How To Keep Ants Out Of Cat Food

How to keep ants out of cat food

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 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 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. </blockquote >

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

TheCatSite team member @Kat0121 recommends using The Anster. She says:

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.</blockquote >

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
  • Chalk
  • Coffee grounds
  • Ash
  • 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.</blockquote >

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.</blockquote >

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 type 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 pesticide, 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
  • Ash
  • Chalk
  • 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 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.

23 comments on “How To Keep Ants Out Of Cat Food

Talesse1996 March 19, 2019
Ants and I are at constant war in the Summer months.
LSCNancy March 19, 2019
I have carpenter ants in the backyard, fire ants in the front yard those gigantic black ants by my front door that climb up to my 2nd floor master bathroom EVERY YEAR! So I just get my best vacuum out keep in plugged in & that's that. Since I got my cats I don't use weed killer or bug spray or salt for the ice in the winter I just can't do it. I even have a hard time using Bleach. I can't let anything happen to them that would be my fault. It's all so much more work for me but that's the price we pay sometimes for our babies.
tarasgirl06 March 20, 2019
We bought THESE when we were feeding "community" cats and they were very useful. I know they're plastic, but I was much more concerned with keeping the ants out of the food than I was with the material of the bowls. I still use these for water.
tarasgirl06 March 20, 2019
We bought THESE for feeding and watering "community cats" and they worked very well for us. I now use them for water for my three indoor cats. I know they're plastic, but I was far more concerned over keeping ants out of the cats' food than I was over the material of the bowls. I still use them for water for my (indoor) cats.
tarasgirl06 March 20, 2019
I've tried to post a comment twice and though it said it had been posted, I do not see either one here.
Agent Honey Kitty March 22, 2019
I had this problem for no less than 5 days, after quite a bit of research and the only deterrent of all the idea's presented I tried as i was the only free one at hand, it worked, within 12 hours, as the ants had a schedule. Put the cats bowl, in a slightly larger bowl filled with just 2 cm water space between the food bowl and 2nd bowl and the ants will not touch it. I promise you, this works. No chemicals no oils and no sprays. pet and child friendly, what mother nature provides.
Agent Honey Kitty March 22, 2019
Talesse1996 said:
Ants and I are at constant war in the Summer months.
put the cat bowl in a 2nd bowl with a 2cm water barrier and they will not touch it
Agent Honey Kitty March 22, 2019
LSCNancy said:
I have carpenter ants in the backyard, fire ants in the front yard those gigantic black ants by my front door that climb up to my 2nd floor master bathroom EVERY YEAR! So I just get my best vacuum out keep in plugged in & that's that. Since I got my cats I don't use weed killer or bug spray or salt for the ice in the winter I just can't do it. I even have a hard time using Bleach. I can't let anything happen to them that would be my fault. It's all so much more work for me but that's the price we pay sometimes for our babies.
put the cat bowl in a 2nd bowl with a 2cm barrier of water they will not touch it
Agent Honey Kitty March 22, 2019
tarasgirl06 said:
We bought THESE when we were feeding "community" cats and they were very useful. I know they're plastic, but I was much more concerned with keeping the ants out of the food than I was with the material of the bowls. I still use these for water.
Put the cat bowl in a 2nd bowl with a 2cm barrier of water and they will not touch it
Agent Honey Kitty March 22, 2019
tarasgirl06 said:
I've tried to post a comment twice and though it said it had been posted, I do not see either one here.
Put the cats bowl, in a slightly larger bowl filled with just 2 cm water space between the food bowl and 2nd bowl and the ants will not touch it. I promise you, this works. No chemicals no oils and no sprays. pet and child friendly, what mother nature provides.
LillysMom March 22, 2019
I had this problem recently and found a pet-and-kid-safe ant killer that is heavy in cinnamon and cloves. It worked like a charm! I didn't have a heavy ant problem, just a constant few that kept coming back to the dry food bowl. The name is "Ortho Home Defense Ant & Roach Killer With Essential Oils" and I bought it on Amazon. Even though the reviews were mixed I still ordered it because I wanted to try a non-chemical spray, and I'm so glad I did. It was quite reasonable too, at under $6.00 for 14 oz. The smell is pleasant although strong. Here is the link:
ZaMM April 9, 2019
I have 2 cats who show opposite views on ants in the bowl lol, My boy Bubz will eat ants and all. Luna on the other hand will literally turn her nose up at it, she doesnt even like them to crawl around her paws. She cries until the food is replaced and the bowl is clean! But living in east TN ants are super bad so this post was awesome, spring and summer is a constant battle!! Literally just found these in Luna's first nesting box .....
charking April 20, 2019
I have ants most of the time, I welcome them, for reasons I will not go into that on this site but suffice to say, they are more welcome than pests for me. But in the issue of cat food, I agree they love cat food but what I do and most people I know now do, I take a small paper plate, put it aside in a out of the way place. I place a bit of apple, and sugar and bread crumbs on it and place any ants I see on the plate. Amazingly they stay out of the other food. Now sometimes they seem to be sitting and waiting for their own dinner. They are awesome and special insects. I do not kill them at least not intentionally. * my friends call me the Ant Whisperer * I had a large Main Coon who used to follow the ants lapping them up like an anteater, it was funny. Ants have formic acid and I have unintentionally had one make it into my mouth via a piece of candy.. it not only stung it was terribly bitter. Ugh. Also I have found the water moat around the cat food seems to work best, and the cats have extra water at their disposal as well that way. PS these are the little tiny ants, sugar or vinegar type I call them dash ants because they are about the size of the dash symbol on the keyboard and they are always dashing here and there. I have not had to deal with the large ones, occasionally I get a " Picnic Ant " the kind which love out door picnics but I have not had to deal with fire ants etc.. We do have a few carpenter ants out side but I just ignore them once in a while one will come in and I just take it back outside and put it on the flower mulch.
tarasgirl06 April 20, 2019
charking said:
I have ants most of the time, I welcome them, for reasons I will not go into that on this site but suffice to say, they are more welcome than pests for me. But in the issue of cat food, I agree they love cat food but what I do and most people I know now do, I take a small paper plate, put it aside in a out of the way place. I place a bit of apple, and sugar and bread crumbs on it and place any ants I see on the plate. Amazingly they stay out of the other food. Now sometimes they seem to be sitting and waiting for their own dinner. They are awesome and special insects. I do not kill them at least not intentionally. * my friends call me the Ant Whisperer * I had a large Main Coon who used to follow the ants lapping them up like an anteater, it was funny. Ants have formic acid and I have unintentionally had one make it into my mouth via a piece of candy.. it not only stung it was terribly bitter. Ugh. Also I have found the water moat around the cat food seems to work best, and the cats have extra water at their disposal as well that way. PS these are the little tiny ants, sugar or vinegar type I call them dash ants because they are about the size of the dash symbol on the keyboard and they are always dashing here and there. I have not had to deal with the large ones, occasionally I get a " Picnic Ant " the kind which love out door picnics but I have not had to deal with fire ants etc.. We do have a few carpenter ants out side but I just ignore them once in a while one will come in and I just take it back outside and put it on the flower mulch.
Good on ya! Ants are amazing creatures, very social and very committed to protecting their queen and colony. As long as they stay out in their territory, all is well IMHO. Those are great suggestions! Where we used to live there were a lot of different types of ants and I used to joke that the community should have been named "Ant Hills" because of this. We had carpenter ants in abundance, and they didn't bother anyone, but the fire ants were really, really painful when they bit, and I discovered I'm allergic to their toxins. So I tried to give them a wide berth.
louche June 11, 2019
LillysMom said:
I had this problem recently and found a pet-and-kid-safe ant killer that is heavy in cinnamon and cloves. It worked like a charm! I didn't have a heavy ant problem, just a constant few that kept coming back to the dry food bowl. The name is "Ortho Home Defense Ant & Roach Killer With Essential Oils" and I bought it on Amazon. Even though the reviews were mixed I still ordered it because I wanted to try a non-chemical spray, and I'm so glad I did. It was quite reasonable too, at under $6.00 for 14 oz. The smell is pleasant although strong. Here is the link:
You. Are. Awesome. Thank you!!! I don't want to kill the ants we have but I would LOVE to deter them. However, right now, they are hyper aggressive and would like them not to get into my electronics. I'm hoping this helps and neither my dog or cat appreciate Ortho's essential oil smell hehe. I don't want to use diatomaceous earth because of the drying element. I need my furbutts hydrated well.
louche June 11, 2019
tarasgirl06 said:
We bought THESE when we were feeding "community" cats and they were very useful. I know they're plastic, but I was much more concerned with keeping the ants out of the food than I was with the material of the bowls. I still use these for water.
Maybe it's something to do with my brower but I don't see a link or image to what you are describing. Would you mind sending me the name? Thank you, much appreciated.
tarasgirl06 June 11, 2019
@louche, here is a link to the Fool-A-Bug bowl through Chewy.com. If you search Fool-A-Bug bowl you will find other pages and vendors. https://www.chewy.com/petmate-jumbo-fool-bug-microban-pet/product-reviews/111716?reviewSort=NEWEST&reviewFilter=ALL_STARS&pageNumber=4
LillysMom June 12, 2019
LillysMom said:
I had this problem recently and found a pet-and-kid-safe ant killer that is heavy in cinnamon and cloves. It worked like a charm! I didn't have a heavy ant problem, just a constant few that kept coming back to the dry food bowl. The name is "Ortho Home Defense Ant & Roach Killer With Essential Oils" and I bought it on Amazon. Even though the reviews were mixed I still ordered it because I wanted to try a non-chemical spray, and I'm so glad I did. It was quite reasonable too, at under $6.00 for 14 oz. The smell is pleasant although strong. Here is the link:
You are very welcome. Keep in mind that it smells VERY strong, though! At least the first day, you can smell it from anywhere in your house. It's not an unpleasant smell -- just strong.
lauriec515 June 16, 2019
My cats get fed near the washer and dryer. Every two months, I put a ant trap (those little plastic ones) under the washer and dryer. I very rarely get ants!
wrenboii July 3, 2019
I have a tray for my cat's food and water bowls and put Vaseline on the edges of the tray! It works wonders. As a note, vinegar deters ants and is not toxic to cats. Consider spraying the area where your cat is fed with vinegar every so often.
alphakitty August 15, 2019
Great article. Thanks. Me? I tried all sorts of remedies for the **HUGE** ant problem we have in our large yard and home. I have both an outside kittie colony and I also have inside fur-faces too. In summer months, the ants come inside, always around the water pipes. I believe that due to the droughts we have here in California, droughts diminsh the environmental food chain and, there are few natural water sources around. Ants seek both food and water. The only long term, reliable ant dissuader, that I have discovered in all my experiments, is that of oil. Ants **WILL NOT CROSS** an oil barrier! Unlike coffee grinds, insect sprays, ant-traps, etc, oil does not dry out or evaporate. I have found that virtually any type of oil will suffice, including cooking oil. I have a four wheeled cart that I bought at Harbor Freight for $50, onto which I place both the water dispenser and the feeding dishes that has NEVER had any ants on it. The reason being, the axles are greased and the ants will not cross the oil barrier. I read where someone here discovered that smearing a small line of Vaseline(tm) around the edge dissuades the ants from feeding. That's because of the oil barrier. I like that idea, wish I had thought of it!! However, that is, I now 3D print cat food bowls that have a very small, canted inward oil ring, which prevents kittie's fur from accidentaly getting oily. It works really well and is easy to clean. The best part, is the oil never dries out and it doesn't spill or contaminate the environment. Regarding the Cloves & Cinnamon, the smell is so odiferous, that my kitties will not go near anything thusly treated, indoor or outside kitties!! Ant traps are expensive and only kill ants in a specific localized area and, wear out with time, requiring replacement. Oil works and it is environmentally freindly. Vaseline is a kewl idea too! Sincerely - AlphaKitty
smahmud November 29, 2019
Definitely I will try this.
AbbysMom December 2, 2019
Good Article!

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