Flight of fancy—can cats eat moths?
Anything with wings is the most exciting thing on earth to most cats.
But can cats eat moths without coming to any harm, or should you rather clip your cat’s wings and ban the habit?
“Gonna get that moth!”
Why do cats eat moths?
Cats are natural predators, and moths represent an excellent hunting challenge.
Similar to the way many felines go wild playing with toys that dance in the air or laser pointers, cats react to the movement of their prey. The more unpredictable and haphazard the movement, the more exciting the prey becomes.
Nutritionally, moths don’t offer much, but many cat meals in the wild are small and taken opportunistically.
Cats living in nature will hunt and eat up to 20 times a day, with each meal consisting of small amounts of:
As moths offer little in the way of protein, and almost no fat or moisture, hunting them is more about honing predatory skills than finding nourishment.
Cats in the wild need to balance their energy intake and output carefully.
Their time is spent:
- Ingesting energy through eating
- Conserving energy through rest
- Expending energy hunting
Ingesting energy through eating
Of the various prey animals on the menu in the wild cat takeaway, the average calorific values are as follows:
Type of prey
Calorific value in kcal
The better hunter a cat is, the less energy will be needed to catch prey.
Conserving energy through resting
Cats sleep or doze up to 19 hours a day to conserve as much energy as possible.
This is important to ensure that a feline has enough energy reserves for:
- Maintenance of organs, muscles, skin, and coat
- Fleeing if under threat from a larger predator
Expending energy hunting
A cat hunting is a wonderful sight to behold, but the process is taxing.
The stalking and eventual snagging of prey all place huge energy demands on cats, so they will often give up a hunt quickly if it looks like it’s going to end in failure.
The better hunter a cat is, the more they will be able to balance energy intake, conservation, and expenditure.
Moths are great for training cats to hunt fast-moving prey on three planes. This increases cats’ chances of being able to catch whatever prey they want.
Is it safe for cats to eat moths?
The occasional moth shouldn’t harm your cat, but anything weird that is eaten could be risky.
The possible dangers you should be aware of are:
In moderation, moths are usually harmless, but some varieties are reputed to have toxic powder on their wings that can cause an allergic reaction.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction can be:
- Red pustules on the skin
- Swelling around the eyes (known as Blepharitis)
- Runny nose
- Laboured breathing
If you think your cat may be experiencing an allergic reaction, you should get to the vet as soon as possible. Most allergies are easily treatable, but speed is of the essence.
Eating a few moths may cause a tummy upset, the symptoms of which could be:
While most gastrointestinal problems clear up on their own after a day, any problem that lasts longer than 24 hours is cause for concern.
If cats don’t eat for longer than this, there is a risk that they may begin to mobilise fat reserves to release energy. This can flood the liver with fatty cells, leading to reduced liver function—a syndrome called hepatic lipidosis.
Once hepatic lipidosis has set in, the recovery process will involve vet-supervised therapy and a special diet over several weeks.
Choking or blockages in the throat
If a moth becomes stuck in your cat’s throat, you should get to a vet immediately.
Moths are fairly averse to being eaten and may flap about in a cat’s mouth before being swallowed. Larger moths can sometimes get lodged in the oral cavity or throat, meaning your cat will:
- Struggle to breathe
- Cough incessantly
If untreated, respiratory problems can cause:
- Acute paralysis of the hind limbs
- Chronic lung damage
These scenarios are uncommon, though, as long as your cat isn’t eating ten moths a day.
You should keep a careful eye on your feline to monitor any signs of distress.
Toys can stop the moth hunt…sometimes.
Can you stop cats eating moths?
Trying to curb your cat’s natural hunting instinct is a big ask.
If you want to avoid your cat attempting to fly after moths, your best advice is to channel the hunting drive into a more insect-friendly direction.
The best way to do this is to engage your cat with:
- Toys and lures
- A laser pointer
- Food hunts
Toys and lures
Any toy that mimics the flight of a bird or insect should capture your cat’s attention without fail.
Feathers on sticks, felt mice on strings, and bouncy balls can all excite cats and are at least under your control.
A laser pointer
Many cats will happily climb your entire wall chasing after the elusive dot of light from a laser pointer.
Your only word of caution is to make sure the laser never shines in your cat’s eyes, as this can cause permanent eye damage.
You can experiment with different food locations to stimulate your cat’s hunting instincts.
Forcing your feline to search for food can backfire, though, particularly if your cat is:
- Less mobile
- Vision impaired
Cats love predictability and routine and suffer from stress if their environment changes unexpectedly.
The signs of a stressed cat are:
Your food hunt should be fun, but if your kitty gives up quickly and slinks off to be alone, you may have overdone the play routine. In this case, you should return everything to normality and allow your cat to calm down.
Can a diet change help if your cat eats a moth for dinner?
Most moth-eating is linked to your cat’s hunting instinct, but your choice of diet can help.
As obligate carnivores, the perfect diet for a cat consists of:
- Animal protein
- Animal fat
- Essential vitamins and minerals
Protein is the bedrock of a cat’s metabolism, and meat provides the amino acids—like taurine—your feline needs to live healthily.
Cats are considerably better at processing animal protein than vegetable sources.
The quality of protein sources is measured using their biological value (BV), and the BVs of animal protein are considerably higher than those of grains and cereals:
The food you choose should be packed with protein with a BV above 90% to satisfy your feline, provide bundles of energy, and alleviate the need to hunt.
Fat is an excellent secondary source of energy and also provides:
- Essential fatty acids for cell structural integrity
- A great taste that cats love
The best cat food in the world is useless if your feline doesn’t like the taste, so making sure their food contains enough animal fat—like that found in cat jelly or gravy—will keep your kitty enjoying every meal.
Essential vitamins and minerals
Cats need vitamins A, B complex, D, and E in their diet, as well as a range of minerals to keep their bodies functioning normally. Check out the table below to see which food is the best source of these vitamins:
Vitamin B complex
Up to 20%
Sticking to these values should mean your cat is satiated and may not feel such a strong urge to hunt. Moths can then sleep easier at night.
The best your cat can get!
Image (c) Untamed
Untamed is a better alternative to flying snacks
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High levels of exclusively animal protein
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Every tin of Untamed is free from known allergens and designed to keep your kitty as healthy as possible.
Untamed is also committed to being an ethical manufacturer—we are cruelty-free, 100% recyclable, and carbon-neutral. We even help save moths.
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Check out our other guides to what cats can or cannot eat: