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How to Keep Ants Out of Cat Food: Effective Tips

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

ants on feeding bowl with cat food

If you have ever opened your cat’s bag of food only to find it infested with ants, you know how frustrating this situation can be. Not only is it a waste of money to have to toss the bag, but now you have ants in your house that could easily end up moving on to your food. Ants in your cat’s food bowl can be just as annoying, especially if your cat is already a picky eater.

To help you avoid frustration, we’re bringing you a step-by-step guide on how to keep ants out of your cat’s food. We’ll cover protecting the food bowl as well as safeguarding the food supply itself before providing you with some general tips on keeping ants out of your house. Let’s get started!


Before You Begin

Before focusing on your cat’s food and food bowl, look for any other locations in your home where ants appear to be attracted and address those. We will give you some more specifics on this later because we want to get into keeping ants out of your cat food.

Gather Your Supplies

We’re going to cover several different options for protecting your cat food, so you may not need everything listed here, depending on which method you choose.

Supply List:
  • Container with a tight-fitting lid
  • Shallow dish
  • Water
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Baking soda or sidewalk chalk
baking soda into the bowl with wooden spoon
Image Credit: al1962, Shutterstock


How To Keep Ants Out Of Cat Food

Part I: Keeping Ants Out Of The Food Supply

1. Store Food in a Secure Location

Ants are notorious for exploiting even the smallest weakness in a bag of cat food to gain entry. To deter them, store your cat food inside a larger container with a tight-fitting lid. Keeping the bin inside a cabinet can add an extra layer of protection as well.

As a bonus, keeping your cat food in an air-tight container helps it stay fresh longer.

Fresh cat foods are best stored in the refrigerator or freezer, which is also safe from ants!

2. Use Petroleum Jelly

If you find that ants are still trying to get your cat food even inside the bin, try smearing a layer of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) just under the lid. Vaseline makes the surface area too slippery for ants to climb.

petroleum jelly
Image By: Bit Investment, Shutterstock


Part II: Keeping Ants Out Of The Food Bowl

1. Limit Access

The simplest method to keep ants out of your cat’s food bowl is to limit the amount of time the bowl is out. Measure out your cat’s food and give them a limited amount of time to eat it before removing the bowl. You can do this several times throughout the day, so your cat gets a chance to eat their full meal without allowing ants to find the bowl.

Not only will this help keep ants out of the food bowl, but it’s also a better way to control your cat’s food intake and avoid unwanted weight gain. However, if you’re feeding outdoor cats or can’t conveniently “meal feed” your cat, this method may not work for you.

2. Keep the Area Clean

Keeping your cat’s food bowl and the area around it clean will help keep ants away as well. If you allow your cat to free feed, make sure the food available is kept fresh. Wash your cat’s bowl frequently, especially if they eat wet food.

Keep the area around your cat’s food bowl swept clean of any escaped kibble, indoors or out. Cleansing the spot with a vinegar and water mixture or another strong-smelling commercial cleaner can also help keep ants away.

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3. Build a Moat

No, not the kind with a drawbridge around a castle: the same concept but a smaller scale. For this method, you’ll need a shallow dish just large enough to fit your cat’s food bowl. A pie pan or small baking dish may do the trick.

Place your cat’s food bowl inside the dish and add water, creating a “moat.” Ants can’t swim and will be prevented from getting to the bowl, thanks to the water. This method can work for indoor or outdoor bowls.

Just be sure the outer dish isn’t so big that your cat has a hard time reaching their food bowl. Also, keep the water in the moat fresh, or it may serve as a breeding ground for another annoying pest: mosquitoes.

4. Use Petroleum Jelly

Like with your food bin, you can also use petroleum jelly to keep ants out of your cat’s food bowl. In this case, smear the jelly along the bottom rim of the bowl. You want to deter the insect invaders but also not run the risk of your cat eating any petroleum jelly along with their food.

This method can be a little bit messy, and you’ll need to refresh the layer of petroleum jelly regularly as it dries out.

5. Create a Barrier Around The Food Bowl

Another way to keep ants out of your cat’s food is to create a physical barrier around it. Before you reach for a hammer and nails, remember these are ants we’re talking about: it doesn’t take much to keep them away.

Two easy options for ant barriers are baking soda and sidewalk chalk. Sprinkle baking soda in a thick circle around your cat’s bowl. Ants won’t want to walk across it and will avoid the bowl.

This method can be messy and might be more suitable for protecting an outdoor bowl, although rain and wind can easily remove the baking soda.

A less messy and more robust method is to use sidewalk chalk to draw a line around your cat’s food. Chalk won’t blow away like baking soda might, although rain will still wash it away. Like baking soda, cats prefer to avoid walking on chalk.

6. Move The Food Bowl

Because ants rely on an internal map to return to a food source they previously identified, sometimes simply moving your cat’s food bowl is enough to keep them away. Of course, your cat may disapprove of the new location, or the ants could find it again.

If you try this method, be prepared to use one or more of the others we suggested as well.

dry dog food in bowl
Image By: 279photo Studio, Shutterstock


Part III: Keeping Ants Out Of Your House

Now that you know some options to keep ants out of your cat’s food, here are a few tips on keeping them out of your house, periods.

1. Seal The Gaps

Check your doors and windows for any gaps or loose caulk that ants could use to gain entry. Reapply weather stripping or caulk as needed. As a bonus, this may also improve your home’s energy efficiency.

2. Keep It Clean

Keeping your home clean–especially the kitchen–is one of the best ways to keep ants out. Wash dirty dishes right away instead of letting them pile up in the sink to attract ants. Wipe spills promptly.

Sweep, mop, and vacuum regularly to keep food crumbs contained. Remove garbage and recycling from the house promptly.

3. Keep Food Put Away

If you have children or teenagers, you know the odds of finding leftover or spilled food in unusual places is high. Check rooms or play areas regularly to keep them free of these ant-attracting items.

In your kitchen, make sure food is stored securely. Air-tight containers are a good idea to protect particularly appealing foods like sugar or breakfast cereal.

dry dog food kibbles in storage container
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

4. Use Ant Traps Or Repellents

If you’re dealing with a heavy infestation of ants, you may need to use more drastic methods, such as professional pest control. Just be sure to inform the pest control specialist that you have pets because many pesticides are toxic to cats.

You could also place ant traps around your house, making sure they are not accessible to cats or children. If you prefer more natural repellents, ants dislike certain strong smells, such as vinegar and citrus. Using vinegar and water cleaners can also repel ants.

Although various essential oils such as tea tree oil, clove oil, and peppermint oil may help repel ants, they should be used with caution around cats, because many are toxic to our feline friends.



Ants may be beneficial to the environment and their ecosystem but that doesn’t mean you want them in your cat’s food or your own for that matter. Following these simple steps can help to prevent ants from becoming a nuisance in your home and keep your cat’s food fresh and protected.

Featured Image Credit: Pee Poti, Shutterstock

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