We all know that our companion cats are carnivorous beasts hidden in cute bodies. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means the majority their dietary requirements come from animal flesh.
When most people think of animal flesh, they often think of mammals and birds. But the animal kingdom also includes insects. Can our carnivorous felines eat bugs, such as the common cricket?
Cats can safely eat crickets in small amounts. They are non-toxic and have some nutritional benefits. But there are risks in cats consuming crickets in large quantities, such as getting bites, stomach upset, insecticides, and parasites.
Are Crickets Safe for Cats to Eat?
Overall, crickets are safe for cats to eat. They won’t pose any immediate risk to your cat when consumed as they are non-toxic and non-venomous. The occasional cricket won’t harm your cat. Still, if your cat ingests many crickets or eats them often, there are some risks to consider.
There are several cricket species across the world. Many of the common species have jaws adapted for biting. Crickets don’t bite animals or humans unprovoked as this behavior is purely a defense mechanism, not a form of feeding.
Your cat chasing, swatting, or biting a cat would be a great time for a cricket to activate this defense and deliver a bite if they are able.
Small, common crickets will usually cause little damage to the proportionally large domestic cat. Their tiny bodies and jaws won’t be able to get through a cat’s dense fur and thick skin. However, if faced with the soft skin of a cat’s lips or mouth, a bite can pierce that skin.
A minor bite will often cause minimal harm but it may produce a small patch of irritation that becomes sore and itchy. On infrequent occasions, a cat may have an allergic reaction, and you may see an inflammatory response. In this case, you should contact your vet.
Hard to Digest
Insects like crickets have fundamentally different anatomy than the natural fleshy diet of a cat. Instead of an internal skeleton, like mammals, they have an exoskeleton that offers them support and protection.
A cricket’s exoskeleton consists of a large amount of chitin. The stomach acids of a cat may have a more challenging time breaking down the bond of chitin. Undigested pieces of cricket exoskeleton may have the ability to cause irritation to the digestive tract. This can cause some gastrointestinal upset.
In extreme cases, many bugs ingested could cause an intestinal blockage due to undigested chitin. But the cat would need to eat a lot of crickets for this to be a risk.
Another risk of your cat consuming bugs like crickets is the chemicals present in their bodies. Suppose you or your neighbors use insecticides in and around the home. In that case, local bug populations could have some bioaccumulation of these chemicals.
Considering your cat is a lot larger than a cricket, your cat’s immune system will be able to deal with these low amounts of chemicals. Again, this is only a risk if your cats eat bucket-loads of crickets.
Crickets and other bugs can transfer parasite larvae between animals. Crickets may ingest parasites via their food sources, and these larvae can be consumed by your cat if they snack on a cricket.
There are a range of ways your cat can pick up parasites. It can be almost impossible to keep them totally parasite-free. The key here is to regularly treat your cat for parasites as directed by your vet.
Health Benefits of Crickets
Nutritionally speaking, the makeup of crickets is packed full of vitamins and minerals. Crickets are dense in protein and high in healthy fats, pillars of a healthy cat diet. The chitlin in the exoskeleton is high in fiber, a great boost for a healthy gut.
Crickets also contain taurine, an essential amino acid that cats can only get from animal-based proteins. Cats need large amounts of taurine, which is vital for their growth and development. It is also used in many other basic body functions such as heart function, digestion, and vision.
Crickets can be incredibly healthy if prepared correctly for the species. Cricket as a food source is emerging for human nutrition. It’s particularly gaining popularity for its lesser environmental impact than traditional proteins and its large-scale capacity.
Cricket Cat Food
Crickets can be a dietary source of protein for cats as part of a balanced diet, and cricket-based cat foods are currently being researched and developed. Crickets processed in this form are a lot less risky than consuming live or whole crickets.
Suppose you want to include crickets in your cat diets. In that case, you should do so in an approved way with the use of safely produced products and under the guidance of a vet professional. You can also experiment with a range of cricket-based pet treats.
Why Do Cats Like Crickets?
Cats are notoriously driven by strong feline instincts. It seems strange that they love to chase, catch, and eat bugs like crickets when it is not a natural part of their diet.
A cat’s attraction to crickets still stems from these instincts. Bugs are known to move fast and unpredictably, triggering the predator’s response within a cat’s brain. All your cat sees is something moving quickly away from them, and their body takes over to pounce upon it.
Cats chase bugs simply because it is fun and mentally stimulating. Often, they go on to eat them out of curiosity or a sense of pride in their prowess as a hunter.
Safe Bugs vs Harmful Bugs
We’ve established that crickets are mostly okay for your fearsome bug hunter to eat. But what about other insects? Not all insects are created equal. Each has different adaptations to survive, some of which can cause harm to your cat.
Harmful bugs tend to be the ones that possess a violent defense mechanism. This includes those that are venomous, stinging, or biting.
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Crickets have some great nutritional benefits to them, so much so that both pet and human food is being processed from cricket protein. However, for your cat who loves to eat wild crickets, there are a few risks associated. Overall, a cricket-catching hobby for your cat will do little harm to them.
Featured Image: BubbleJuice, Pixabay