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Two of my cats were avid insect hunters in our old apartment.

We were near a farm, so we had lots of flies hanging outside our front door and our patio, and some would invariably get in during the warmer months.

I taught both of the cats to hunt the flies by making a distinctive noise to alert them, and then assisting in stunning the flies with a newspaper so that they could catch them. Both of them quickly learned to come running whenever they heard me make that sound, and would immediately start scanning the walls to find the bug, especially if they saw me pointing.

This worked out to be a rather efficient means of eliminating flies and moths that found their way into our apartment, as well as providing entertainment and exercise for the cats.

However, several years ago we moved into a house in a different neighborhood. We still get the odd insect intruder, but it is far, far rarer.

Even worse, the two most common intruders we find are stink bugs, and ladybugs. Both exude a noxious chemical defense when disturbed (although ladybugs don't stink nearly as bad as stink bugs do, it is more than enough to dissuade a sensitive feline nose).

While I have not seen either cat have an actual run-in with either type of insect, that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

However, now none of our cats will eat any insects. Of the original two that I taught to hunt, only one shows more than a passing interest in insects, and while she gets extremely excited to spot a moth, and will relentlessly follow it around the house, meowing pitifully, she won't attack it, and even if I knock it down, she won't eat it.

Is it possible to teach my cats to distinguish between "good" insects (e.g. ones that are flying) and "bad" (stinky) insects, and rekindle their hunting instincts?

Or have my cats been traumatized by insect stench to the point where I have to swat my own flies?

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    Well, for starters, it's generally incredibly difficult to teach cats to do anything that they don't really want to do. I'm absolutely impressed that you managed once at all! Another thing is this - flies and moths might be a lot more entertaining for cats, as they are flying insects. You should also consider that stink bugs, much like beetles, have exoskeletons and might be harmful on the kitty's stomach. Perhaps the feline is aware of this fact, on top of the repelling smell? In any case, I have no idea how to develop a cat's instincts unless it wants to do so by itself. I do like the catnip – user4012 Apr 29 '15 at 16:52
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You don't say how old your cats are - as kittens, they would have been eager to chase and catch any bugs just for the play value. As older cats, they're more set in their ways and having spent a while where most of the insects they encountered were nasty (the noxious odors), they would probably have come to the conclusion that small flying things are bad news.

That kind of learning tends to stick - they may never want to eat bugs again unless you feel inclined to try tricking them into it (spraying the bugs with something the cats find enticing, for instance - and I have no idea if this would actually work or not, but it might be worth the attempt if only to see if you can get a reaction to catnip-scented moths!)

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