A common complaint we see from cat owners is that of ants in the cat food. Whether dry kibble or wet canned food, seeing it covered with tiny black or brown insects is not very appealing.
So, how bad is this and what can you do to keep ants away from your cat's food and the environment? Let's explore our options, from calling in the experts to trying homemade natural solutions.
Why Do Ants Seem to Like Cat Food So Much?
It’s rare for an ant to meet any type of food that they do not like. They are opportunistic little eaters who will haul off any food that they’ve got access to. They’ll even pick at deceased insects – including other ants! In comparison to feasting upon dead bugs, cat food is a fine delicacy for ants.
Proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids are essential to the health of an ant, and cat food is quite high in protein. Even the species of ants that prefer sugary food items will get into a cat’s food if it is readily available. They will gladly make off with whole pieces of kibble or crumbs – whatever is accessible.
In addition, these foragers leave scent trails to signal to scouts and other ants where the good stuff is. When you see just a few ants, you can be pretty sure that there are many more on their way.
Having said that, it's not that ants are especially attracted to cat food, though it may certainly seem that way when they raid your pet’s foodstuff. Truthfully, cat food is likely to be easier for them to get to than the food that you keep stashed away for the humans of the household.
If your cat’s food is under siege by opportunistic ants, there’s a lot that you can do to deter them or keep them away entirely.
Are Ants in My Cat’s Food a Big Problem for My Home?
Ants are pests. When they thrive inside of a home, this introduces a slew of inconvenient and downright obnoxious issues. If they have been seen snagging your pet’s food, chances are there are some elsewhere in your home. Your cat’s food container or dish seems like a gold mine, so they’re going to look to see what else is around.
This means that they’ll be scoping out your food, too, at any given opportunity.
Ants are hard to see and may lurk in the cracks and crevasses around your home that you can’t get to. An ant infestation is disruptive and unhygienic. A colony can form right under your nose, even when you only see them around the pet food.
Some species of ant are quite destructive to homes. Take carpenter ants, for instance. Once they’ve figured out a sweet spot to set up shop, they hunker down for good. They do this by hollowing out the wood so that they may nest inside of it. This can cause tremendous infrastructure problems for any building.
If you’ve got ants in your cat’s food, you need to tackle the issue head-on and promptly. Otherwise, you may end up in a more frustrating position than when you started.
Is it Safe to Regularly Treat for Ants Around My Cat’s Food Dish?
Chemical treatments against ants are effective, but they aren’t usually safe for other animals. Toxic chemical treatments are certainly not safe to use on or around anything that’s to be ingested.
If you do attempt to use a bug-killing agent to rid the area of ants, make sure that your cat does not have access to that spot until the bug killer is totally dry. Do not place new food or even the dish down in that spot until that point, either.
Chemical treatments may work in a pinch, but oftentimes they aren’t a long-term solution. Sometimes, ants come back seemingly with a vengeance. This exact issue has prompted many owners to seek out the solutions that we will detail below.
What Can I Do to Keep Ants at Bay?
Fortunately, you have many options for tackling the issue of ants in your cat’s food. There are multiple methods, ranging from storage solutions to the strategic placement of physical barriers.
1. Call in the Pros
If you have a major long-term infestation, your best option is probably calling a professional exterminator. Make sure he or she is properly certified and knows how to work in a home that has cats.
Try to get recommendations in your area from cat owners who used the service and were happy with the results and with the level of attention given to the presence of felines in the home.
2. Keep everything clean and free of food residue
Remember the basics:
- Move the food into an air-tight container, instead of leaving the bag out in the open.
- Clean the floor under and around the food dish daily to remove crumbs.
- Keep the dish itself clean.
These simple steps will also help keep Kitty's food fresh. Read more here: How Long Can You Safely Keep Cat Food Out For?
TheCatSite team member @tabbytom says:
I use a 50/50 water/vinegar mixture in a spray bottle to clean/wipe the kitchen countertops as there is where my boy have his meals. I wipe the area and wall after his meal each time. I also use it on the dining table and clean any places with it. So far, no ants in sight for a long time already.
3. Put a physical barrier between the ants and cat food
There are several ways in which you can achieve this. Some members managed to keep ants at bay simply by smearing some petroleum jelly around the base of the dish. Others build a “moat” by putting the food dish inside of a larger dish and then filling the larger dish with water.
