Why do cats eat slugs and snails?
Your garden is filled with creepy crawlies that can awaken your cat’s inner predator. Despite being domesticated, felines are still obligate carnivores with a deep-rooted desire for hunting. But why do cats eat slugs? Simple answer—the mollusc's inherent sluggishness (pun intended) makes them easy prey!
While devouring slugs and snails can be considered instinctive feline behaviour, it’s also a potentially harmful habit. Common garden pests are a risky food choice for your pampered pet since they often carry parasites and other harmful substances.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent your feline friend’s slug-hunting expeditions. Let’s discuss some behavioural and dietary changes that could control your cat’s snacking habits and learn what to do if they get sick from eating a slug!
Can cats eat slugs?
Slugs are one of the most common garden pests that can wreak havoc on your newly sprouted basil. The slow-moving slimes are an easy target for pets, especially natural-born hunters like cats.
If you let your cat outside often, chances are they’ll snag a slug or two as they’re roaming the garden. Felines snack on insects (and insect-like creatures) to supplement their diets, i.e. when they get the munchies. Is it a habit you should encourage, or are there certain risks involved?
Slugs aren’t poisonous to cats, but they can carry lungworm parasites that cause health issues. When undetected, a lungworm infection can lead to both hospitalisation and death. The disease especially takes a toll on senior cats because of their slow metabolism and weakened immune response, but both kittens and adult cats are susceptible to infections.
Unlike other parasites, the only way to contract lungworm is to eat a slug or a snail, meaning indoor-only cats aren’t at risk. The infection can’t spread to other felines or the rest of the household. Also, not all slugs are contaminated, so don’t freak out if your cat ate one. Wait for the symptoms to appear, and then contact your vet.
If your cat has contracted lungworm, they’ll be prescribed a parasiticide and an antibiotic. The full-course treatment lasts for approximately ten days, after which your cat will be completely dewormed.
Symptoms of lungworm in cats
The more time your cat spends outside, the more likely they are to contract lungworm from a slug, especially if they’re a mouser breed like Maine Coon, Burmese, and Siamese cats. Some felines develop immunity against the disease, but it’s quite rare.
Lungworm is sometimes asymptomatic, which makes it difficult to notice. The symptoms are also similar to bronchial diseases or asthma, often resulting in a misdiagnosis.
If you suspect your cat ate a slug infected with lungworm, look out for the following symptoms:
- Respiratory issues (wheezing, heavy breathing, etc.)
- Blood in the urine or stool
- Nose bleeds
- Weight loss
Are slugs the only cause of parasites in cats?
Besides slugs and snails, other pests, most notably rodents, can infect your cat with various parasites. If your cat catches a diseased rat in the back garden, they can be exposed to Toxoplasmosis gondii. The parasite is extremely dangerous to pregnant cats and kittens, often leading to an untimely death.
Microbial pathogens are also present in raw food, such as unpasteurised milk, uncooked meat, and raw eggs. The most widespread foodborne parasites and bacteria are listed in the table below, along with the symptoms and sources:
Parasite or bacteria
Lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, constipation, appetite loss
Raw eggs, raw pork, contaminated breast milk (kittens)
Tapeworm (Taenia solium)
Raw pork, raw game
Vomiting, diarrhoea, reduced appetite
Breast milk (kittens), raw meat
Raw meat (pork, fish, beef, chicken, etc.), unpasteurised milk, raw eggs
Fever, lethargy, vomiting, weakness, diarrhoea, appetite loss, muscle stiffness
Raw meat (pork, fish, beef, chicken, etc.), unpasteurised milk, raw eggs
Can cats eat cooked snails?
Escargot may be a staple of French cuisine, but it has no place in your cat’s meal plan, and here’s why—the safest way to prepare snails is to cook them in garlic butter, and while that may sound divine, it’s not safe for cats.
While garlic is well-known for its antibacterial and anti-parasitic properties, allium veggies contain oxidants that attack the feline’s red blood cells, causing several health issues. Cats who eat garlic or garlic powder regularly can develop anaemia and chronic kidney disease, which is why you shouldn’t use it when preparing soap, broth, or any homemade meal for your pet.
If you remove the veggie from your recipe, both you and your cat are at risk of contracting lungworm. You could explore alternative preparation methods, like boiling the snails in water and ginger, but is it really worth the effort?
Besides being a potential health hazard, slugs and snails aren’t super nutritious to cats. While the overall protein content is solid (around 16 grams), snails also contain cholesterol and sodium, which serve no nutritional purpose. Chicken and fish are better protein sources and much easier to prepare!
