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Are Lightning Bugs Poisonous to Cats? Vet-Reviewed Toxicity & Facts

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

glowing firefly on a grass filed at night

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Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Lightning bugs are highly toxic to our reptile and amphibian friends, but less so to larger pets like dogs and cats. But that doesn’t mean you should let your cat eat as many lightning bugs as they want because consuming large numbers of them could cause some harm. That being said, it’s unlikely that your cat would eat enough lightning bugs to have a serious issue; they are pretty hard to catch and have a bitter taste that most cats won’t like. In summary, lightning bugs are toxic in large quantities, and you should prevent your cat from eating them as they represent no benefit in their diet.


What Makes Lightning Bugs Toxic?

Lightning bugs contain chemicals known as lucibufagins. These chemicals give the lightning bug a bad taste to help keep predators from eating them. They’re also the cause of toxicity.

In small animals, like frogs and lizards, the consumption of one firefly has the potential to be deadly because lucibufagins can cause damage to the heart muscle. Thankfully, larger pets are less sensitive to lucibufagins, and due to their poor taste, your cat is unlikely to eat enough bugs to cause a real issue.

sad cat
Image By: avi_acl, Pixabay

What Are the Signs of Lucibufagins Toxicity?

If your cat happens to get their mouth on a lightning bug, the most common reaction you may see is drooling or lip licking. That’s because the bitter taste of the lightning bug can make a cat salivate. However, if your cat happens to actually eat a lightning bug or two, there is a chance that they will experience stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Signs of lightning bug toxicity can begin anywhere between 15 minutes and 2 hours of exposure or consumption.

If your cat was able to eat a large number of lightning bugs, there is the potential for more serious issues, such as tremors and seizures. This would be unlikely to happen because of the number of lightning bugs that it would take to cause such severe issues, just know that it is a possibility. It’s best to contact your vet or a pet poison helpline if your cat chews on or consumes a lightning bug and shows any reactions apart from not liking how they tastes.


In Conclusion

Biting or consuming a single lightning bug is unlikely to cause serious problems for your cat, and thanks to their highly bitter taste, your cat probably won’t try to eat more than one. However, there is still a chance of digestive issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea, if your cat actually did go through with eating lightning bugs. If you have any questions about your cat’s reaction to eating a lightning bug, contact your veterinarian.

Featured Image Credit: Fer Gregory, Shutterstock

Brooke Billingsley

Authored by

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping...Read more

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