Slugs are often quite active after rainfall or overnight, and that means that cats who are roaming in the early mornings or checking things out after a rain may come into contact with them.
And since cats often supplement their diet with bugs, gulp can go the slug! (Now there’s a slightly revolting image for you. You’re welcome).
Disgusting thought aside, however, should you be worried about your cat eating slugs and try to dissuade them from doing it?
Can cats eat slugs?
Short answer: While slugs themselves aren’t really very harmful, they can be hosts for both poisons (namely slug deterrents) and lungworms. A slug’s mucus can also cause a cat to drool or vomit. All in all, we wouldn’t really recommend that cats eat slugs and so it’s a good idea to not let your cat out until they’ve moved on (usually later in the day) or find a safe way to repel them, without the use of poison that your cat can also get into.
Do Cats Like Slugs?
Bugs often make up a decent portion of a wild cat’s diet, so it’s not uncommon for domesticated cats to eat them too. (My young cat loves to eat daddy long legs, for example, but turns her nose up at houseflies).
For many cats who are outdoors regularly, slugs are just another bug to be part of the menu, and an easy-to-get one at that. It’s not something we humans would probably want to eat (or even watch a cat eating), but for a cat, they’re an easy source of protein.
Do Cats Hate Slugs?
Some cats probably will turn their nose up at eating slugs. (I can’t picture my old cat doing it for example – she has never shown an interest in eating bugs).
If they are well fed by their owners, it’s less likely that they will go after slugs and other bugs. It’s mostly going to come down to a personality thing and whether your cat is hungry and/or curious when they find a slug.
Will Eating Slugs Kill My Cat?
It’s not the slug that will likely cause damage to a cat – after all, they’re just a bug and cats have evolved to eat bugs.
But slugs have two massive dangers for cats: they are regularly poisoned by gardeners and if a cat eats a poisoned slug, they themselves can get poisoned, and slugs are carriers for parasites, mainly the rat lungworm which can cause a lot of damage to cats (and to anyone or anything else that eats an infested slug).
The first big problem that can come up is when a cat eats poisoned slugs. Many gardeners put down poison to kill slugs because slugs eat their plants.
However, a lot of the time, the slug doesn’t die right away and so can run across a cat which eats the slug. Eating one poisoned slug probably won’t do much, but the poison builds up over time. Most slug poison is made up of metaldehyde which is poisonous to cats.
Signs of toxicity in a cat include:
- Raised temperature
- Muscle tremors/seizures
- Racing heart
These symptoms can appear merely hours after a cat ingests anything with metaldehyde, which includes slugs, but also a lot of slug poisons.
The best way to prevent this is to use pet-friendly slug poisons in your garden and avoid anything with metaldehyde. Iron-phosphate products are better because they still kill the slugs but are less likely to be appealing for cats to eat. You can also use slug traps.
The other serious problem with slugs is that they carry parasites. The main parasite that can cause serious problems for cats is the lungworm.
This is a worm that usually lives in snails, frogs, and slugs, but can be passed from there, to anything that eats said slug, usually cats or birds (and then the cat eating the bird can contract the worms).
Usually, this isn’t a human problem, although there was a case of a human eating a slug and then getting paralyzed by lungworm in his brain. Now there’s a horror story for you this Halloween.
Lungworm is a parasite that lives in the airways and arteries of the lungs. When they live in cats, they can cause severe damage to the lungs and lead to life-threatening respiratory diseases, especially in kittens, older cats, and cats who have a weak immune system.
Lungworm can be hard to detect though because not all cats show signs of infection, but cats who are outdoors are more likely to contract it. (Indoor only cats can too though! Usually, because the slugs came in.)
Signs of lungworm infection include:
- Wheezing and sniffing
- Persistent coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Open-mouth breathing
- Weight loss
There are, fortunately, fairly effective treatments for lungworm and by reducing your cat’s exposure to the carriers of them (like slugs and frogs), you can help to protect your cat.
How Many Slugs Can My Cat Eat?
Given the risks of lungworm and secondary poisoning, cats probably shouldn’t eat any slugs at all – it’s not something you want to encourage anyway.
But if your cat managed to eat one, keep an eye on them for the day to make sure they aren’t showing signs of being poisoned, and then try to dissuade slugs from your cat’s usual patrol routes by using slug traps or iron-phosphate poison.
You can also try to keep your cat indoors overnight, early in the morning, and in the evening so that they are less likely to run across a slimy snack.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to keep an eye on your cat at all times and you never quite know what they are going to eat behind your back!
Keeping your cat fed with good cat food and mentally stimulated with toys, games, and perches can reduce the chances that your cat will want to hunt and eat slugs which is probably the best protection of all. If they don’t want to eat slugs, they won’t eat them, and then you don’t have to worry about it.
Does your cat eat slugs? I think my cats wouldn’t know what to do with one!
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.