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We had ants last summer. They came in through the kitchen and a wall near the kitchen. We caulked it up so they couldn't get in, and the problem was solved.

This summer, we've had ants again. They primarily come in between the areas we caulked last summer (can't get to it with the caulk gun because of the radiator), and go after the cats' food. We've taken to only putting their bowls on the floor while we feed them, and then taking them away. This generally reduces the ants, but if we go away for a weekend and have to leave some food out, we get a lot of ants.

We've read/been told that poison (especially poison the ants will take back to their nest) is really effective, but we're concerned about using such a solution in our apartment because our cats like to cause trouble and get into things, and we don't want them playing with any poison.

What is an effective, cat-safe way to get rid of ants?

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When you need to leave food out for longer periods of time, you can put the food bowl in a pan of water so that the ants can't reach it. Of course the pan should be small enough that the cats can eat without getting their paws wet.

The easiest way to get rid of the ants is to remove their food source, which you have done. In addition, you could inject some sort of ant killer behind the baseboards and in other crevices. Borax is probably a good choice; it is not safe for cats in quantity (e.g. to use in a litter box), but minute amounts should not cause problems. Some people report success using soapy water, vinegar, or even catnip!

There are also products that contain ant bait/poison inside a plastic case, with openings big enough for an ant to get through but not a cat's paw. As I recall, these look rather like those round stick-on air freshener thingies. Assuming your cats are not in the habit of eating ants, these should work well and be safe.

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If your main priority is safety, one of the safest insecticides is a laundry detergent called Borax. It's carried by most grocery stores. It's often used as a wood treatment in crawlspaces, because it kills and repels both insects and mold [for example, see: http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/CH10132.htm]. (The "secret" wood treatment used by termite and mold companies is often just Borax.) You can also add it to water and use it as a household cleaning agent, although there might be some slight discoloration due to the salt residue.

Borax is just a boron salt, which can be metabolized by mammals, so it's almost perfectly safe for both humans and pets, although I wouldn't add it to food. Material Safety Data Sheet lists it as health hazard 1 and moderate skin irritant, about the same as baking soda [http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9924967].

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Something else I do is buy a pack of these and toss them under the refrigerator, dishwater, and any other tiny nooks in the kitchen. That seems to work, because my kitchen is never spotless but I've never had trouble with ant infestations.

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    Borax is toxic to felines. I used it to get rid of the roach in my home and it partly worked but it killed 2 of my cats. Felines kidney failure. No notice till it was to late. – user6538 Jan 24 '16 at 1:05
  • @user6535 Sorry to hear about your cats. I'm looking for a natural flea control and Borax keeps coming up. Safety seems get a lot of conflicting stories. How/could you be sure it was the Borax? How did you use/apply it? (was it laid down where cats could lick/ingest or did you vacuum it and they walked on it or did they just breath it? And for how long were they exposed (like you put it down for a few hours then vac'd and/or you did this monthly over 5 years..) Sorry for so many questions, really trying to get to the bottom of this and thank you for any light you can shed. – JoelAZ Aug 13 '18 at 21:39
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Diatomaceous earth. It's perfectly safe for anyone or anything without a hard exoskeleton. People often use it to deworm their animals, especially back in the day, and will even eat it themselves for the same purpose I suppose.

Basically, the way I understand it, is that it's like microscopic shards of glass. It won't hurt a person, cat, etc... because it's not big enough to cause damage. However, when any insect with a hard exoskeleton walks across it, it's like you walking across glass shards. It slices their exoskeleton and they basically dehydrate to death.

So it should be perfectly safe for animals and plants, but deadly to ants, cockroaches, wasps, etc... You can just blow some into the wall or behind the baseboards. I'm pretty sure I saw a tv exterminator (Billy the Exterminator, maybe?) use one of those baby booger suckers to blow it into a crack or crevice where wasps were getting in and said it would last for roughly a year.

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I have found that ants do not like to cross cinnamon. I have used it to keep them from getting into the house and away from food. Then putting baits outside is a lot safer.

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The ant-baits I have used come in a plastic or metal container with small holes for the ants. If a cat played with one the poison doesn't come out freely. They would just move it around like a cat toy.

If they chewed it up, there might be a problem. You would have to think if your cat gnaws on random objects. Most don't.

The container could be made less of a potential toy by securing it to the sideboard or floor with tape so that it won't move like prey when poked with a paw.

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I've used this on roaches with success - boric acid powder. It is a weak acid, and was used in eye washes I believe.

From a relevant article at eHow.com:

Chemistry

Boric acid is a white, crystalline solid of chemical formula H3BO3, which is sometimes written B(OH)3. It is only sparingly soluble in water. It melts at 170 degrees Celsius, at which temperature it will decompose into water and metaboric acid (HBO2).

Production

Boric acid is manufactured by the combination of borax (sodium tetraborate decahydrate, Na2B4O7ยท10H2O) with muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid, HCl).

Applications

Boric acid is commonly found in insecticides. It purportedly works through an unusual mode of action by penetrating the exoskeleton and killing insects by dehydration, although the exact mechanism is not well understood.

Toxicity

The acute toxicity of boric acid is reportedly about the same as that of sodium chloride (table salt). In large doses, however, it is known to cause sterility in male test animals.

Fun Fact

In 1943, the original Silly Putty was synthesized from boric acid and silicone oil.

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I have a very old house and ants have thousands of ways to get in, so I've tried many different poisons. The most effective poison I've discovered is Indoxacarb (active ingredient name). It's in a gel-type poison made by DuPont under the trade name Advion Ant Gel. I use a lima-bean sized dollop on a piece of cardboard, and place several of these in the path where ants are already traveling. It destroys the infestation in about 1.5-2 days.

I'm not sure if linking is allowed but this is the product: http://www.amazon.com/Argentine-Carpenter-Cornfield-Harvester-Pavement/dp/B004NS0HT4/ref=pd_sim_lg_5?ie=UTF8&refRID=1EKWCGNY5EDRSNGNSH05

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    It says right on the packaging not to treat areas accessible to pets, so I wouldn't call this a cat-safe solution. – yoozer8 Aug 11 '14 at 11:34

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