Q: My indoor-outdoor cats are fascinated by the cicadas buzzing around our backyard. If one of my cats actually manages to catch and eat one, will it cause any problems?
Are cicadas a safe snack for pets?
Yes, in moderation. Cicadas are not toxic to dogs or cats. While they may be fright-inducing insects, they are technically safe to eat and high in protein. These creepy-crawlies don’t sting or bite, despite their shrill buzzing sound effects. They are virtually harmless and don’t have much of a defense system to avoid being eaten by their predators.
The average cicada life cycle lasts about six weeks, which means there likely will be plenty of exoskeletons for your curious cat or dog to investigate. The only potential problem is over-indulgence, which may cause stomach upset that should resolve on its own rather quickly.
Although eating one or two cicadas could give your pet a small boost of protein, there can be negative side effects if your pet eats too many. Indigestion or gastrointestinal issues are the first two that come to mind. Cicada exoskeletons can be difficult to digest, which may result in a visit to the veterinarian. They can also be abrasive to the pet’s stomach lining, which might cause vomiting or diarrhea.
Some humans even dip cicadas in chocolate and eat them. Just remember, chocolate is toxic to pets, so your cats should enjoy their cicadas au natural. If your pet has a craving for cicadas, and you're worried about the aforementioned side effects, here are some ways to prevent a medical accident:
Monitor their time outdoors. If your pet is used to being outside alone, be vigilant and watch for any signs of cicadas in the backyard. Their echoing buzz is usually enough of a clue that these insects have taken up residence in your yard.
Keep pets on a leash. During hikes and walks, keep your companion on a leash so that it won’t accidentally stick its nose into a cicada community. It might not be pleasant for them, or you!
Avoid areas with large cicada concentrations. Cicadas tend to congregate in wooded parks or large green spaces, usually with trees. Opt for a paved trail instead.
Be aware of cicada predators. Rats and snakes are the main cicada predators. If your pet has taken a likening to the insects, be aware of any other unwanted visitors.
Teach the “leave it” command. If you don’t want to risk a stomach injury, teach your dog to drop unapproved items from its mouth.
Cats and dogs are often attracted to objects (or insects) on the ground — especially ones they can eat. The hunger is real! However, you can get ahead of the game by being mindful of cicada cycles and their effects on our fur babes. If you’re aware of the issue, you and your pup are sure to have a safer summer.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.