Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

Cats and Ants: Why Are Some Cats Obsessed with Dead Ants?

Learn why some cats like to rub on dead, crushed ants.

Have you ever seen a cat seem to go crazy when she encounters a pile of crushed ants? Maybe she rubs around in them or eats them. It's one of those funny feline behaviors that might be baffling to humans.

Ants Contain Lots of Oleic Acid

Ants contain both formic and oleic acid. These substances act as pheromones for the ants, helping them communicate with other ants about ant-life types of things.

When ants die and are crushed, they emit these substances, which cats can smell much more strongly than we can.

Oleic acid is also a significant constituent of the pheromone that cats emit from their facial glands when they rub on things. It has a calming effect on them, and when they encounter it, their innate response is to rub overtop of it. So encountering a pile of crushed ants that is emitting lots of oleic acid gives a cat a cozy, homey feeling that makes her feel calm and happy.

Feliway is a synthetic product that uses oleic acid and other constituents of the feline facial pheromone to create a spray or diffuser that can be used to help calm cats.

If you ever catch your cat climbing on your table to try and grab an olive and rub on it, oleic oil is probably the culprit for that, as well.

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