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20.04.2022

Flight of fancy—can cats eat moths?

Anything with wings is the most exciting thing on earth to most cats.

No matter how nutritious and tasty their normal diet is, cats can’t resist the temptation to chase and devour birds and insects, moths included.

Even the laziest indoor or neutered cat will happily jump at a flying treat to complement their usual food.

If your cat roams free in the garden, you will be used to watching all manner of snails, slugs, and even frogs being devoured. Moths are a mere titbit in comparison.

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!”

Source: Pixabay

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:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Moisture

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:

  1. Ingesting energy through eating
  2. Conserving energy through rest
  3. Expending energy hunting

Ingesting energy through eating

The average adult cat needs between 450 and 550 kilocalories each day to survive and maintain healthy body functions.

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

Medium rat

530

Field mouse

88

Small bird

236

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:

  • Hunting
  • Maintenance of organs, muscles, skin, and coat
  • Reproduction
  • 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.

As evidence, many cat parents report that queens will bring moths for their kittens to play with. The nutritional value is negligible, but the lessons learned are invaluable for later life.

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:

  1. Allergic reactions
  2. Stomach upset
  3. Choking or blockages in the throat

Allergic reactions

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.

Stomach upset

Cats can be sensitive and prone to digestive issues.

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:

  • Seizures
  • 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.

Source: Pixabay

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:

  1. Toys and lures
  2. A laser pointer
  3. 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.

Food hunts

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:

  • Older
  • 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.

“Got it!”

Source: Pixabay

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.

Cats eat in response to a need for energy, so providing an energy-rich, high-protein diet can persuade them that hunting moths is unnecessary.

As obligate carnivores, the perfect diet for a cat consists of:

  1. Animal protein
  2. Animal fat
  3. Essential vitamins and minerals

Animal protein

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:

Protein type

Sources

BV

Animal protein

88%–98%

Vegetable protein

45%–68%

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.

Animal fat

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 type

Best sources

Vitamin A

  • Liver
  • Fish

Vitamin B complex

Vitamin D

  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Fish oil

Vitamin E

  • Liver
  • Wheat germ oil

Whatever cat food you choose—whether wet, semi-moist, dry, or raw—needs to contain the following balance of nutrients:

Nutrient type

Ideal percentage

Animal protein

Over 50%

Fat

Up to 20%

Carbs/fibre

Maximum 3%

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

If you’re looking for the best way to keep your kitty healthy and satisfied, Untamed has the answer!

Our recipes are designed to give your cat the perfect combination of:

  • Nutrition
  • Taste
  • Attractiveness (cats are highly sensitive to the way food looks and smells)

The principles we stick to in Untamed cat food are:

  1. High levels of exclusively animal protein
  2. Vet-formulated recipes

High levels of exclusively animal protein

Untamed gives your kitty meat, meat, and more meat.

With up to twice the amount of animal protein that you find in most commercial cat foods, Untamed delivers all the healthy protein and energy your cat needs and offers an amazing taste that your kitty will find irresistible.

We use human-grade ingredients, meaning that your cat gets the best of the best. Even the fussiest of felines and those that typically hate wet food should devour Untamed with gusto.

As added benefits, such high protein levels mean that Untamed addresses feline issues such as:

Vet-formulated recipes

While they started as homemade recipes, Untamed diets have been developed and honed to perfection by vets to ensure they are the best you can offer your cat.

Every tin of Untamed is free from known allergens and designed to keep your kitty as healthy as possible.

Whichever variety you choose—whether Chocka Chicken, Tuck-In Tuna, or Full-On Fishy—you should see the difference in no time.

Untamed is also committed to being an ethical manufacturer—we are cruelty-free, 100% recyclable, and carbon-neutral. We even help save moths.

Try Untamed today and see how your feline tucks in!

Untamed will come flying to your door

Untamed will wing its way to your door in no time—all you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Give us some info about your kitty
  2. Select your feline’s meal plan
  3. Order your first cat food trial pack

The effects of Untamed should be noticeable quickly—according to the feedback of our happy cat parents, here’s what you should notice:

  • Week one—Your feline will start to become more active, and you will notice less mess in the litter tray
  • After two months—You will start to see a change in physique, with more muscle and fewer weight issues
  • Within four months—Your cat’s coat should be sleek and silky, and hairballs should be much less frequent
  • For life—Natural weight control should be achieved through a balance of great food and healthy exercise

Untamed delivers wet cat food with free shipping. You'll also get monthly orders in bulk so you never run out of your kitty's favourites!

Check out our other guides to what cats can or cannot eat:

Sausage

Ice cream

Liver

Frogs

Peppermint oil

Cake

Beans

Mayo

Baby food

Broccoli

Almond milk

Sugar

Cucumber

Sweet potato

Honey

Peanuts

Porridge

Coconut

Raw chicken

Eggs

Bananas

Nuts

Blueberries

Crisps

Rice

Peanut butter

Pasta

Bones

Garlic

Potatoes

Carrots

Vegetables

Raspberries

Pineapple

Onions

Oranges

Chicken

Pork

Raw meat

Apples

Soy milk

Mushrooms

Pumpkin

Slugs

Turkey

Mango

Birds

Peas

Chocolate

Cheese

Bacon

Grapes

Bread

Lactose-free milk

Adult cat food

Sweetcorn

Avocado

Tomatoes

Strawberries

Catnip

Ham

Popcorn

Olive oil

 Chicken and rice