It can be easy to forget that our beloved pet cats are in fact very accomplished hunters. All it takes however is a fly or another insect to appear on the scene for them to demonstrate just how good their skills really are. And let’s not even talk about the chirping at birds and the mad look in their eyes they get!
While we will certainly appreciate our felines lending a paw and helping get rid of any pestilential flies, the one thing we need to ask ourselves is can they actually eat a fly? Don’t flies carry all kinds of diseases?
Can Cats Eat Flies?
Yes, cats can eat flies, as they are not essentially harmful. Only if the fly is carrying a disease or has been exposed to harmful pesticides can they cause harm to your cat. Other than that, the fly is just another source of protein.
You will of course never be able to tell where a fly has been prior to coming into contact with your cat. You won’t know if it’s full of parasites that can be harmful. Eating a diseased fly can upset your cat’s stomach, or it can lead to the development of a disease.
Your best course of action is to try to prevent your cat from eating any of the flies they have caught (which they may not particularly like, but don’t worry, cats don’t hold grudges). If you notice they have managed to wolf one down before you could stop them, monitor their behavior and take them to the vet if anything seems amiss.
If you know your cat is a particularly accomplished hunter, and you get a lot of flies in your area, consider installing screen doors, or using pet-friendly pesticides in your garden and home.
Why Do Cats Eat Flies?
Cats remain predators, no matter how domesticated they become. Their instinct to hunt will stay alive, no matter how well you feed them. When they spot prey, in this case a fly, they will pounce.
In the wild, cats will eat anything they can get their paws on that is rich in protein. While flies may not be too high on that list, they will still attract the attention of a smaller wild cat.
In the home, the same principles apply: prey is still prey. Since cats are much less likely to come across a mouse or other rodent, they will satisfy the hunter inside by pouncing on anything that flies.
Cats will hunt flies even when they have had plenty to eat, as the action is not really driven by hunger. They need to keep their skills sharp, as they will need to survive should they for any reason be separated from the hand that feeds them.
Hunting is also a great mental stimulus for your feline, and it will improve their paw-eye coordination. Don’t ever try to prevent your cat from hunting, it’s a part of who they are.
In fact, if your cat goes outside, don’t be surprised if they bring back larger dead prey as well. Our cat Felix used to bring us semi-dead birds on a regular basis. And Sasha, the little devil, loves to play with scrunched up envelopes, which she proudly carries around the house in her mouth, showing off her catch. She looks just like the world’s deadliest cat with them.
Why Do Cats Play With Flies Before Killing Them?
Like all hunters, cats need to develop their skills. When they play with their prey before killing it, they are just practicing their technique.
Some cats won’t even eat the fly they have killed, as they are full and prefer the food you are already giving them. They will however rarely fail to catch the fly, and will often stun it before releasing it, and catching it again. While this may seem cruel to us, it’s completely logical from a cat’s perspective.
Have you ever seen a mother cat teaching her offspring how to hunt? Kittens will practice and test their abilities with each other while they are young. Flies are a great sparring partner at any age, as they move very erratically, have wings and are small and feisty. No cat will give up the opportunity to test out their abilities with it.
Hunting is essential for a cat’s wellbeing. Without it, they will become bored and sluggish, which can lead to all kinds of behavioral problems. As cats get older, they may prefer to lounge around and sleep, but even then they need their exercise. Having them chase after imaginary prey (a toy, a laser, a sock, a ball), is highly beneficial.
Can Eating Flies Make Cats Sick?
Yes, cats can get sick from eating flies, especially if the fly was a carrier of a disease. In most cases, they should be fine within 24 hours, but if they are not, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
If your cat has an upset stomach after eating a fly, offer them plenty of water and some wet food. They should be fine on their own quite soon. If they keep vomiting or have diarrhea for longer than a day, take them to the vet to make sure they have not been infected by something.
If your cat has difficulty breathing, is losing its balance or there is saliva dripping from their mouth, take them to the vet immediately, as they may have been poisoned by an insecticide the fly has been exposed to.
Can Cats Get Worms From Eating Flies?
Yes, cats can get worms from eating flies. Both Tapeworms and Physaloptera can be contracted by eating flies.
It’s important that you deworm your cat regularly, even if they are an indoor pet, especially if they eat flies on occasion.
Can Flies Lay Eggs On Cats?
Yes, flies can lay eggs on cats, especially if there is an open wound they can gain access to. This is however more common in stray cats than in house pets.
The common house fly deposits its eggs in animal wounds. Any bite or scratch wound on a cat is thus a potential target. Maggots will be born from these eggs and start spreading around the wound, infecting the surrounding tissue.
If your cat has any kind of wound, make sure it is kept as clean as possible, and monitor how it heals.
Can a Cat Get Sick From Eating Fly Eggs?
Yes, cats can get sick from eating fly eggs. They may contract anything from myiasis to salmonella and E.coli, or develop an allergic reaction.
Myiasis is a parasitic infection, contracted from maggots. While uncommon in urban areas, it can still occur in extreme heat, especially in stray animals. It will cause stomach upsets, vomiting and diarrhea.
Fly eggs can also be infected with salmonella or E. coli. Both will cause gastrointestinal issues, but there may also be fever, tremors or bleeding.
Cats that have allergies or asthma can also experience worsening of their symptoms when eating fly eggs.
Should I Worry If My Cat Ate a Fly?
If your cat only eats the occasional fly, there is no immediate cause for concern. If they however eat a lot of flies, you should do your best to stop them.
A single fly is unlikely to cause any issues, but a large number of flies will lead to gastrointestinal trouble, like vomiting and diarrhea. A cat may also contract a variety of diseases by eating numerous infected flies, so do what you can to prevent it.
What Can Happen If a Cat Eats Flies?
Cats can get vomiting and diarrhea when eating flies, or they may be exposed to different bacteria or insecticides. In most cases, they will be just fine though.
If your cat has eaten a fly for the first time, their stomach may be surprised by the unknown meal. This may lead to vomiting or diarrhea, but the cat should recover very quickly.
If the fly your cat has eaten has been exposed to an insecticide, it may affect them too. They can again experience an upset stomach, or they may start to lose their balance or even get tremors. Consider this a medical emergency.
If the fly has been infected with a bacteria or other pathogen, they may transmit it to your cat as well.
How to Prevent Your Cat from Eating Flies
There are several things you can do to prevent your cat from eating flies. Note that you may never be able to stop them from hunting and killing them though. They should however leave them dead on the ground.
- Provide quality meals: if your cat gets all the nutrients they need and actually enjoys their meals, chances are they will not eat the flies they catch.
- Install screen doors and windows: they will prevent insects from entering your home, so your cat will have nothing to hunt.
- Use pet-safe insecticides around your home: they will kill any flies in your garden or home.
- Don’t leave food lying around: flies are attracted by bits of food. Don’t leave anything on the table or counter, and regularly take your trash out. This will prevent flies from congregating in your home in the first place.
Wrapping It Up
Your cat, no matter how cute and cuddly, is still a hunter at its core. Hunting flies is just a part of their genetic makeup. Don’t be alarmed if they eat the occasional fly, but do your best to prevent the annoying insects from getting into your home in the first place.
Get your cat some interactive toys and play hunter and prey with them as often as you can to satisfy their hunting instincts.