Overall, there’s no proven health benefit for cats eating slugs or snails, cooked or otherwise.
First, their cats eat us, now they want to cook us? I’ll just ecar-go out of here!
Are slug baits poisonous to cats?
While pest control is the only way to protect your DIY kitchen garden from the slimy nuisances, they also pose a threat to all animals in the vicinity. Some slug baits contain metaldehyde, a highly toxic chemical lethal to cats, dogs, and wildlife.
Slug baits typically contain an aromatic substance, such as corn syrup or molasses to lure in the pests. The distinct smell can also attract the naturally curious cat, paving the road to disaster.
Felines don’t even need to ingest the slug bait directly to get metaldehyde poisoning. If your cat eats a snail that was previously exposed to pesticides, they will most likely fall ill. The chemical is so toxic that even the residue in slug mucus can cause health issues.
The symptoms can appear in mere minutes after contamination and include:
- Excessive salivation
- High fever
- Nystagmus (eyes flicking)
My cat ate a slug and is feeling sick—what should I do?
I’m feeling a little sluggish today, mum.
Source: Paul Hanaoka
Not all slugs are contaminated with pesticides or parasites. If you catch your cat eating one, make sure to monitor their behaviour in the following hours. A parasitic infection can be hard to diagnose at first, but it is entirely curable. After a full course on parasiticides, your cat will be as good as new.
In the case of metaldehyde poisoning, the symptoms will start almost immediately, and the repercussions are more serious. Metaldehyde can cause severe organ damage and respiratory failure in felines. If your cat has been exposed to the chemical, time is of the essence. Take your pet to the vet for an emergency check-up, or contact the Animal PoisonLine (APL) for guidance. Do not try to handle the situation yourself with home remedies or interventions of any kind.
Upon arrival, the vet will most likely induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to prevent the absorption of metaldehyde. Your cat will undergo a series of lab tests, including urine analysis, blood work, and abdominal X-rays to determine the extent of the damage. Unfortunately, cats who consume high amounts of the chemical can experience liver failure within days.
The best prevention method is to either use a pet-safe pest control product or limit your cat’s access to areas where metaldehyde is present.
How do I stop my cat from eating slugs?
If you want your cat to stop munching in the garden, you’ll have to distract their inner hunter!
If your cat is free to explore the great outdoors, you can never fully control what they eat. What you can do is influence their outdoor eating habits and behaviour by:
- Making sure they’re well-fed before going outside
- Distracting them with new flavours
- Letting them roam but keeping a close watch
Make sure your cat is well-fed before going outside
It’s possible your cat ate a slug because they were feeling peckish. Try timing the meals around their daily excursions (or vice versa) to soothe their killer instinct and stop them from snacking outside.
You may also be too stingy with the portions. Each cat has specific nutritional needs that determine how much and how often they should eat. An average adult cat can thrive on two large meals per day, while older cats benefit from multiple smaller servings.
Remember not to go overboard, though! You don’t want your cat to start gaining weight uncontrollably because it can lower their quality of life. Feline obesity is a precursor to many chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and joint deformity.
- Life stage
- Sterilisation status
- Overall health
Distract your feline companion with new flavours
Using complementary food to add variety to your cat’s diet may also prove effective. The new exciting flavours will hopefully replace their snail obsession. If your feline friend gets hooked on healthy snacks, they might not want to “eat out” as much.
What makes for a healthy cat treat? Since cats aren’t omnivorous animals, you can’t give them peanut butter and call it a day. As for off-the-shelf products, the tastes and textures are mostly similar, so there’s little room for variety.
Instead, give your cat fresh, bite-sized treats that bode well with their energy requirements and overall metabolism. Remember:
- Lean meat is always the best choice
- High-fibre fruits and veggies are good for the gut, especially for cats suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, but they should be served in moderation
Here are a few snack ideas, as well as a list of strictly forbidden foods:
Let your cat roam but keep a close watch
Cutting the time your cat spends outside is a double-edged sword. Sure, it’ll keep them safe, but it can also disrupt their routine and cause stress.
Cats are creatures of habit. If you let your pet move about ever since they were a kitten, you can’t turn them into a couch cat now.
Using restraints on your cat isn’t the best solution. Felines find wearing a harness or a collar uncomfortable, according to the RSPCA. Cats prefer to roam freely, so putting them on a leash can cause anxiety and depression, especially if they’re used to going out alone.
