12

We have plenty of snails in the garden, but the cat does not show the slightest interest in eating them - I wish he did! Even when he is hungry and I crush a big, fat snail and offer it to him, the cat just stares at it.

I'm wondering if there is something inherently repulsive/toxic in snails for cats. Is it just a matter of taste and preference? If the later is true, how can I encourage the cat to hunt/eat snails?

  • 4
    Chickens are fans of snails. I saw it with my own eyes, when someone fed snails (collected from the garden) to their chicken. I have no idea about cats and snails. – virolino Jul 2 at 7:03
  • 3
    Try lightly frying them in butter with garlic and parsley, you might even want to eat them yourself. – mustaccio Jul 2 at 20:41
  • 6
    @virolino And then, cats are fans of chickens. Job done? – Andrew Morton Jul 2 at 21:01
  • 3
    @mustaccio You might like the taste of garlicy fried snails, but unfortunately you would poison your cat with them. Cats lack certain digestive enzymes and as a result garlic and onions are toxic to them. – Elmy Jul 3 at 8:17
  • 1
    @mustaccio I'm not sure I'd eat random snails found out in my backyard, even fried with garlic and parsley. – Nzall Jul 3 at 10:06
22

Yes, there is something inherently repulsive in snails: their slime, which is sticky and sometimes stinks or tastes bad. Snails not only produce it to slither over surfaces, when they are attacked or injured, they produce lots of it as a defensive mechanism, relying on the attacker being grossed out by the sticky slime in their mouth. Most animals find it repulsing, not only cats.

This article states:

Land snail defenses against predators include cryptic coloration and texture; thickened shells and aperture barriers; defense mucus production including irritating smells and tastes; hiding behaviors, and rapid withdrawal or dislodging movements

Another reason is that cats evolved to eat small mammals, like rodents, and birds. Those have a very specific mixture of protein, fat, minerals (like calcium) and fiber in their bodies that the cat relies on for nutrition. Snails, on the other hand, don't contain as much protein, very little fiber and almost no fat at all, as pointed out in this paper about feeding snails to livestock:

In general, only a portion of the normal diet should be replaced by snail meal because of the possible lower protein content and poorer amino acid profile compared to the normal high quality fish meal diet.

| product           | country     | protein | fibre | fat  | ash   | calcium | phosphorus |
| Snail meat, fresh | Philippines | 53.3*   | 2.5*  | 1.1* | 26.6* | 7.2*    | 0.59*      |

'* All values indicate the percentage by weight of dry matter, which means the numbers are even worse for fresh (slimy) snail meat.

And lastly cats are lie-in-wait hunters whos prey drive is stimulated by movements and shuffling sounds, instead of foragers who would pick up a snail as an easy snack.

As pointed out in several comments, this does not mean that cats never eat snails. That your particular cat doesn't like snails can be personal preference - or rather aversion.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    What about lungworms? myfamilyvets.co.uk/lungworm-in-cats – Karlom Jul 2 at 17:08
  • 3
    I recently read up on snails because of the infestation we have in our garden. It turns out that some (invasive in Europe) species of snails secrete enough slime that predators can choke on it. Except for one specific kind of duck. Which requires a pond or similar in which to rinse the slime off the snail. Apparently one can even rent this kind of duck. (Sorry, my only source is a couple of more or less obscure German language websites, so no link.) – Stephan Kolassa Jul 2 at 18:31
  • "Another reason is that cats evolved to eat small mammals, like rodents, and birds." Likewise, it's hard to chase and pounce on a snail. – Michael McFarlane Jul 2 at 20:28
  • 2
    @Karlom, From the very link you provided "Instead, cats catch lungworm by eating slugs and snails that are infected by the disease – or birds and rodents that have eaten the infected slugs and snails." Emphasis mine. I don't think anyone is saying it's impossible for a cat to eat a snail; but that evolution would have made it an untempting food source for non-desperate cats for the reasons stated above. – ikegami Jul 2 at 20:42
  • 1
    @LukeSawczak I accidently linked to the same page twice. The link is corrected now. All numbers are percentages by weight of the dry matter, which means the numbers are even worse for the slimy, fresh snail meat. – Elmy Jul 3 at 7:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.