Not too long ago, I was dealing with a bad moth infestation at home. The only one that was happy about it was my cat.
He can spend hours stalking and trying to turn an unsuspecting moth into a snack. The idea for this article came about when I saw him take a ridiculously fast swipe at a moth that went straight into his mouth.
Are moths bad for our cats? Moths are generally harmless to both humans and our pets. They don’t sting, bite or contain potent toxins or venom. However, they are some moth caterpillars that can cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation to your cat.
As harmless as a moth might be, I still feel that it isn’t the best idea to let your little kitty eat them like it’s going out of style. Let us take a closer look at what moths are and why some can be harmful to cats.
What Exactly Are Moths?
Moths are part of the Lepidoptera family which makes them similar to butterflies in some ways. There are about 160,000 different species of these flying insects that are known to mankind.
Some moths are huge like the atlas moth which can have a wing span of almost 10 inches. Some are really tiny like the Stigmella Maya which has a wing span of 2.5mm.
One easy way to tell a moth apart from a butterfly is the body shape. Moths are much stouter than butterflies and come in duller colors too.
Moths are also able to wrap their wings around their bodies or hold them out horizontally. Butterflies always fold their wings vertically at rest.
Are Moths Poisonous?
We can all pretty much agree that if you were given the choice to touch either a moth or a butterfly, the majority of us would pick the butterfly.
A moth does look more ‘dangerous’ than a butterfly but they are in fact rather harmless. Moths do not bite and some species of moths do not even have a mouth!
Their main aim is to reproduce and die. That’s what I call going out with a bang.
Moths do not contain venom, have a poisonous coating or can cause health problems when ingested.
There’s no reason for cat owners to panic when their cats eat moths.
Garden Tiger Moth
Although moths are said to be harmless to our cats, there is one moth species that you need to be careful of.
The garden tiger moth is a brightly colored moth that has wing patterns that resembles the markings of a tiger hence the name.
The brightly colored wings serve as a warning to other predators that trying to eat this month is a bad mistake.
And it is.
The tiger moth contains body fluids that are able to cause paralysis in whoever attempts to eat the moth.
The damage potential and potency of the body fluids are still not fully understood by scientists.
When a moth has the potential to be dangerous when ingested, you need to keep your cat away from tiger moths especially when it has a preference for eating moths.
This species of moth is found in Europe, Canada and North America.
I have a small garden in my backyard that I tend to a few times a week. Come spring, I do see the occasional caterpillars that will start to feed on some of my plants.
Some of these exotic caterpillars have long sharp spines that look like they can do some damage when touched or ingested.
There are about 50 known moth caterpillars that have spines that can sting, cause allergic reaction reactions and skin irritations.
In the unfortunate event that your cat eats moths caterpillars that fall in this category, I would strongly suggest that you bring your cat to the vet for a check just to be sure it’s okay.
What Should I Do If My Cat Ate A Moth?
I wouldn’t be too concerned if my cat ate a moth. The majority of moths that your cat encounters at home are harmless.
Your cat can safely eat a moth without experiencing any ill effects.
But if your cat is allowed to roam outside, the chances of it eating a poisonous moth like the tiger moth will be higher.
If your cat has a known allergy to moths, you definitely do not want your cat eating moths.
Moths have tiny scales on their wings and hairs on their bodies that can trigger an allergic reaction in your cat.
It can cause your cat to have itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, nausea, diarrhea, etc.
If your cat has eaten too many moths, I wouldn’t consider that healthy for the cat as well. Cats are obligate carnivores and not insectivores.
Although insects can be a good source of protein, cats need to get their dietary nutrients from animal meat like chicken or beef.
A cat that is stuffing itself silly on moths can experience a stomach upset and regurgitate out the ingested moths.
How To Get Rid Of A Moth Infestation?
I have to admit that I’ve never heard of a moth infestation until I was hit with one a few weeks ago.
The larvae of moths like to feast on fabric like wool and cotton which I had bundles of lying around in my attic.
