Why Is My Cat Eating Ants? (A Feline Phenomenon Explained!)

cat eat ants

“Ants! Ants! Ants! ARGH!”

This is something that I have been repeating frustratingly for the last few weeks. There has been an ant infestation at home out of the blue.

Evidently, it was my cat that found the infestation at one of my windows and I happened to chance upon my cat happily helping himself to an ant meal.

Thankfully, a call to my vet did help to ease my anxiety as those ants that my cat ate were harmless to cats≥

Interestingly enough, I’ve heard from many other cat owners that their feline companions are frequent ant eaters. But can cats eat ants without any health implications?

The majority of the ants that we see are non-toxic to cats. Although it is relatively safe for cats to eat ants, there are some species of ants that can cause a lot of pain with their sting. Dead ants also release a chemical called oleic acid which cats are attracted to.

In this article, we will talk about certain dangers that can happen when cats eat ants and how we can keep ants away from our homes.

What’s An Ant?

Everybody knows what an ant is. It’s that common tiny black or red insect that’s always crawling on the kitchen counter or floor.

This is basically how I would describe ants along with 8 other people that I asked.

Nothing wrong with that.

But just to you a bit more clarity into what ants really are, ants are part of the Formicidae family which is related to wasps and bees.

You will find ants in tropical forests but don’t be surprised to also find an ant’s nest in your backyard.

An ant colony is headed by a queen ant whose job is to basically be the designated ant baby factory for the entire colony. She has thousands upon thousands of workers working around the clock to feed, protect and care for the colony.

Ants can eat also everything and anything.

I’ve seen them eating raw food, Mexican food and even dead insects. On the flip side, ants are eaten in some parts of the world such as Asia and Africa and Latin America as they are high in protein and low in fat.

I’ve unknowingly eaten a sweet that was fully covered in ants. It kinda tasted bitter and lemony and it wasn’t from the sweet.

Why Did My Cat Eat Ants?

gray cat

It might seem weird to see your cat eating ants but our cats are comfortable when it comes to eating insects like spiders, worms, etc.

My cat has an appetite for moths which I still strongly disapprove of.

Even though cats are not insectivores, seeing a bug can trigger off their natural instinct to hunt and eat it.

Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they need to eat animal meat to survive. They come equipped with hunting skills which make cats one of the top predators in the animal kingdom.

Seeing a bug moving erratically on the surface will cause your cat to see it as prey.

Bugs and creepy crawlies aren’t part of a cat’s natural diet but they are known to eat a few every now and then as a snack.

Why Is My Cat Obsessed With Ants?

We now know that it is rather normal when your cat eats ants because it triggers your cat’s predatory instinct.

Do you know that ants also release a chemical that cats find to be very pleasing?

This chemical compound is known as Oleic acid.

Oleic acid is an Omega-9 fatty acid that occurs naturally in some animals and vegetables. And this chemical is found in abundance in ants.

Here’s an interesting fact about oleic acid in ants.

It is known as the undertaker’s bell for ants because this chemical is only secreted when an ant dies naturally or when we exterminate ants by squashing them.

This will act as a signal to other ants to clean up the dead ants which helps to keep predators and diseases away from the colony.

The queen’s safety is paramount!

Here’s another fascinating fact about oleic acid.

Your cat produces the very same chemical compound in its facial glands as well.

When your cat rub’s its face on objects or people that it wants to mark as its territory, oleic acid will be secreted from your cat’s facial glands.

In other words, this ant ‘juice’ is telling your cat that this is part of your territory when your cat comes into contact with it.

Every time your cat eats or squashes the ants with its paws, more oleic acid is being secreted. It is an odorless and colorless substance that we can’t see or smell.

But this scent is just so familiar to your cat.

The more ants that your cat eats, the more oleic acid it gets to revel in.

Are Ants Toxic To Cats?

ant on branch

There are over 10,000 species of ants but the most common ones that we see in our homes are the small black ones that come and share or steal our food and scraps.

Your cat will be fine if it eats a couple of these little black ants as they aren’t toxic to cats. However, there can be a problem if your cat has an ant eating problem.

Ants contain another chemical compound called formic acid and this acid can be toxic to humans and cats when ingested in large amounts.

It can irritant your cat’s face, eyes, nose and stomach lining which can cause pain and discomfort.

There are certain species of ants that are known to be venomous. The more common ones are:

  • Fire ants
  • Carpenter ants
  • Army ants
  • Bulldog ants
  • Bullet ants

These ants can inject a venomous toxin into your cat when they bite. These bites will appear as red swollen spots on your cat’s body.

For cats that are allergic to the venom, it can cause a more severe reaction such as breathing problems, lethargy, nausea and diarrhea.

If you suspect that your cat has eaten far too many eats of its own good or has been bitten by venomous ants, please get your cat to the vet immediately.

Cats aren’t very big creatures which means that it doesn’t take a lot of toxins to cause an adverse reaction in them.

How To Get Rid Of Ants?

One thing I’ve learned is that once you get an ant infestation, it does take a while to get rid of them. They might be gone for a few days and be back in full force again.

Here are some effective ways of keeping ants away.

Ant Poison

Ant poison or ant bait is very commonly used by many of us when we have an ant problem at home. However, many of these ant baits also contain compounds that are very toxic to cats.

The aim is to get the ants to be baited by the poison and bring it back to the colony for the other workers and the queen.

Once ingested, the poison can eliminate the ants within 48 hours.

The problem with many types of ant baits is that attract both ants and cats due to the way they smell.

And when something smells interesting, you can bet that your cat will be keen to investigate.

Most ant baits contain borax or avermectin. These chemicals are relatively safe for cats in small doses but can be fatal if your cat eats enough of them.

When cats eat ant poison, here are some common symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain

To make it as safe for your cat as possible, you can only use ant baits that are pet friendly and only accessible to ants.

There are also natural repellants that you can use to drive away the ants such as:

  • Lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Peels of citrus fruits

Diatomaceous Earth

This might be something that you have yet to hear about but it is rather effective when it comes to eradicating ants and keeping them at bay.

Diatomaceous earth is a unique type of sand that is made from very very tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. It comes in a powder form and can even be eaten.

I know it might seem that it’s like eating soil but Diatomaceous earth is actually rather tasteless.

Besides having a number of industrial uses, Diatomaceous earth can also be used to get rid of pests like bed bugs, roaches, fleas, tricks, etc.

What I like about diatomaceous earth is that it isn’t toxic to pets but you don’t want your cat going near this stuff as inhaling the powder can irritate its respiratory system.

Diatomaceous earth works by cutting open the exoskeletons of the ants and drying them out to die. This is due to the sharp edges of the powder particles.

How Do I Keep Ants Off My Cat’s Food?

There are many ways that ants can enter your home. It could be due to a change in weather or the search for a new home But more often than not, it is the presence of food that is the main attraction for ants.

The colony and queen have got to eat.

You might be fastidious when it comes to kitchen cleanliness but your cat might not. If your cat is a messy eater like mine, even tiny food bits on the floor can cause ants to come.

If it happens often enough, this is a clear signal to the ants that there’s a stable food source in your kitchen and they will be happy to start visiting you more often.

The first thing that you want to do is not leave your cat’s food bowl out in the open for too long. A few hours is fine, depending on the type of diet, but definitely not overnight.

Many cat owners that feed dry food or kibbles tend to leave it out for hours on end. Not only will it attract ends but dry cat food can go bad in the heat.

If you need to leave your cat food out for longer than usual, place the food bowl in another larger bowl that’s filled with water. This will form a moat that will prevent ants from getting to the food.

For added assurance, you can put diatomaceous earth around the food bowl but make sure it’s food grade diatomaceous earth just to be safe.

Store cat food that’s uneaten in air-tight containers or in the fridge if necessary.

How To Get Ants Off My Cat?

harder to shower stray cat

If your cat has gotten itself in trouble by putting its nose in dangerous places like an ant’s nest, it might have a number of ants crawling all over its body.

The first thing that you should do is to give your cat a shower.

Take some vinegar or baking soda, mix it with water and rub it all over your cat’s fur to get rid of as many ants as possible.

Once that is done, you can proceed to shower your cat as usual with cat shampoo.

After you have dried off your cat, make sure to manually go through your cat’s fur to make sure there are no ants left.

Using a very fine tooth comb like a flea comb can help remove small ants a lot easier.

If there are many bite marks on your cat’s skin, you need to take your cat to the vet in case of an adverse allergic reaction.

Can Ants Live In Cat Litter?

cat litter

There are times when there can be an ant infestation in your cat’s litter box. This isn’t common but it has happened to some cat owners that I know of.

Ants tend to stay away from harsh smelling odors and the ammonia in your cat’s urine can act as a strong deterrent.

However, ants can also be drawn by other factors such as the scent of the cat litter, the type of cat litter used and your cat’s waste.

If you find that ants are starting to appear in your cat’s litter, you can consider changing to another type of cat litter or scooping out your cat’s waste more often.

Are There Bugs That Are Harmful To Cats?

The chances of our cat running into really venomous ants are rather slim unless you allow your cat to roam outside which I strongly discourage.

But there are many other insects or creepy crawlies in the house that can pack a venomous bite or spread germs to your cat.

These bugs can include:

  • Centipedes
  • Black widow spiders
  • Wasps
  • Hornets
  • Cockroaches
  • Certain species of moths

I know that many cat owners are fine with their cats eating and chasing after bugs.

But I try and discourage my cat from doing so if I catch him in the act. There’s no telling when the next buy your cat lays its paws on can be dangerous.

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