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How to Keep Ants Out of Pet Food

Andrea writes on various topics, such as dating, couples, astrology, weddings, interior design, and gardens. She studied film and writing.

Ants are really annoying. Your pets don't like eating food that's been walked all over by ants. There are a few things you can do to protect their food from pesky insects. Keep reading to find out what you can do.

Ants are really annoying. Your pets don't like eating food that's been walked all over by ants. There are a few things you can do to protect their food from pesky insects. Keep reading to find out what you can do.

How to Keep Ants Out of Pet Food

Nobody wants ants in their food. Your pets definitely don't want their food infested with bugs (unless they're an anteater). For the most part, ants are harmless to your pets. However, fire ants could create a very serious problem.

The following article will offer you different options on how to get rid of ants. (This article assumes you have a worker ant problem and not a fire ant problem.)

When these bugs get inside your home, they'll march straight for the food. For a serious invasion, I would suggest calling a pest technician. You might live near a goldmine of luxury anthills. Ant extermination costs run in the ballpark of $80 to $500.

Treating your outdoor areas will help prevent indoor invasions. So examine your outdoor spaces when considering your ant problem.

At the end of the article, I've listed ways to destroy anthills. You might want to try these methods before calling a technician.

Cleanliness Matters

It's best to seal up food, so it doesn't attract unwanted insects and other critters. Try to stay on top of cleaning your dishes. Clean out your trash regularly.

Before Doing Anything

Scope out the situation. Ask yourself where the ants are coming in. You need to figure out their trail. If you use ant bait, make sure it's pet-friendly and/or out of the way. You don't want your dog or cat getting into harmful substances.

Before using any chemicals, spices, or other materials to ward off ants, please make sure it won't be hazardous to your pets. I encourage you to double-check anything I've written in this article. It's best to consult a veterinarian if you have concerns.

Stopping Ants from Getting Into Pet Food

Many of these items you likely already have in your home.

SolutionEstimated Cost

Vacuum/Sweep

You likely already have a vacuum cleaner and/or broom in your house. This method should be combined with other methods.

Create a Moat Around Your Pet's Food Bowls

You can use a cake pan for this. If you don't have something like that, you'll spend about $5-10 for a tray of some sort.

Airtight Plastic Storage Container for Pet Food

$10-25

Move Pet Bowls to New Location

FREE

Commercial Ant Bait

$1-15

Chalk Boundary

$1-20

Petroleum Jelly Boundary

$1-3

Cinnamon Boundary

$3-6

Black Pepper Boundary

$2-8

Cayenne Pepper Boundary

$3-7

Chili Powder Boundary

$2-5

Diatomaceous Earth (food-grade)

$8-20

Sugar Water

$2-4

Baking Soda + Confectionary Sugar

Baking soda: $1-3 | Confectionary sugar: $2-5

Nine Ways to Stop Ants

Ants are drawn to pet food bowls like magnets. Since pet food is usually out in the open, and pets often have access to dry food all day, you'll probably first notice an ant invasion around where your dog or cat eats.

Here are some tricks you can use to win your war against ants.

1. Vacuum/Sweep Regularly

It's a good idea to vacuum or sweep daily around where your pet eats. You want to get rid of any lingering crumbs. People often don't clean their pets' bowls on a regular basis—they'll just keep dumping new food on top of old food. This isn't a great idea. The bowl could start forming mold or become a breeding ground for germs. It's best to give your pets new, fresh bowls daily.

It's also a good idea to tidy up their space. A dog who goes outside could track in dirt, grass, and mud. Cats might go to the bathroom and then head straight for their pet bowl... and they'll leave behind cat litter dust. Keeping their space clean will help ward off ants, and it will help your pets stay healthy.

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2. Your Pets' Bowls Are Castles; Build Moats around Them

Instead of leaving pet food bowls on the floor, put them in shallow pans of water. The ring of water will protect the food from ants who don't want to get wet. You don't need a lot of water in the pan. It shouldn't go higher than your pet's bowl.

Ants drown in water. A moat effectively ends their campaign.

3. Keep Dry Pet Food in an Airtight Container

There are airtight plastic containers designed for pets. Your pet's food will be much safer in this type of container than in a bag where ants can slip through to get what they want. Airtight containers can also keep food fresh.

4. Move Pet Bowls to a New Location

If the ants keep coming for the pet food, try moving your pet bowls to a new location. This will give you time to come up with a more elaborate plan to eradicate the ants while also letting your dog and/or cat the space they need to eat their food.

5. Make a Boundary Around the Food

There are likely things lying around your home that will repel ants. Insects typically give up if they encounter their least favorite substances. Here are some suggestions:

  • Draw a chalk line around the pet food dish. There is science at work here: Chalk is made of calcium carbonate (it's basically grounded seashells). Ants' sense of scent is confused by chalk.
  • Spread petroleum jelly around the food dish and/or food storage container.
  • Ants HATE cinnamon. Put some paper towels underneath your pet food bowls. Sprinkle cinnamon around the food to annoy the ants. Keep in mind: The smell of cinnamon is repulsive to pets. It's not good if they ingest it.
  • Ants also HATE black pepper, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. However, this stuff could irritate your pets, so you may want to use something else. Pets don't ingest spicy foods well.

6. Use Commercial Ant Bait

Keep the bait away from your pets! You need to place it in a spot where your pets can't reach it. Triple-check that your pets can't reach it.

The bait will lure ants. They'll eat the bait and will die from its poison. It's best to set these directly on ant trails and wherever they're entering your home.

7. Diatomaceous Earth

A pet-safe ingredient found in ant killers is diatomaceous earth. It is made up of fossilized remains of small aquatic creatures called diatoms.

The FDA finds the product "generally recognized as safe."

Make sure you pick food-grade diatomaceous earth and not pool-grade. The food-grade kind has gone through a purification process.

DE can also be used to get rid of other annoying pests: fleas, fungus gnats, bedbugs, etc. You can find this product at hardware stores and garden centers.

Make sure to read any instructions or warnings from the manufacturer's labels. Follow directions accordingly.

8. Sugar Water

For a small infestation, soak a sponge in sugar water. Let it rest for a day near the ant trail. Wash off the dead ants, soak the sponge with more sugar water and place it back by the trail. Keep doing this until you no longer see any dead ants.

Do place the sponge in an area where your pet can't reach it.

9. Baking Soda + Confectionary Sugar

Baking soda is non-toxic. Pets aren't attracted to baking soda. If you mix it together with confectionary sugar, and place dabs of it near the ant trail, the ants will go to it. They're lured in by the sugar. The baking soda is what kills them.

Again, if you use this method, make sure it's out of reach of your pets. You don't want them ingesting things they're not supposed to eat. If they ingest a lot of baking soda, it could be very harmful to them.

Pets want clean dishes. If their food is infested with ants, they might stop eating.

Pets want clean dishes. If their food is infested with ants, they might stop eating.

Don't Use Essential Oils or Citrus Items

Essential oils are harmful to cats and dogs. Please don't have these items in your home, especially near where your pet eats!

Both dogs and cats hate the smell of citrus. Putting a citrus-scented trail around their food to ward off ants will annoy your pet. This could cause them to stop eating.

Destroying Anthills: Estimated Costs

SolutionEstimated Cost

Commercial Ant Bait

$1-15

Orange Peels

$1-10

Boil Water and Dish Soap

$1-4

Soak Anthills with Garden Hose

Additional cost to your water bill.

Vinegar

$2-6

Diatomaceous Earth (food-grade)

$8-20

There are multiple ways you can destroy anthills. I've listed six methods below.

There are multiple ways you can destroy anthills. I've listed six methods below.

Destroying Anthills

Pest technicians do have tools and resources that you don't. They can effectively eliminate your problem. If you're worried about the cost, or you want to take matters into your own hands, here are some suggestions.

1. Leave Ant Bait Outside

If you can find a trail of ants headed for your house, that's a good place to put down an ant trap. The hope is that enough worker ants will make it back to their home so that the poison will spread and kill all the insects.

You could also place ant traps around anthills.

2. Orange Peels

Citrus is repellent to animals and insects. Again, don't put citrus fruit around your pet's food because it could dissuade them from eating and encourage bad behavior.

In order to attack the anthill, what you should do is grind up some orange peels. Put them in a blender with a cup of water. Pour some into a spray bottle. Take the bottle and spray along the ant trail. Pour the rest of the pulverized orange peel juice into any anthill you find.

3. Boil Water and Dish Soap

It's simple. Boil water. Add a dollop of dish soap. Pour the boiling water into anthills. The ant kingdom will take a major hit.

You'll have better results if you boil more pots of water and pour them into the anthill.

4. Soak the Anthill with a Garden Hose

Grab your garden hose. Point it at the anthill. Soak it for five minutes or so. The ground should be saturated.

Anthills can go pretty far into the ground. They usually reach depths of about 3 ft. You need to really flood the ground and anthill to soak the tunnels all the way.

Check the anthill for activity 2-3 times a day. If you don't see any ants for three days, the ants are likely dead. Repeat the flooding measure if you see activity or move on to a different method.

5. Pour Vinegar into the Anthill

The acidity will kill the ants on contact. They'll drown in it otherwise. The more vinegar you pour into the anthill, the better your results will be.

You could also turn the anthill into a 5th-grade science experiment: a volcano. Dump in a few scoops of baking soda. Pour in the vinegar. Watch as it foams up out of the anthill.

6. Use Diatomaceous Earth

Pour granules into and around the anthill. Use food-grade DE, not pool-grade. This product will irritate your skin, so don't touch it. It's best to add this product to the anthill on a wind-free day. You may want to consider wearing goggles and long sleeves, pants, and gloves when you work with DE.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Andrea Lawrence

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