I was shocked when I opened up my attic only to find it looking like a moth sanctuary.
There are a number of methods that can work but these are the few that made a difference for me.
Use Cedar Wood
I managed to get hold of some strong-smelling cedar wood from my neighbor. I shaved some off and kept it in a filter bag which I placed all around the attic.
Moths are not fans of this smell and can deter them from hanging around. If you don’t have access to raw cedar wood, you can also use cedar essential oil.
Dilute some in a spray bottle and spray it all over the area.
I am a rather neat person but the attic is one place we tend to ignore or conveniently forget to clean.
Upon discovering the infestation, I made it a point to vacuum my attic once a day to clean out as much dust and dirt as possible which moths find appealing.
Vacuuming also helps to suck up and remove as many moth eggs that are littered around my attic.
Make sure to clean out the vacuum bag once you are done. I will splash some vinegar in it before disposing of the bag to make sure I remove as many of the moth eggs as possible.
Call A Pest Control Service
Sometimes, there is only so much that we can do to eradicate the infestation. After a week of diligent cleaning, I called in a pest service to finish up the job.
They basically sprayed my entire attic with bug spray and told me to not go in for 2 days.
My moth infestation was totally cleared after that.
Why Does My Cat Eat Bugs?
When it comes to cats eating moths, I would say that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Many cat owners can agree that their cats have a thing for chasing bugs and even eating ants that they find around the house.
I have seen my cat go after roaches, spiders, ants and his all-time favorite, the lizard (gecko).
Ever since he was a kitten, once a lizard is spotted on the wall, he can patiently sit and wait until the lizard makes a wrong move.
9 out of 10 times, I will find a half-eaten lizard on my floor the next morning. Don’t ask me how he does it because it is a cat thing.
Don’t be fooled by your cat’s laziness and chonkiness.
Beneath all that soft fur and even softer belly is a natural hunting machine.
Cats have always been solitary creatures even before the process of domestication. Once they leave their kitten’s nest, they have to fend for themselves.
Nature has given them all the right tools and features for being effective hunters. Once your cat spots something that might make a good meal or snack, the hunt is on.
A Strong Prey Drive
There are a couple of things that can stimulate your cat’s prey drive.
- Something small that moves randomly and quickly
- Anything that resembles a bird, bug or critter
Bugs do satisfy both criteria which will trigger your cat’s natural prey drive.
In fact, a cat’s prey drive is so strong that studies have shown that cats in the wild will kill their prey for fun and not eat it.
Practice makes perfect they say.
However, this practice by cats has decimated many of the small wildlife population. Another good reason for cat parents to keep their cats indoors.
There are many risks involved when your cat is allowed to roam outside freely.
Not only can your cat run away when let outside but it can also get injured and attacked by predators.
Can Cats Get Sick From Eating Bugs?
Cats can most definitely get sick from eating bugs. Not all bugs are as harmless as your everyday moth.
Bugs that contain venom or have toxic body fluids like the firefly, roaches or scorpions, can make your cat ill when ingested.
I know many cat owners are happy to use their cats as natural pest exterminators at home but I for one try to discourage and prevent my cat and dog from playing and eating bugs as much as possible.
For one, I am not an entomologist hence I have no idea whether some bug is toxic or not.
Secondly, your cat might have allergies that can be triggered when eating or going near certain insects.
My Cat Ate A Spider And Is Throwing Up?
If there is one bug that you do need to pay attention to is the spider. There are a couple of very poisonous spiders that can take up residence in your home without even you realizing it.
The black widow spider is the perfect example.
This spider is only the size of a paper clip but don’t let its size deceive you. The venom of the black widow spider is potent enough to do serious damage to your cat.
Even without being bitten, the venom can still affect your cat’s system when ingested and make your cat throw up.
You need to get your cat to the vet immediately for treatment before it is too late.
Spiders like to set up their webs in damp dark places where there’s clutter. So make sure to minimize such areas in your home and garage as much as possible.