting down fast insects is even more exciting. This is instinctual for your cats, and it is challenging to discourage them from hunting insects at all. But which insects are safe for your cat to ingest? Which ones do you need to look out for?
These beautiful creatures can create the most intricate webs in your backyard. They control the insect population too. Cats love their quick movements as they scurry past. The good news is there are not many species of spiders that are poisonous to your cat. Be aware of the Red back spider, White Tail spiders and Brown Recluse spider – if your cat is bitten by one of these they could experience drooling, vomiting, intense pain, shivering, a wobbly gait, laboured breathing, fever and paralysis. In this case take your cat to the vet immediately. They will look for the puncture wound, clean it and inject anti-venom.
What’s not to love about a flying buzzing insect to your cat? Wasps, bees and other stinger like insects are not poisonous to cats. If a wasp or a bee stings your cat it depends on where they are stung as to the severity of the effect. They may experience swelling and irritation in the area they were stung. Even though rare, your cat may have an allergic reaction and go into anaphylactic shock, so you must take them to the vet immediately. Be aware that if your cat is stung on the tongue, the throat or the nose, these areas can swell up and may suffocate your cat. In any of these serious situations is important to take your cat to the vet immediately for treatment. Your cat will most likely get anti-histamine to reduce the swelling.
What about the rest of the insects?
Moths and butterflies are thankfully not poisonous when ingested by your cat. Their fluttering can hypnotise any cat, and make for easy prey. Flies and fleas are quite common for your cat to ingest. Chasing flies is quite common as they try to bite your cat’s ears in summer. Your cat will also lick off at least 50% of the fleas off their body. What about the floor critters, such as cockroaches, beetles and grasshoppers? These would be any cat’s favourite bugs to chase down, and torment with play. As with my cat’s that are so well fed they unfortunately just leave the dead carcasses lying around. Many other cats will actually devour them as part of their natural diet. Whilst they are not poisonous to your cat, their exoskeleton can be difficult to digest, which may cause problems in the gut for some cats.
Whilst most insects are safe for your pet to ingest, we cannot protect against insects that have been poisoned by us with pesticide. If your cat ingests a pesticide-ridden insect, the poison can cause laboured breathing, drooling, vomiting, fever, seizures, and tremors. You must get your cat to the vet immediately for treatment. The best way to prevent this is to use pet friendly insect repellents around your home, or remove the insects from inside to outside.
Keeping your cat and the insects safe can be easily done by keeping your cat indoors, providing lots of environmental enrichment for your cat such as toys and playtime with you. You can also keep your home clear of insects such as sealing windows and keeping pet food on higher ground. You can replicate insect allure by throwing scrunched up paper balls, or blowing some leaves around a room. A happy cat is a cat that can express their natural instincts and it is up to us to replicate that in whatever environment they happen to be in. After all, they give us so much everyday in joy and amazement; why not give the same back to your much-loved cat?