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How to Keep Ants Out of Cat Food (Quick & Simple Vet-Approved Tips)

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

ants in cat food bowl

How to Keep Ants Out of Cat Food (Quick & Simple Vet-Approved Tips)


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Ants! Ugh! They can get into anything, and annoyingly, they seem to love your cat’s food. If you see one ant, there’s going to be more, and the last thing your cat wants to do is eat their food with ants crawling on it. You obviously can’t spray a pesticide all over their eating area, so what are your options?

Let’s look at some steps you can take to help stop ants from going after your cat’s food. All of our suggestions are safe for your cat and everyone in your household.

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How to Keep Ants Out of Cat Food

1. Storage

This is an obvious one. Any opened bags of cat food that you have should be stored in a plastic container with a lid. You can either empty the food directly into the bin or place the entire bag inside, but either way, you’ll protect the food from ants with this method.

2. Clean Up

Ants are drawn to crumbs of food (given their tiny size, this seems only natural), so if you have a problem with ants, you’ll need to keep your cat’s food bowl and the area around it clean. Wash the bowls with detergent and water at least once a day, and vacuum (or sweep up) around the bowls after your cat eats, especially if they’re a messy eater. Consider including a mat or tray under your cat’s bowls, as this makes regular cleaning much easier.

Ants leave pheromones for other ants to let them know when there’s a food source nearby. This is why when you see a few ants, you will start to see more after a short period of time. Frequently cleaning the bowls will help to wash away not just the crumbs of food but also the pheromones.

You can use lemon, bleach, vinegar, or an enzymatic spray as part of the area’s cleaning process, which can help deter ants and remove the pheromone trails. When your cat has finished the food in the bowl, you could also remove it from the floor.

3. Create a Border

Tabby cat sitting in front of a emty food dish and looking to the camera
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

Certain kinds of material can be placed around your cat’s food bowl that will prevent ants from crossing the line.

  • Chalk: You can draw a circle around your cat’s food bowl with chalk, and weirdly enough, ants won’t want to walk across it. Only use non-toxic chalk that does not contain any pigments. If chalk has any extra minerals or chemicals added, it could prove toxic for your cat.
  • Soap: Just like with the chalk, you can “draw” a perimeter around your cat’s plate using a bar of natural castile soap. This should interrupt the ants’ scent trail and keep them away. Keep in mind that you can put a number of other materials around your cat’s bowl that will deter ants, such as cinnamon and cayenne pepper. However, these substances will also put off your cat from their food, as these are also commonly used by people trying to prevent stray cats from coming into their gardens and yards. Moreover, cayenne pepper could end up irritating your cat.

Keep in mind that you can put a number of other materials around your cat’s bowl that will deter ants, such as coffee grounds, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. However, these substances will also put off your cat from her food as they are also commonly used by people trying to prevent stray cats from coming into their gardens and yards.

4. Build a Moat

Building a moat around your cat’s bowl is an easy and guaranteed safe method to prevent ants from reaching the food.

Steps to create your moat:

1. Start by finding a container that is large enough to hold your cat’s food bowls. This could be a cake pan (or two cake pans, if that’s all you have, and you have two separate cat food bowls) or even a roasting tray. Aluminum roasting pans are inexpensive and easy to find, probably even in your local dollar store.

  • Of course, you can always buy one specially designed for just this purpose.
  • The food bowls should fit inside the tray with at least 1 inch between the edge of the bowl and tray. However, it shouldn’t be much larger than this—your cat won’t appreciate needing to stretch or putting her feet in the water to get to her food.

2. Fill the container or tray with water. The water level needs to be just high enough to deter the ants but not so high as to swamp your cat’s food. Ants aren’t strong swimmers, so they won’t be able to make it to the food bowl.

3. Now you can place the bowls in the water container. Remember, if the container is on the large side, move the bowl so it is about 1 inch from the container’s edge so your cat can easily reach it.

  • If the bowl is too short for the water container, place it on some kind of platform or block to raise it up to above the edge of the container.

4. Keep an eye on the water. Empty it and refresh it regularly to remove any dead ants and spilled food. It will also need occasional refilling due to evaporation.

5. The longer you keep this procedure going (if it works for you and your cat), the less the ants will start going after your cat’s food.

cat bowl in a moat
Image Credit: pedphoto36pm, Shutterstock

5. Try Ultrasonic Repellents

Ultrasonic pest repellents emit a sound at a high frequency that only pests can hear. They are designed to work for mice, ants, cockroaches, and spiders and don’t involve dangerous chemicals or unpleasant scents. They usually have mixed reviews, though, and seem to be hit or miss for many users. You will also have to keep a close eye on your cat to ensure that the sound does not disturb them to the point that they avoid their meals.

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A Few Warnings

Many articles out there on this topic discuss using essential oils around or on your cat’s food bowl as a way to deter ants. This is actually very unsafe for your cat! If a cat were to accidentally lick up some essential oil, it could cause a serious and fatal reaction. Since this is around the location where your cat eats, the chances of them accidentally ingesting the essential oil increase. Moreover, cats can become intoxicated without ingestion and simply due to the oils’ direct contact with their skin. Cats and essential oils do not mix!

Many essential oils have a scent that is not only off-putting to ants but also to your cat, so you may actually prevent your cat from eating.

Before you place any kind of material or substance near your cat’s bowl, try researching it first so you will feel comfortable using it. You certainly don’t want to accidentally harm your cat by trying to protect their food from ants.

Removing the Ants

When you do remove ants from your home, be sure to dispose of the ants and any contaminated food and remove the bag from the house. This way, the ants will be less likely to crawl out and get back at your cat’s food.<

Ensure that your cat food, as well as all uncovered food, is placed in airtight containers. If you ever notice ants marching across your floor in a long line, use bleach, lemon, vinegar, or enzymatic cleaners, and wipe across that surface to disrupt the pheromones.

Try to seal up any crevices and cracks in your walls, and ensure that the area around your cat’s food is regularly cleaned to prevent these tiny critters from being attracted by the food.

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Remember, strong scents that are designed to repel ants might also repel cats, so do your homework before resorting to this method. While having ants crawling on our cats’ food, is an unwelcome infestation, we also want to keep our cats safe.

We hope our suggestions and ideas will help clear up all ants from your cat’s food as well as out of your kitchen and home.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: Pee Poti, Shutterstock

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