Ants are annoying pests, and keeping them out of your home can be difficult, especially in the spring and summer. From getting into food to crawling into the bathroom, having bugs around is unpleasant enough to send most people running for ant-killer. But, if you have a cat, the usual ant-control methods can be dangerous and even toxic to your pet.
The Problem with Ant-Control Products
Many insecticides, such as those used in ant baits, contain attractants like butter or peanut butter, which cats cannot resist. While the bait dosage is likely too low to cause long-term damage, they can cause an upset stomach. A larger danger is that your cat will ingest part of the plastic or cardboard container, causing a blockage. Traditional sprays and repellents can be toxic to your pets. Instead, focus on preventative efforts to keep ants from coming into your home in the first place. If bugs still find a way to invade, use natural methods to keep them at bay and protect your home and cat.
Cat-safe Alternatives for Ant Control
- Prevention is the best cure. Keep kitchen and dining areas scrupulously free of food, including dishes in the sink. Wipe up all water spills and repair any dripping faucets.
- Store your food carefully. Put all of your shelf-stable food in airtight containers. Cereal boxes, pasta boxes and other cardboard containers are too easy for bugs to infiltrate. Use plastic or glass containers with a seal.
- Create your own ant trap. Combine 1/3 cup molasses or honey, six tablespoons of sugar, and six tablespoons of active dry yeast. Put it in a container such as a canning jar, and punch holes in the top. Place the trap outside the house near the ants' entry point. The ants will be tempted by the sugar content but will be trapped in the mixture due to its consistency.
- Draw a chalk line around the foundation perimeter. Ants generally won't cross the line.
- Find the location where ants are entering your house. Outside of that point, sprinkle cinnamon, cucumber peels, or lemon juice, all of which are natural ant repellents. Sprinkling paprika, coffee grinds or chili pepper can also be an effective ant deterrent. The spice of those herbs is repugnant to ants.
- Keep ants out of your cat's food: Put the food dish on a larger plate or flat pan filled with water. Drop one or two drops of liquid dishwashing detergent on the surface of the water. The soap will break the surface tension, preventing the ants from walking on water. As cats tend to be picky about what water they drink, the smell of the detergent should keep them from taking a sip. If they have fresh water available, it shouldn't be a problem.
- Locate the source. Follow the trail of ants to find out where they are coming in. There may be a small hole or gap in the wall or floor. Once you identify the area, caulk or fill the hole to keep any more bugs from sneaking in.