Don’t Let it Bug You Kitty!

It’s been a while since my last blog. I have a good excuse! My computer was down for over a week after my cat Kai shorted out the power supply on my computer. He claims he was only marking his territory, but I really have to congratulate him on his excellent aim!

Everyone knows cats like to eat bugs. In our house, it’s part of their job. But is it just because bugs trigger the hunting instinct in cats by being wiggly and running away? Is it a good idea to let your cat eat bugs? The answer is yes! Just be sure it’s not a venomous or stinging insect. Bugs not only provide amusement for your cat but also are highly nutritious. Cats in the wild will eat insects as a natural part of their diet, as do many carnivores, scavengers and omnivores. Insects are just too good to pass up when you have to catch your own dinner.

According to studies investigating insects for their potential as poultry feed, grasshoppers and crickets are about 70 percent moisture. On a dry matter basis (DM), grasshoppers are about 65 percent protein, 8.3 percent fat and 8.7 percent chitin.¹ Being mostly indigestible, chitin is similar to fiber in effect. Crickets are about 58 percent protein, 10.3 percent fat and 8.7 percent chitin.² Ants are between 42 percent and 67 percent protein.³

Compare these numbers with more traditional fare for cats: Mice are about 66 percent moisture, 59 percent protein (DM) and 20 percent fat (DM). Domestic rabbits are about 74 percent moisture, 65 percent protein (DM) and 16 percent fat (DM). Chicken is 68 percent moisture, 42 percent protein (DM) and 37 percent fat (DM).⁴ Insects start to look like a pretty good food!

Taurine, an important and essential amino acid for cats, is also present at high levels in insects.⁵ Any naturally-occurring taurine is a great addition to your cat’s diet.

Margaret Gates is the founder of the Feline Nutrition Foundation.

1. Dun Wang, Shao Wei Zhai, Chuan Xi Zhang, Qiang Zhang, and Hui Chen, “Nutrition Value of the Chinese Grasshopper Acrida cinerea (Thunberg) for Broilers,” Animal Feed Science and Technology 135, May 2007, 66-74.
2. Dun Wang, Shao Wei Zhai, Chuan Xi Zhang, Yao Yu Bai, Shi Heng An, and Ying Nan Xu, “Evaluation on Nutritional Value of Field Crickets as a Poultry Feedstuff,” Asian-Australian Journal of Animal Sciences 18, 2005, 667-670.
3. Yi Chen and Roger D. Blue, “Ants Used as Food and Medicine in China,” Food Insects Newsletter 7, no. 2, July 1994.
4. Ellen S. Dierenfeld, Ph.D., Heather L. Alcorn, BS, and Krista L. Jacobsen, MS, “Nutrient Composition of Whole Vertebrate Prey (Excluding Fish) Fed in Zoos,” 2002.
5. R. Huxtable, “Physiological Actions of Taurine,” Physiological Reviews 72, 1992, 101-163.

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