Cats naturally enjoy hunting, and small creatures are their favorite targets. Most insects do not pose threats to cats, but scorpions (and other poisonous arachnids), armed with a venomous stinger, are more dangerous for cats to hunt. Cats can kill and eat scorpions without any adverse effects, but numerous alternative snacks are nutritionally beneficial. Although it has pincers and a stinger, a scorpion may not get the chance to use them on an agile feline. Well-fed house cats are more likely to kill the intruder than eat it, and some cats may not even try to play with the arachnids.
Scorpion Colonies in the United States
The highest concentrations of scorpion species are in the western and southwestern states. The deadliest North American species, the Arizona bark scorpion, poses the greatest threat to cats, and pet parents should restrict their cats’ access to outdoor areas where bark scorpions are common. Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada have active bark scorpion populations, but other species have habitats in the Midwest and southeast.
Unlike the bark scorpion, southeastern species like the southern devil scorpion are less venomous and less likely to send a feline to the emergency clinic. Scorpion stings are not common injuries with cats, and they have several advantages, compared to other pets, in avoiding the creature’s stinger.
How Cats Avoid Scorpion Stings
Regardless of myths about felines being invulnerable to scorpion toxins, cats can become ill and die if they’re stung by a highly venomous scorpion. The legend of the cat’s invulnerability may be related to the low incidence of stings and the animal’s ability to kill the arachnid without a scratch. Scorpions use their stinger to immobilize and kill insects, but most would rather run away than battle something ten times its size. However, running away from the cat may entice it to hunt and kill the scorpion.
Although this advantage does not apply to hairless breeds, most cats have fur to protect them from the tiny stingers. Scorpions often try using their pincers for defense, but they only grab the skin and cause a minor irritation to a furry cat. Most cats that receive injuries from scorpions are stung on the paw, tail, or nose.
Like spiders, scorpions can quickly scurry away to avoid a cat, but they’re not fast enough to evade a cat’s attack. Breeds with high prey drives and experience hunting are more likely to kill a scorpion, but even an average housecat is agile enough to outsmart a scorpion. Their bodies may look fierce, but most scorpions are not durable enough to withstand multiple swipes from the cat’s claws.
Humans sometimes step on scorpions accidentally when walking at night, but cats are unlikely to make the same mistake. If your cat sleeps in your bedroom, you may have noticed it leap up and chase a seemingly invisible bug in the dark. Cats have better night vision than humans and dogs, and they can spot the nocturnal arachnid and choose to attack it or avoid it.
The Hazards of Using Cats as Pest Control
A cat that kills a scorpion and prevents a family member from being stung is a hero that should be rewarded with a delicious meal or treat but using a pet as pest control to get rid of mice, rats, or scorpions is a hazardous venture. Infestations should only be treated by professionals. Although a cat can return from a hunting session unscathed, the risk of injury or disease is too great.
Although most scorpions in North America are not deadly enough to threaten a cat’s life, the bark scorpion can inflict painful stings that cause symptoms such as excessive drooling, muscle tremors, breathing problems, and paralysis in some cases. If your cat displays these symptoms, immediately take it to the veterinary clinic. In Texas, the striped bark scorpion is the most common species, but it’s not as venomous as the species found in Arizona and California.
Feral cats survive on birds, reptiles, and rodents, but they’re more experienced with hunting than housecats. Wild cats are accustomed to killing and consuming rodents quickly, but pets risk injuries, disease, parasites, and choking hazards when hunting mice and rats. Rodents can easily scratch and bite an inexperienced hunter, and they can pass on fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites if they’re consumed.
The Ideal Diet for Felines
Rodents, insects, and scorpions can provide sustenance to wild cats, but your pet is safer eating high-quality cat food. Whether choosing wet, dry, or “fresh” subscription meals, ensure your cat eats meals that are suitable for its life stage. Kittens, adults, and seniors need different levels of protein, fat, and calories in their diet.
Several pet food manufacturers use whole chicken breasts or deboned chicken in their recipes, and some companies mention in the product descriptions that they do not use by-products in their cat food. De-boned chicken is a phrase used to appeal to a human’s understanding of what is appropriate meat. Cats can eat other parts of the chicken, like the organs and blood vessels that we find unappealing. By-products are not unhealthy, but they should be identified on an ingredient list with a specific animal rather than the phrase “animal by-product.”
Animal protein should make up the bulk of your pet’s carnivorous diet, and adult cats need a minimum of 140 grams/kilogram of protein every day. Kittens require at least 240 grams/kilogram.
Fats and Fatty Acids
Fat is another vital part of your pet’s diet, and it’s made up of essential fatty acids like omega-6, arachidonic acid, and linoleic acid. At a minimum, your cat should consume cat food with 9% fat, but the recommended maximum level is 50%. Hybrid cats with wild cat blood usually require food with higher fat and protein content, but less active cats risk obesity when they consume meals high in fat and carbohydrates.
Low carbohydrate food is ideal for most cats, but some of the risks of eating meals with higher carb content have not been verified. Weight gain can result from eating high-carb meals, and generally, cats should receive under 10% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. Although a possible correlation between diabetes and high-carb diets continues to be studied, the results have not established a direct link.
Vitamins and Minerals
Some of the vitamins and minerals in cat food come from fruits, animal tissue, and vegetables but producers usually add supplements to make their meals more nutritionally balanced. Minerals and vitamins that are beneficial to a feline diet include:
- Vitamins E, D, K, B12, A
- Folic acid
Cats need fresh water every day, but you can ensure your cat stays hydrating by serving wet meals. Premium dry food is protein-rich but it’s low in moisture. Wet food usually contains 70% to 80% moisture, but it can be served with dry food if your cat prefers the texture of kibble. If your cat does not drink enough from the water bowl, you can use water fountains or add broth to kibble for additional moisture.
In most cases, scorpions are no match for agile felines. Although cats rarely get stung by the arachnids, scorpions should not be part of the animal’s everyday diet. Cat treats are more nutritious than scorpion meat, and they cannot sting a cat with neurotoxin. High-quality cat food, nutritious snacks, exercise, and fresh water are all your pet needs to stay healthy and happy. If scorpions infest your property, calling a pest control technician is a safer alternative than relying on your beloved cat.
Featured Image Credit: sinsamut ku, Shutterstock