Bugs, insects, creepy-crawlies… whatever you call them, chances are you shudder at the thought of your pet crunching down on one. You may have never noticed for yourself, but simply wondered: Do cats eat bugs? We’ll be the bearer of bad news here: Cats sometimes eat bugs. While most household bugs are harmless, find out what to do when one isn’t—including treating a spider bite on a cat.
So, why do cats eat bugs?
As much as you might like to give them credit, cats don’t typically eat bugs for the protein. Instead, chasing, killing, and eating bugs all relates back to your cat’s natural-born instinct to hunt. Most domesticated cats don’t get the chance to “hunt” for their food, but the instinct remains—even in the laziest of cats!
But is eating bugs harmful to your cat? Well, that depends. Whether your cat is indoor-only or goes outside, most bugs he will encounter aren’t likely to pose a threat. Your kitty may be more in danger of suffering a bee sting than a nasty case of bug digestion. Usually, the most adverse reaction your cat will experience from eating a bug is a bit of drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea. This should clear up on its own—but if you notice your kitty still having issues a couple of days later, call your vet.
Treating a cat bug bite
If you notice what looks like an ordinary bug bite on your cat, you probably don’t need to worry. Treating a typical cat bug bite or sting includes cleaning the area with mild soap and water and applying a vet-approved antibiotic ointment like erythromycin (do not use Neosporin) to the wound. You can also minimize swelling with a cooled towel, and be prepared to apply a head cone (Elizabethan collar) if your cat continues to lick, scratch, or bite the healing wound site.
However, if after getting stung or bitten your cat shows signs of anaphylactic shock (hives, disorientation, difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, pale gums, seizures), get to your local animal hospital as soon as possible.
Do cats eat spiders?
Some cats eat spiders. But the good news is that your feline’s stomach acids are likely to neutralize any venom that’s residing in the eight-legged creature. So, if your cat does eat a spider, you probably don’t need to worry. Regardless, keep an eye on your cat for the next couple of days.
Dealing with a spider bite on a cat
On the other hand, the venom from a spider bite on a cat can be dangerous. Watch a spider bite on a cat to make sure it doesn’t fester and turn into a major wound. While most spider bites aren’t likely to harm your cat, the bites from certain poisonous spiders can result in symptoms such as severe vomiting and diarrhea, paralysis, drunken gait, and/or muscle tremors. If you notice these symptoms, or if you suspect your cat was bitten by a poisonous spider (check out the list below), get to your veterinarian or an animal hospital right away.
Poisonous spiders in the U.S.
This is an incomplete list of poisonous spiders in the U.S. Again, if you worry your cat was bitten by one of these spiders, call your vet or local animal hospital for advice. Be prepared to take your kitty in for an exam regardless of whether he’s showing symptoms.
Brown recluse spiders are mostly found in the southeastern U.S., lower Midwest, and some central southern states like Texas. They range in size from 6–20 mm (.2–.7 in), but may grow larger. They are typically light to medium brown, but may also range in color.
Widow spiders can vary in size, and are typically dark brown or shiny black. They usually exhibit a red or orange hourglass on the underside of the abdomen; some may have a pair of red spots or have no marking at all.
The hobo spider is typically found in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. Hobo spiders can vary considerably in appearance, but they are typically 7–14 mm (.2–.5 in) in body length and brownish in color.
Do cats eat cockroaches?
Cats do sometimes eat cockroaches and other hard-bodied insects like beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. These are typically harmless to your cat, although their exoskeletons may cause gastrointestinal upset.
Are stink bugs poisonous to cats?
Stink bugs, also called shield bugs, get their name from their habit of releasing a foul odor when they feel threatened or are squished. Stink bugs aren’t poisonous to cats or other pets, but you’ll still want to prevent your cat from eating them if you can.
Are centipedes poisonous to cats?
Small house centipedes are typically harmless to cats and other pets. However, in the Southwest U.S. you may find several species of large centipedes whose bite could be toxic or even deadly to your cat. These include the giant desert centipede, giant Sonoran centipede, Texas redheaded centipede, and giant redheaded centipede.
So, do cats eat bugs? It may give you the heebie-jeebies to know that cats do eat bugs, but at least you can rest assured that, most of the time, it’s not dangerous.
Never scoop cat poop again with a self-cleaning litter box.
Cover photo by Keanu K on Unsplash