What you can do is:
- Secure the area around your house (e.g. use pet-safe pesticides, remove any dangerous substance you encounter, etc.)
- Limit their time outside to when you’re at home and able to supervise (if possible)
- Encourage them to stay close to home by giving them treats and playing with them
A well-balanced diet can stop your cat from snacking in the garden
If your cat is fully satiated from their meals, they’re less likely to hunt for food outside. A well-balanced diet will enable your pet to continue their daily outings while keeping their appetite in check.
Since felines are entirely carnivorous, they require high-protein, low-carb meals that sustain their metabolic functions and safeguard their gastrointestinal health. The ideal nutrient ratio for your feline’s biological needs is:
More than 50%
Up to 20%
Less than 3%
Nowadays, commercial cat food is designed to meet the specific nutritional needs of kittens, adults, and senior cats. You can also find specially formulated recipes for cats with chronic health conditions, such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes.
Wet food is high in moisture, protein, and amino acids while it also provides beneficial micronutrients, like zinc, selenium, magnesium, and vitamin B. Kibble might be more affordable, but it’s also heavily processed and dry, with only 10% moisture content. Regular servings of wet food combined with healthy treats are enough to satisfy your little hunter.
Some cats develop a preference for kibble, especially if it was the first food they tried during the weaning period, and that’s okay. Dry biscuits aren’t harmful to cats in moderate amounts. As long as your cat gets enough moisture, a mixed diet of wet and dry food is an acceptable solution.
Looking for nutrient-dense recipes? Untamed has you covered!
Take our online quiz and design a custom menu your cat won’t be able to resist! We offer a wide range of gravy and jelly delicacies that are bound to make them come around. Check out our most popular products:
- Chocka Chicken in Jelly—Extra moist chicken breasts soaked in jelly and light on the tummy
- Tuck-in Tuna in Jelly—Cruelty-free tuna simmered in jelly and hearty fish broth
- Chocka Chicken with Duck in Jelly—The ultimate poultry platter, high-quality chicken breast mixed with whole duck meat, served in jelly
- Tuck-in Tuna with Salmon in Jelly—Delicious whole meat tuna soaked in jelly and served with high-grade salmon fillet
- Chocka Chicken in Gravy—A delicious dish for the sensitive feline, made with shredded chicken breast and steamed in natural gravy
Is your cat getting bored with the same old dish every day? Try our amazing recipes and get your kitty’s appetite going!
Image (c) Untamed
Untamed—everything your cat needs in a meal
Instead of roaming the garden for slugs and bugs, your cat will be asking for seconds!
Image (c) Untamed
You can rest assured each Untamed meal is:
- Full of protein—The protein content in a single serving of Untamed food is twice the industry standard. We don’t use vegetables, meat derivatives, or other useless or harmful substances. Our feline delicacies are exclusively made with animal protein
- Made with whole meat—We use premium meat in our tasty and nourishing recipes. Each ingredient is of human-grade quality, and the final product is packed with bioavailable nutrients your cat needs to stay healthy
- Vet-formulated—Untamed recipes are vet-formulated to meet your cat’s unique biological needs. Besides being super nutritious, each meal is free of all known allergens and easy on the tummy
- Ethically produced—We stick to environmentally-conscious production means and work hard to maintain a neutral carbon footprint. All our products are made with sustainable ingredients and packed in recyclable materials
- Impossible to resist—Our delicious recipes are the antidote for bouts of fussiness! Once your picky eater gets a taste of our gourmet cat food, they’ll keep coming back for more
Our high-protein, meat-only diet will satisfy your cat's hunger while sustaining their metabolism. Here's an overview of certain health benefits our clients have noticed in their cats:
Within a week
After two months
Within four months
Become part of the Untamed clowder in a few simple steps
Once you become a member of the Untamed clowder, you can treat your cat to delicious and exciting meals every day! If you’d like to get a taster pack at a competitive price, go to our cat food store online and follow these easy steps:
- Click on our Try Now quiz
- Tell us about your cat (life stage, food preferences, diagnosed allergies)
- Review the suggested meal plan and confirm your order
We'll deliver your custom-made meal box within a day, with no additional shipping fees! If your cat approves of the chosen meal plan, we’ll send monthly supplies of Untamed.
You can always make changes to your cat food subscription or delivery specifications using your account! Let us know which products got the meow of approval, and we’ll include them in your monthly deliveries.
Check out our other guides to what cats can or cannot eat: