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How To Keep Ants Out of Your Cat’s Food (10 Proven Methods)

Ed Malaker

If you have a cat that likes to spend a lot of time outdoors, it can make a lot of sense to place a food bowl outside that it can use if it gets hungry. However, leaving food outside can often attract ants that will get into the food preventing the cat from eating it. If this sounds like a problem you are having and would like to know what you can do to solve it, keep reading while we list several methods you can use to keep ants and other insects from ruining your pet’s food.

divider-catProven Methods to Keep Ants Out of Your Food

1. Place the Food Bowl in A Water Bowl

Cat food and water
Image Credit: Tatiana Burlutckaia, Shutterstock

While your cat’s hatred of water is legendary, ants hate water even more and will go to great lengths to avoid it. One of the best ways to keep ants out of your cat’s food is to place the food bowl inside a water bowl so it floats. As long as the water can’t get into the food, it will block the ants from getting to the food by creating a type of mote.

2. Baking Soda

baking soda
Image Credit: NatureFriend, Pixabay

Baking Soda is effective at repelling ants if you spread it around the bowl to create a barrier. Baking soda works opposite to the water method, and it dehydrates the ants, causing them to avoid it. If they can’t find a clear path to the food, they will not disturb it. It’s a non-toxic and inexpensive method for keeping the ants away, and the only downside is that you will need to check it frequently to make sure the barrier is intact and add baking soda as required.

3. Chalk

Colored chalk on the ground
Image Credit: Sharky, Pixabay

Another thing that ants don’t like is chalk, and they will often avoid it when possible. Using ordinary school chalk, you can draw a thick line around the bowl to discourage ants from getting to the food. In our experience using this method, it lasts longer than baking soda but isn’t quite as effective unless the line is quite thick, which can take a while to draw with school chalk.

4. Tape

Image Credit: WikimediaImages, Pixabay

If you are only keeping the food outside for a short time, an easy method you can use is double-sided tape. The ants will stick to the tape and will not be able to get to the food until enough of them are trapped. The downside to this method is that it can be quite unsightly, and once there are enough ants trapped, the ants will be able to walk over them to get the food.

5. Clove Oil

Clove leek oil
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

Clove oil is a fragrant product of the clove plant, and it is quite effective at repelling ants and may be effective at repelling other insects as well. It only takes a few drops around the bowl to keep it free of ants the entire day. However, clove oil may also bother your cat’s sensitive nose, causing it to refuse to eat.

Related Read: 14 Human Foods that are Safe for Cats to Eat

6. Crushed Red Peppers

spices in bowls on table
Image Credit: babawawa, Pixabay

You can find crushed red pepper at any pizza shop, and this hot spice can help create a barrier around your pet’s food that repels ants. However, when using this food, you also risk your cat ingesting it.

7. Vaseline

You can rub Vaseline around the outer edge of the bowl, and the insects will not pass through it. Vaseline can repel the ants longer than most other methods, and it doesn’t smell bad and won’t bother your cat. The only downside to using Vaseline is that it can collect dirt, and it’s bad for the environment.

8. Vinegar

apple cider vinegar
Image Credit: focal point, Shutterstock

Another fantastic way to prevent ants from getting into your cat’s food is to scrub the floor directly below the bowl with vinegar. Vinegar has a bad smell that often repels ants. Cats don’t like it either, but cats should return to the bowl long before the ants do. Most people already have vinegar in the home, so it’s easy t give it a try.

9. Change the Food Location

Ants use a complex system to find food that uses scouts and sign language to direct the colony to the food. Once they find the food, they will often return frequently to the same spot to see if there is more, and it can be challenging to discourage them. Changing the position of the food can be a great way to keep the ants away until a scout finds the new placement. Securing your new position with a ring of baking soda or chalk can increase its effectiveness.

10. Limit Access

cat eating_Shutterstock_Africa Studio
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

The best and most inexpensive proven way to ensure no ants get into your pet’s food is to limit access to the bowl. Instead of leaving the food sit all day, we recommend putting it down only when it’s time for your pet to eat and removing it again a short time later. If your cat likes to eat all the time, keep the bowl in the house. The cat can come in and eat before going back out.


As you can see, there are several ways to keep ants out of your cat’s food. In our household, the method that works best is to limit access, but if you need to leave food out because you won’t be available when it normally eats, you will need to use another method. Baking soda works well. It’s inexpensive and easy to use to create a barrier that the ants won’t cross. Vaseline works well in a windy environment where chalk and baking soda won’t work, but we use it only when necessary because it’s not eco-friendly.
We hope you have enjoyed reading over this list and found the answers you need. If we have helped preserve your cat’s outdoor meal, please share these ten proven methods to keep ants out of your cat food on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Image Credit: catinrocket, Shutterstock

Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who has contributed to a wide range of blogs that cover tools, pets, guitars, fitness, and computer programming. When he’s not writing, Ed is usually performing DIY projects around the house or working in the garden. He’s also a musician and spends a lot of time helping people fix their guitars and composing music for independent films.