Ants are disgusting pests. They can find the smallest crack in your foundation, then quickly create a path to your pet’s food. Once in, they’ll pick your best friend’s food bowl clean, swarming around your kitchen and creating a mess. They won’t stop there; if given the opportunity, they’ll try to find the source of their newest snack, infesting your pet’s food bag and completely ruining it. Thankfully, there are some helpful tips and tricks for keeping these bothersome insects out of your home and your four-legged friend’s dinner.
Finding a scurrying swarm of ants inside your pet’s food bowl is an awful experience. You should first see if the ants have already made their way to your pet’s food bag. If not, place the food bag away from where the ants are swarming, preferably somewhere elevated or inside a cupboard. If the ants have made their way into your pet’s food supply, it’s best not to try and salvage it; instead, throw it away. Place the food bag and everything in your pet’s food bowl into a trash bag. Then tie the top of the bag tightly and throw it directly into your trash bin.
You’ll then want to begin cleaning your pet’s food bowl and the area around it. If ants are still scurrying about, kill them with your shoe or use a pet-safe insecticidal spray. Once the area is ant free and clean, you’ll want to begin taking steps to prevent the ants from returning. Once ants know food is in your home and can get in, they won’t stop, so you’ll want to take steps to prevent them immediately.
The first and most effective step for preventing future ant incursions is finding their entry point. Most pests get into your home from the outside via small cracks in your foundation and siding, gaps in windows, holes in door screens, or slipping in under doorways. If you have serious ant problems, it’s always a good idea to give your infested rooms a good look to find any entrances that pests use. If you don’t see any obvious entry points on the inside, they’re likely sneaking in through an outside crack. Once pests find a way into your walls, they can slip through openings in baseboards or other hard-to-spot areas.
To secure most outside entrances to your home from pests, we recommend the following:
- Using outdoor-grade silicone caulk to fill all cracks and gaps in your foundation and siding. Anything one-quarter of an inch or larger should be filled.
- Installing a door sweep for any doors with visible gaps in the bottom.
- Patching or replacing any window or door screen that has gaps or holes.
- Looking for gaps around wires, utility lines, pipes, and vents. These gaps can be safely filled with silicone caulk.
Now that your outside entrances have been addressed, there are additional steps you should take to prevent ants from getting in the house. Ants scavenge homes searching for food sources and can be drawn in by moisture. So, if you want to keep ants away, you’ll want to clean up any messes that will provide food and seal off access to damp areas.
Most pets don’t have impeccable table manners. It’s not uncommon for many pets to make a mess of things while they eat, and they can sling food pretty far. Keeping your pet’s feeding area clean is always a good idea. Take the time, at least twice per week, to sweep up all the crumbs and wash the floor with hot soap and water. Thoroughly washing this area down is about more than just good housekeeping — ants have a powerful sense of smell, using scent trails to tell the rest of the colony where to go for food. Cleaning this area helps remove the scent from the ant trail, reducing the chance of them returning in the future.
This rule applies even more so for pets that eat outside. Outdoor food debris can attract much more problematic pests like mice and cockroaches and other critters like raccoons and possums.
Most dry food for pets is sold in simple paper bags. These bags are incredibly ineffective at keeping pests out, as they typically don’t reseal, allowing pests to crawl right in. Worse yet, some pests, like weevils and rodents, can chew right through pet food bags. The best way to keep your pet’s food safe from invasive pests is to store it in sealable, plastic, airtight containers.
Use Pet-safe Insecticides
Ants are extremely small and can squeeze through cracks that are easy to overlook. As a result, it can be almost impossible to spot the exact crack or crevice ants use to get inside. We recommend utilizing pet-safe repellents and insecticides to eliminate ants once they find a way indoors. Some of the most effective DIY, pet-friendly insecticides include the following:
- Vinegar-based bug spray: Vinegar-based bug sprays are a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water, with about a tablespoon of dish soap. Add this solution to a small spray bottle and apply it directly onto ants, killing them quickly. This solution is great for ants inside your home but won’t kill an ant colony outright.
- Diatomaceous earth: This mineral extract is taken from sand and is the remnants of fossilized seaweed. When using this mineral as a pesticide, be sure to buy the food-grade options, as it’s extremely lethal to all insect pests but is completely safe for humans and pets.
- A mixture of baking soda and sugar: Mix one part sugar and one part baking soda to create a lethal, pet-safe mixture that, when ingested, will kill ants. This lethal mixture will also be carried back to the colony and, over time, slowly put a stop to an ant infestation.
Many online blogs and publications tout the benefits of essential oils as an insecticide and deterrent for stopping ants. While some (specifically peppermint oil) are shown to deter some specific pests (mostly spiders), the vast majority don’t work, and if they do, they must be reapplied often. Therefore, we can’t recommend using them as a pest prevention tool.
If your pet’s food bowl is outside, and ants are a consistent problem, there are some products and tricks you can use to safeguard your pet’s kibble.
Some entrepreneurial companies have produced handy ant-proof food dishes, like this one from Amazon. These bowls typically use the water moat method (see below) and are designed for indoor or outdoor use. These products are extremely handy and help your pests eat in peace by keeping ants away.
Anti-ant Moat Trick
If you don’t want to buy separate products, you can make an anti-ant moat at home. Take an old skillet or saucepan in which your pet’s food bowl fits. Fill the gap between the two with a cup of water. Remember you don’t want the water to come up the lip of your pet’s bowl or spill inside. The water creates an impassable moat for ants to cross over (they can’t swim), and they’ll move away once they realize the path to the food is impassable. Some online blogs recommend smearing petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on the outside of the moat to deter ants further, but we find that this only makes a mess and doesn’t help in keeping ants out.
One of the most effective ways to ensure your dog’s food bowl is not menaced by ants is to, after your pet eats, wash and put the bowl away. While this might feel like a hassle, it will remove any chance of ants being attracted to the food bowl. This method is especially effective for homeowners who use outdoor food bowls where ants are common. Cleaning and storing your pet’s food bowl will ensure your pet is free of bothersome ants while you work toward exterminating these troublesome pests.
From ensuring your home is clean to pet-friendly insecticides and ant-proof food bowls, there is no shortage of ways to keep your pet’s lunchtime ant-free. Most ants are an annoying nuisance, but they can cause serious problems if allowed to grow into a full infestation. We recommend contacting a pest control company if you’re experiencing severe ant problems. Industry professionals quickly find, and seal common entry points used by pests and spray the perimeter of your property, eliminating infestations at the source.