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Is Insect-Based Cat Food a Healthy Choice? (2023 Update)

Cat eating cat food in bowl_Sweetlouise_Pixabay

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Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

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Insect-based pet food is a relatively recent trend to use insects rather than livestock for the protein in pet food. This might seem kind of gross to you, but our pets don’t mind eating a bug or two.

There are many advantages of switching your cat to insect-based cat food, but there are a few issues that you should be aware of too. Here, we discuss the pros and cons of insect-based cat food so you can decide whether to give it a try.

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What Is Insect-Based Cat Food?

Many cultures around the world regularly eat bugs as part of a healthy diet, which is considered natural and normal because insects are quite nutritious.

Keep in mind, though, that when you give your cat insect-based food, it isn’t like pouring a pile of dead bugs into your cat’s bowl. The bugs are ground up and baked and formed into the same kind of kibble that you’re used to seeing.

There are several pet food companies in different parts of the world that manufacture this type of food.

tabby cat sitting next to a food plate_Veera_shutterstock
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

The Advantages of Insect-Based Cat Food

There are definite advantages to giving your cat this kind of food!

Humane

Using insects instead of livestock can help ease the conscience of anyone struggling with the ethics of slaughtering animals for cat food. There’s also the ethics of how livestock are sometimes kept, which can be highly stressful for the animals.

Most companies using insects will treat the insects humanely. Many keep the insects in an environment that closely resembles their own in the natural world and only harvest them once they’ve reached the end of their lifespan.

Sustainability

If you’re at all environmentally conscious, insect-based cat food is quite a sustainable practice, particularly in comparison to traditional agricultural practices. Agricultural farming uses vast amounts of water, land, and energy, in addition to creating pollution that contributes to greenhouse gases.

Insect farming uses much fewer resources and produces no methane or ammonia.

Insect-based cat food has a much smaller ecological footprint.

Cute kitten eating dry cat food
Featured Image Image Credit: AlexanderDubrovsky, Shutterstock

Hypoallergenic

Some cats experience issues with food allergies and sensitivities. Many of these food allergies are typically caused by the protein source in their food. It’s typically beef, chicken, dairy, and fish that trigger food allergies in pets.

Cats are obligate carnivores, so they require animal protein in order to thrive and survive. Since cats can’t live on a vegetarian diet, novel proteins need to be used, such as venison, buffalo, and of course, insects.

Insect-based cat food is an excellent source of protein and is entirely hypoallergenic. This food is also a great option as part of an elimination diet when you and your vet are trying to figure out what is causing your cat’s allergies.

Protein and Nutrients

Insects are a natural source of protein, and they are also full of nutrients. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, but the kind of nutrients that you get will depend on the insect. For example, crickets are high in taurine, which is excellent for heart and brain development.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has stated that insect protein is no different from other traditional protein sources, such as chicken, fish, pork, and beef. In some cases, the insect protein can be even higher than these sources — certain kinds of bugs can be at least 60% higher in protein!

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Is Insect-Based Cat Food a Healthy Choice?

Now, as far as whether insect-based food is a healthy choice for your cat, the answer is a definite yes, at least for most cats. If your cat has been put on a specialized diet prescribed by your vet for any health conditions, you’ll need to speak to your vet before trying this food.

Most companies that produce insect-based pet food are doing so because of the sustainability aspects and try to create food that is full of whole and natural ingredients. They also typically use natural sources as preservatives and flavors. Many companies also have a veterinarian on board to help with the formulations.

Cat Eating Wet Food
Image Credit: meineresterampe, Pixabay

Disadvantages of Insect-Based Cat Food

For all the fantastic advantages that insect-based pet food has, there are several disadvantages too.

Not Approved

Only in some parts of the world has insect-based cat food been approved. In the U.S., the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has only approved black soldier fly larva (BSFL) for use in dog food as of August 2021. This has left cat food out of the loop, unfortunately. However, the AAFCO is considering approving BSFL for adult cats in the future.

Some countries in Europe, such as France, Switzerland, and the U.K., as well as Canada, are all manufacturing insect-based cat food, but it looks like it might take a while before it is approved in the States.

Price

Currently, the price of this food is quite higher than traditional cat food. This should change at some point in the future, particularly while waiting for approval and for this trend to catch on and become more popular. But currently, it’s even more expensive than premium cat food.

persian cat eating dry food
Image Credit: Patrick Foto, Shutterstock

The Ick Factor

This disadvantage is about many of us humans. We tend to get grossed out at the idea of munching on bugs. But if it turns out that your cat will benefit from this food and you’re making your own small difference in helping the environment, our attitudes shouldn’t be a factor.

Cats don’t care that they’re eating bugs, as long as it keeps them healthy and they enjoy it. Don’t forget that this food looks like kibble — no bugs in sight!

Lack of Studies

There haven’t been any studies on the long-term effects of this kind of food on cats. Since cats are in that obligate carnivore category, there’s no way to know if insect-based food is sustainably good for cats.

While insects do contain the right amount of protein and nutrients, we don’t know if insect-based food might end up causing health issues in the future.

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Conclusion

It’s estimated that the insect pet food industry will increase at least 50-fold by 2030. This industry will continue to grow as long as consumers are looking for a smaller ecological footprint when purchasing food for their pets.

You should speak to your vet before you buy any of this food. Your vet will have the latest research studies regarding insect-based food and can advise you on whether you should buy it for your cat. If you get a thumb’s up from your vet, try it out! Many cats seem to enjoy this food, and you can feel a little better about your ethical and environmentally friendly choice.


Featured Image Credit: Sweetlouise, Pixabay

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