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Do Cats Keep Bugs Away? Vet-Reviewed Facts

Vet approved

	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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No matter your cat’s age, you’ve likely seen them pawing at a bug that slipped into your home through an open window or a crack under a door. Cats are excellent hunters and love just about any excuse to flex their hunting muscles, including stalking and killing insects. This has led many people to believe that cats can serve as natural insect repellants. After all, they’re excellent predators, and what insect would intentionally walk into a predator’s environment, right?

Here’s what you need to know!

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Do Cats Keep Bugs Away?

Cats absolutely do not serve as any kind of insect repellant, unfortunately. Insects generally don’t have the thought processes that would allow them to consider the dangers of an environment that a cat lives in.

Insects are attracted to a variety of things, including light, food sources, and warmth. This means that insects might enter your house, regardless of how many cats you own. This differs from mammalian pests, like rats, mice, and gophers. These animals have the ability to detect a predator and find ways to avoid it, including choosing not to live or nest in the predator’s territory. While your home isn’t guaranteed to be free of mammalian pests while you own a cat, it is far less likely.

However, your cat isn’t going to have any impact on the insects and arachnids that may choose to move in.

Can Cats Help Reduce Bug Populations?

This is where cats can really come in handy when dealing with insects. Cats can definitely help reduce the insects in your home, although they’re extremely unlikely to fully eliminate bugs. Cats love a chance to hunt, and an insect scurrying across the floor or fluttering through the room can be an enriching and fun thing for your cat to hunt. This gives your cat the opportunity to hunt without the risks to your cat and native animals that are present when your cat goes outdoors.

Not all cats will happily help reduce the insect population in your home, unfortunately. Cats that are old, sick, have low visual acuity, are injured, or are just plain lazy aren’t likely to chase insects. Even if they try, they may not succeed in catching them. You also have to keep in mind that just because your cat catches a bug doesn’t mean your cat will actually kill that bug. Some cats like to play with their prey but quickly lose interest and let them go on their way.

cat sniffs the creeping May bug
Image Credit: Olena F, Shutterstock

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Considerations When You Have Bugs

There are a few things you need to keep in mind if your cat is helping you reduce the bug populations in your home. If you’re using pesticides of any kind, then your cat may be at risk. This risk can be because your cat is able to get to the pesticides, or it can be because your cat is touching or even eating an insect that has been exposed to pesticides.

Also, some insects may not be safe for your cat to hunt. Dangerous insects aren’t particularly common in homes in the US, but they can occur. Black widow spiders’ and brown recluse spiders’ bites are toxic to cats. Both have the potential to cause death in a cat, although both of these spiders typically stay out of areas with high traffic, instead preferring places like garages, sheds, and woodpiles.

Other pests, like hobo spiders and the Texas redheaded centipede, have the potential to leave painful and potentially necrotic wounds on your cat. Cats are also not immune to scorpion stings.

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Having a cat isn’t going to keep pests from entering your home, but your cat may help you chase down some bugs and kill them off. It’s important to properly identify pests in your home, though, because there are a few in the United States that are dangerous for cats. Pesticides used to manage an infestation of bugs can also be dangerous for your cat. If you believe your cat has encountered a dangerous bug or pesticide chemicals, you should take them to the vet immediately.

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Featured Image Credit: GooseB, Pixabay