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Does my cat scare away roaches?
May 20, 2012 12:23 AM   Subscribe

Are roaches afraid of my cat?

I recently moved into an old row house in DC. I've seen a few roaches, though it doesn't seem to be anything serious. My cat has also seen them, and seems to enjoy stalking, and eating, them. I know this because she's vomited one up for me as a present.

So, does the presence of an alert cat wandering around keep roaches from roaming freely? I'm assuming they can all smell each other somehow.

Also, I know there are concerns about cats eating roaches because they're big walking hunks of poison and crap, but do cats *really* get sick and die from eating roaches? Should I prevent her from doing so? She's kind of bad ass and I think she enjoys the challenge.
posted by kinsey to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
 
My answer about aversion is: I do not know! but I can speak to the poison issue...

My apartment building in Lower Manhattan was old and RIFE with roaches. We sealed our apartment up well when we moved in - we still had visitors from time to time.

We had 3 cats, one was an EXPERT hunter.

No cats ever got sick!

When we first moved in and were painting and such, we had mice. Once the cats moved in, the mice were gone. So, they def sensed the cats and avoided our apartment.

Considering how bad the roach infestation was building-wide, for years I wondered why we never had more than one or two sightings per year of a single roach. Really.

Our landlord had an exterminator come by monthly to spray the baseboards and such. I did not allow this often because the chemicals freaked me out.

Either we did an excellent job of sealing our apartment against roaches when we moved in (doubtful, we were thinking about mice at the time we sealed stuff up) or, our cats were a natural deterrent.

My experience is that cats may play a part. I have no idea except to confirm to you that, seriously, back in the day I should have had a gigantic roach problem in an infested building, but I did not. And I had cats.

YMMV.
posted by jbenben at 12:51 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hopeful an entomologist can confirm this, but I'm not sure that roaches have the brain and intellect to experience what you could call "fear." I do know that roaches avoid bright light, so it may be more likely that the reason you haven't seen any is simply because you've got lights on for a good chunk of the day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:04 AM on May 20, 2012


The poisons used for roaches these days are pet-safe, generally, at least based on what the exterminator said. My cat is an expert bug hunter, which I appreciate because he alerts me to their presence and either kills them or chatters at them until I can get them.

Roaches sense movement and the vibrations of people/cats/etc. moving around.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:01 AM on May 20, 2012


I have both the wood roaches and the little ones...and it seems like they only run away from the cats after the cats start batting at them. They also act the same way when I try to kill them. Most of the time I notice the roach because the cats are both captivated by it but they often just sit and stare at it. Maybe their fight or flight response is geared towards escaping big things that are actively trying to squash them.

One night I had trouble sleeping because my cats brought to my attention a big roach that was hanging out in my apt and when I tried to kill it it instantly disappeared...somewhere. I spent the entire night wondering where it was.

Anyway, I never have the exterminators come in unless it's mandatory so I'm sure the cats help to an extent.
posted by fromageball at 6:06 AM on May 20, 2012


I don't think roach lifespans are long enough to have learned fear of any animal in particular. But I'm not an entomologist.

My cat is excellent at roach alert and roach incapacitating, so most of the time I only have to pick up dazed roaches rather than chasing a hale and healthy one around the house.

Unfortunately, I strongly suspect a certain amount of the roaches like that I find (possibly up to, say, 90%) are roaches the little shit has hunted outside and brought in himself, most likely beaming with pride. YAY CATS.
posted by TheRedArmy at 6:38 AM on May 20, 2012


We used to live in an apartment building in Northern Virginia that had a serious roach problem. The building would spray periodically, but it was an ongoing problem. My sister needed us to take care of her cat for while, due to housing issues. Once Jana became a resident, she systematically hunted any roach that would dare to come in the apartment. She particularly did this at night, hanging out in the kitchen where they tended to congregate (yes she ate them .... ugh) and we rarely had a roach in our apartment while she was living with us. I suspect she just was a great hunter, as opposed to the roaches learning to avoid the apartment. We worried a bit about the poison issue, but figured the live ones she was hunting and eating had probably not ingested much or any poison or they would have died before she got a chance to stalk them. She went back to my sister after a year, and lived to the age of 18, so it didn't seem to do her any harm. We figured it was win win since she found it fun and it sure helped eliminate the roaches (which nothing else had done). It did make me less than enthusiastic when she affectionately would lick us though.
posted by gudrun at 8:29 AM on May 20, 2012


Our cat Grover is a fantastic roacher. When we lived in Texas, where the waterbugs fly, he would eliminate them with extreme prejudice. So we rarely saw them in the living area. Still, we would occasionally find plastic food containers that the roaches had chewed through. So even though we never saw them, we knew the roaches were still there.
Since we moved to Colorado, Grover has moved on to mousing. I don't think that he finds it as much of a challenge.
posted by pickypicky at 8:54 AM on May 20, 2012


My cat sammy loved acting as pest control in Florida. He only puked them up when my roommate put out roach poison.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2012


I had a cat who was a terrific roach hunter. She didn't eat the legs, so that was kind of disconcerting. Not all cats learn to hunt. It helps if they were raised by a mother cat who liked to hunt.
posted by theora55 at 12:29 PM on May 20, 2012


Hey! No portraits of awesome roach hunters?!
*cries*
posted by likeso at 3:58 PM on May 20, 2012


Wow, I'm surprised no one brought up the connection between cats eating roaches and tapeworms. We had a kitten that was a fearless roacher, and she wound up being so full of tapeworms she practically bounced. *shudder* In addition to tapeworms, there are other ickys that transmit to cats. Full scale all out flamewar on roaches, and get your cat to the vet for a fecal exam.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:06 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


We never had a tapeworm problem with the indoor cat roach hunter. Our indoor/outdoor cats had more issues with tapeworms, periodically, which we assumed was from fleas or eating birds, etc.. outside.
posted by gudrun at 7:16 PM on May 21, 2012


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