Why do cats eat bugs?

Domestic cats eat bugs because insects are one of the prey items that they hunt. They are on the agenda, part of a domestic cat’s list of creatures to hunt. Obviously insects are down the list of prey items to hunt but when prey is lean as it is in the home the cat will accept bugs as prey.

Young cat fascinated by insect. Photo in public domain.
Young cat fascinated by insect. Photo in public domain.
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Domestic cats are ‘versatile generalists in terms of what they eat’ or to put it another way they eat a lot of different creatures. They readily switch prey depending on availability.

The top or preferred prey items are small mammals mainly rodents, primarily mainly mice (depending on availability). Rabbits are near the maximum size for domestic cat prey.

In general, birds do not figure prominently in cat diets. In Eastern Karakum, Turkmenistan, 13 percent of the domestic cat’s wild ancestor, the African-Asian wild cat, ate insects. This is more frequent than for hares or squirrels or all birds except pheasants.

To recap: cats eat bugs because they are prey. Some insects are poisonous to cats. I don’t think the domestic cat knows which ones are poisonous 😉 .

The other day my cat was messing around on the flat roof section of my house. It had been warm that day and I wondered what he was doing. I raced upstairs to take a look and saw him chasing a a flying bug. It was quite large and he was having great fun. After he’d played with it for a while he ate it. His behaviour mirrored that of a wild cat. He looked like a wild cat at that moment. He was a wild cat. Sometimes it can take a while for him to resume his domestic cat persona when he comes home.

People ask whether insects are poisonous to cats. Bees and wasps can sting and can be a problem. There’ll be other insects in some countries which can hurt but in the UK I don’t know of insects which are poisonous to cats. My cats have always eaten insects and no problems. For instance, flies are fine but if someone has sprayed a fly and it has died and is then eaten, is it toxic to a cat? Well, it might be because insecticide sprays are poisonous to people and animals. Apparently the tiger moth can be toxic.

The quote is from Wild Cats of the World.

P.S. This article has been republished from 2016.

9 thoughts on “Why do cats eat bugs?”

  1. my cat just ate a millipede(I can’t spell it) is that bad? I mean cats are (mostly)like their ancestors, and when they see bugs, they think they’re TOYS!!!! Yes I can relate to this, because cats are not that smart, he is sooo lazy that I have to open the padio door! But really it’s their nature.

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  2. Many years ago, when we first moved out to the desert, we had lots of scorpions. The dogs would bring some in on their coats. I would see the cats group around in a ragged circle and play ball with something. That something was a large scorpion and the cats were having a game of smack the bug from one to another. Amazingly no one was ever stung before the scorpion died. None of the cats went outside, so they didn’t encounter the usual deadly inhabitants of the desert. The dogs left the rattlers and coral snakes alone-they would stand at a good distance and bark like crazy. We were very lucky that no one was ever nailed by the deadly snakes.

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  3. I worry about the chance of cats going after venomous insects, which I’m afraid might happen a lot in some parts of the world, but not so much where I live in the U.S. I’m surprised the feral cat population is supposedly out of control in Australia, for example, due to its’ number of natural creepy crawly killers.

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    • Cats in the US are more likely to eat a poisonous bug or be bitten by a poisonous snake than in the UK. I guess that is obvious. There are certainly more dangers from nature in the US than in Europe. This is partly why cats are often kept inside in the US.

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      • Over there in foreign countries they have way more diseases and dangerous then he and the us we’re trying to cure what you bring over here

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