Cats Trained to Kill Bed Bugs

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New Research Shows Cats Are Future of Fight Against Bed Bugs

Over the last several years the role that animals play in fighting bed bugs has grown. Bed bug sniffing dogs, like the beagles in this news story out of the Bay Area, are a great way to determine whether or not you have an infestation. Bed bugs have a very distinct odor that animals can easily pick up on – as can humans if the infestation is severe enough. As bed bugs become more resistant to pesticides and new methods of treatment are investigated it looks like more animals are able to help. Alongside other animals that are being trained to sniff them out, such as teacup pigs, new research out of the University of Washington – SLU campus has revealed a promising new pest control method: cats trained to hunt and kill bed bugs.

cat patting a bug

Cats: nature’s perfect bug killers!

It may sound outlandish at first, but the principle is simple. Researchers started by rewarding the cats with a special extra-potent strain of catnip for chasing laser pointer dots, which any cat owner knows is an easy thing to get cats to do. Then, they introduced bed bugs to the lab and used the lasers to show the cats where they were. Eventually they were able to stop using any laser signals altogether and the cats would chase the bed bugs and smash them with their paws in order to receive their reward. As cats also have a great sense of smell the final stage of the training was setting them loose in infested homes to see if they would find the bugs – and they did.

cat meowing

This kitty is amped up and ready to kill.

Although the training took some time and required access to specific cat-nip varieties the papers authors, A. F. Broma and L. Šega, are confident that the process is scale-able and that soon pest control technicians will be able to have their own trained attack cats just as they currently have canine detection services. From start-to-finish the training process takes about four weeks, although some cats are unable to complete their training as they find the allure of the catnip too much to resist and develop what Šega described as “substance issues”. For those cats a quick detox and return to life as a happy house cat is best, but about 75% of the cats tested went on to become fierce bed bug killers.

Since ZappBug is headquartered nearby, we took a visit to see their new batch of trainees in action. Check out the results below, and stay tuned for more updates as cat pest control technicians become a nationwide phenomenon!


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