Do Cats Hunt Cockroaches? (The Reasons Why)


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Cockroaches are a severe issue in the United States. In fact, as of April 21, 2021, 14 million housing units had a cockroach problem or signs of one. While there are many extermination options to rid homes of these pests, many cat owners consider allowing their feline companions to handle them, similar to mice. But do cats hunt cockroaches?

Most cats will hunt cockroaches if the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes cats will play with their cockroach prey rather than kill them.  Whether a cat actually hunts the cockroach depends on its cat breed, temperament, health, current diet, and hunger levels.

Although cockroach hunting is not a habit for cats, it’s worth knowing whether they should at all and whether or not it’s a sign of something more serious. Read on to learn the ins and outs of cats and their bug-based tendencies.

If you wonder what the best products are for your cat, check out this article that will break down all my recommendations for you: Things To Buy For A Cat Right Now!

Do Cats Hunt Cockroaches?

While cats are carnivores of opportunity and will often hunt and kill smaller animals, birds, and bugs, the temperament and how well fed your cat is will ultimately determine whether they will hunt and play with, kill, or eat cockroaches in their household.

Domestic cats will spend, on average, three hours a day hunting, but feral cats can spend up to 12. Cats will begin hunting before they get hungry because they typically work alone and risk starvation before they catch something if they wait. Without this need, though, there is no telling how much a cat will hunt.

If a domestic cat hunts cockroaches or bugs directly after eating their cat food, it may be because their diet does not contain enough protein—a must for obligate carnivores.

Domestic cats also hunt because they were made to and still have those genes and urges. Unfortunately, not every cat has a strong enough drive to look for roaches, and often a perfectly well-fed cat will play with the cockroach instead of killing it, especially when there is no real reason to do so.

Cat and Cockroach

Do All Cats Hunt Cockroaches?

Not all cats eat cockroaches, but ones that do have various reasons for doing so. For example, kittens sometimes eat cockroaches because they’re curious. However, adult cats will typically do it because:

  • They’re bored. Cats will hunt anything smaller than them, and an under-stimulated cat is just looking for something to chase.
  • It’s fun. Hunting a small insect or animal is much more engaging than a feather toy or laser pointer. Additionally, if your cat’s preferred prey is not around, they may settle for a bug instead.
  • They’re anemic. A cat that regularly seeks out cockroaches, especially just after eating, may be anemic and eating odd things to make up for what their diet lacks. Cockroaches are relatively high in protein.  
  • They have PICA. PICA is a compulsory eating disorder found in both cats and humans, which causes them to seek out and eat non-edible things, such as dirt, paint, leaves, wool, paper, and elastic. While cockroaches are edible to cats, they are not typically a part of a healthy diet so cats may seek them out as well.
  • Instincts told them to. Cats are obligate carnivores who spend much of their time hunting when feral. Domestic cats still have all of those genes and often feel the need to use those skills.

If you notice your cat consistently eating or hunting roaches, look for other signs of PICA or anemia, take them to the vet for testing, and look into cat enrichment strategies. All three problems have more apparent signs, so it is probably fine if hunting cockroaches is the only abnormal behavior. However, you should always check with your vet.

Is it Safe for Cats to Eat Cockroaches?

It is mostly safe to let cats hunt cockroaches, but I would not let your cat eat cockroaches. Eating cockroaches may increase the risk of harm to your cat. Common issues for cockroach-hunting cats are:

Carapace

These bugs are classified as insects, meaning they have a hard exoskeleton—scientifically referred to as the “carapace”—instead of an internal bone structure. If the cat fails to break up this carapace enough, the bug can get stuck and choke the cat.

Because the most common infestation roaches—the German and brown-banded varieties—are much smaller than their American cousins, a cat may assume they do not need to chew as much as they should. However, even if the cat does chew enough, those exoskeletons can irritate the throat and digestive tract.

Chemicals

While most chemicals are not carried by roaches in high enough amounts to hurt cats, herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, and some flea-killers require very little to cause problems. A typical chemical of this nature is zinc phosphide, used in pesticides.