You can also use a food dish designed with ants in mind:
This would be great for someone with ferals. The ants can't get anywhere near the food unless the Antser is touching something that they can crawl up and get onto the platform from there.
4. Use deterrents around the ants' entry points
Consider this list of options – there are many you can try though there is no guarantee as to how effective they will be. A lot depends on the specific type of ant you're dealing with - and how determined the workers are.
You can try these substances -
- Ground cinnamon
- Coffee grounds
- Baking soda
- Diatomaceous earth (food-grade)
Team member @jcat says:
I used to use baking soda to drive away ants, with mediocre results. Then one of my students recommended cinnamon, and that works much better.
5. Use a pesticide or ant traps
You can also shop around for a commercial solution. Make sure it's clearly labeled as cat-safe. These aren't easy to come by so if you're not sure, please contact a professional exterminator for advice.
Team member @Kieka offers this tip:
I still like the old standby of cleaning the ant trail and putting a borax sugar ant bait in an old plastic tub with a hole in it. Cats can't get to the bait, it's fairly safe around them and eradicates the whole nest.
My Cat Ate Some Ants! Should I Be Worried?
You’d think that it would go against a finicky feline’s natural instincts to eat food that contains pests like ants. Surprisingly, there are some cats who will happily chow down on everything in their dish – including these little invaders. This is especially true of kittens, who are more likely to experiment with "hunting" and consuming pretty much anything that moves.
Of course, seeing your cat dining on insects in addition to their food can cause some alarm. Instead of panicking and throwing yourself into a frenzy, rest assured that ants on their own are not harmful to cats if consumed.
There are some ants who can sting terribly, though, which could pose some issues for your cat. Such ant species include fire ants, oak ants, and harvester ants. If you have any of these types of ants in your area, your concern is fully justified. If your cat seems agitated or in pain, call your veterinarian right away.
Another prospective issue lies with the presence of pesticides inside or outside of an ant’s body. Bug-killing chemicals can be toxic for pets and, if consumed, could present some serious risks to their health. If you see dead ants following the use of pesticides, remove them immediately. While the odds of Kitty being tempted to taste them are minimal, it's best not to take the risk.
So, if you find your cat eating ants, it’s best to act quickly to try and put the bug issue to bed. While there is a slim likelihood that your cat will be harmed by eating ants, the risk is still quite real.
Why Are There Ants Around or In My Cat’s Litter Box?
You may have seen a few (or more) ants crawling inside and around your cat’s litter box. As if cleaning litter boxes isn’t unpleasant enough, now you’ve got an ant problem to deal with too! This is inconvenient and gross, so you want to remedy the issue quickly.
Ants may be attracted to the scent of feline urine. Many owners of diabetic cats have experienced this problem excessively, so it’s worth having your vet check out your cat for prospective health issues.
If your cat has a clean bill of health, then there’s a strong chance that the litter itself is what’s attracting ants - especially if you're using a bio-degradable litter.
As it goes with keeping ants out of cat food, cleanliness is an important part of keeping them out of litter boxes as well. Make sure that you are regularly cleaning the box to cut down on the odors that could be attracting ants. Do not spray chemical bug killing agents inside of the litter box! These products are highly toxic and your cat may ingest some when coming in contact with the litter.
A minor ant problem centered around the litter box can be temporarily resolved by placing ant-deterring substances near the ants' entry points to the room where the box is:
- Baking soda
- Ground cinnamon
- Coffee grounds
Ants despise the texture and/or smell of these products and will not walk across them. This is a temporary solution, of course, but will keep them out so that your cat can do his or her business in peace.
Every time you clean the area, the product will have to be re-applied to the area. This can be quite tedious but works in a pinch as you explore other means of driving away from the infestation.
Try to identify the entry point that the ants are using to get to your cat’s litter box. Are there any cracks or faulty weather stripping granting them easy access? Identify these locations, fix them, and witness the ant infestation come to a screeching halt.
Ants are a Nuisance, But You Don’t Have to Live with Them
While it may certainly alarm a caring cat owner to see ants infesting their pet’s food or litter boxes, try to breathe easily and remain calm if this happens to you. Follow the advice detailed above to manage the infestation and even eliminate it entirely.
You don’t have to resign yourself to living with these pests. And once you have identified the cause behind the presence of ants in your home, you can put the issue to bed for good.