Even if the cat’s owner avoids using non-animal-safe chemicals, there is no guarantee that their neighbor(s) will do the same. This is especially an issue in apartment buildings, where cockroaches will move between apartments if the exterminator only treats currently infested apartments.

While the chance of any of this becoming an issue for your cat is pretty low, it does happen. Therefore, whenever you spot a German or Brown-banded cockroach in your house, you should immediately make sure your cat is properly vaccinated. It would be best if you also researched toxic and non-toxic pest control options, such as sticky traps and bug bombs, which are only dangerous within a specific time frame.

Diseases

The risk of your cat getting ill from one or two cockroaches is very small, but the chance increases significantly if your cat regularly hunts bugs.

Cockroaches have been known to transmit several diseases by tracking bacteria and germs to places that pets and humans frequent. Cockroach feces increases the chance of this happening, and it is an allergen to both people and animals.

Misidentification

While cockroaches are relatively well known, their average appearance means they are often mistaken for other bugs such as crickets, palmetto bugs, water bugs, beetles, etc. Additionally, baby German cockroaches (already a severe problem) look a lot like bed bugs. If an owner misidentifies a poisonous bug as a cockroach, they and their cat can seriously suffer. 

What Pet will Eat Cockroaches?

Suppose you want to use a living method of cockroach control. In that case, your best bet is to get an animal that already has cockroaches as a regular part of its diet, such as lizards and turtles, although you would need to let your reptile have free reign of your home to do that job, which can be dangerous for it.

Cats should not be used to hunt cockroaches and other bugs; technically, no animal should be used for this.

For one, there is unlikely to be enough bugs for an indoor cat to survive off hunting without serious issues, so they would have to be left outside, although they are then at a greater risk of being hurt or killed.

However, even this method has a low chance of success because cats prefer birds, small mammals, and occasionally lizards to cockroaches. Letting the cat outside to hunt also negates using the cat as pest control in the first place.

The best option for pest control is deep cleaning your home, repeatedly spraying or changing out traps, and keeping all food in cockroach-proof containers.

Conclusion

While cats can and will hunt cockroaches for fun and sometimes by necessity, they do not typically hunt bugs, and the activity is relatively, but not entirely, safe.  Personally, I would stop my cat from hunting roaches because it may get sick by eating a roach.

If your cat hunts more than the occasional cockroach, look for signs of a problem in their diet or health. If you notice an infestation of cockroaches (Brown-banded, German, and occasionally Oriental), act immediately to ensure you do not have a bug problem. In addition, ensure your cat is fully vaccinated and not allergic to cockroaches or their feces.

If you enjoyed this article, please check out a few more:

  • Will a Maine Coon Kill Chickens? Best Reasons Why:  Click Here.
  • Do Stray Cats Kill Kittens? Rare Cat Murder:  Click Here.
  • Do Cats Hunt Moles? Fascinating Answers:  Click Here.

Here are some of my favorite cat products

In addition to checking out some other More Meows articles, I hope you’ll check out some of my favorite cat products as well.  These are affiliate links, so if you end up using them, I’ll get a commission at no extra cost to you.  These are the products I really do find most helpful.

Litter Box:  I started out with normal, traditional litter boxes for my cat.  Then, I tried this automatic litter box on Amazon (affiliate link), which helped reduce the litter upkeep.  Finally, I am now a believer in the Litter-Robot 3 Connect on Amazon (affiliate link).  This robotic litter box is not for everyone based on the price tag, but for me the benefits (very little upkeep, works efficiently, clean, mobile app) far outweighed the cost. 

My Cat’s Litter-Robot 3 Connect (with night light on) – See the link above the photo!

Cat Tree:  I have purchased a couple of this Amazon Basics Cat Tree on Amazon (affiliate link).  My cat spends a lot of time on and around this cat tree, which I position near my sofa.  She uses the scratching posts on this cat tree multiple times a day, which means she is not scratching the sofa instead.

Cat Water Fountain:  I love this cat water fountain on Amazon (affiliate link).  There are three main benefits to having a water fountain like this for your cat.  The first benefit is that it keeps water running so that my cat doesn’t need to drink still water.  The second benefit is that it filters the water.  The third benefit is that my cat uses it – keeping my cat hydrated is important.

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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