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How to keep ants out of cat food or dog food without water moats or petroleum jelly

Every spring we get an ant infestation, and they always used to go straight for our cat’s food. Not anymore! This inexpensive ant-proof cat and dog food bowl will keep ants out of pet food, no water moats or petroleum jelly or other weird tricks required!

my cat eating from her ant-proof bowl

Ants in the cat food every spring

Every April, like clockwork, the same thing happens: The weather starts to get warm, and ants come inside to explore.

The first year that we had a cat (she’d been living with my mom during our renovation), I noticed her sitting by her food, staring at it forlornly. When I went over to investigate I didn’t see anything at first. And then I looked closer and OH MY GOD THE FOOD WAS MOVING! 

There were hundreds of ants in the cat food. And then I saw that there were hundreds more on the floor, making the trek to and from the back door. To be honest I was a little surprised that it bothered her, since she loved playing with and eating pretty much all bugs. But I guess we agreed that ants in cat food are as gross as ants in people food.

I cleaned out the cat food dish, took care of the ants, and watched things more closely. But still, it was something I had to deal with every year, at least once. When ants come into the back of the house from our backyard, the cat food is usually the only food they can find, and they find it quickly.

How to keep ants out of cat food

About five years ago I decided that there had to be a way to keep ants out of the cat food proactively, and I tried a few things that I found online. They all involved placing the cat’s food dish inside another dish or tray that was filled with water, or spreading petroleum jelly on the outside of the dish, or a combination of the two. 

I can’t even tell you if these methods worked or not, because I couldn’t keep them up long enough to find out if they kept the ants away. The cat would drop food into the water constantly, and it would dissolve and get really gross, so I was changing the water several times every day. And OF COURSE she got the petroleum jelly all over herself, no matter where I put it on the bowl. That drove both of us nuts.

So I looked for a better solution, and found these amazing ant-proof pet food dishes, with lots of different sizes for cats or dogs.

our cats water bowl next to her ant-proof bowl

Why an ant-proof pet bowl works

You can see from this close-up picture that the outside of the bowl doesn’t touch the floor. If ants try to climb up they have to do it from the inside where the bowl touches the floor, and then down the inside, around the lip, and back up the outside to the food, but they don’t make it that far—something about the shape of the bowl and the way ants climb prevents them from making it back down and around, and they fall off, never even reaching the outside of the bowl.

an ant-proof pet food bowl on a black floor

What can cause the bowl to fail

In the five years that we’ve had the bowl (and yes, the ants have made it inside every spring), ants only got inside the bowl once: when someone put it down touching the wall, or maybe pushed it into the wall by mistake, not realizing that this was a no-no. The ants were able to climb up the wall and onto the outside of the bowl.

the bottom of the ant-proof bowl, showing a rubber non-skid strip

We couldn’t blame the cat for this, the bottom of the bowl has a rubber non-skip strip on it, and she doesn’t move the bowl at all when she eats. So now we just make sure that the bowl isn’t touching anything when we put it on the floor.

Five years later, the bowl still works

The bowl has held up really well for five years. In fact, since our old cat Selma died, the bowl is now onto a second owner. I wash it by hand once a week (we only use it for dry food), but the instructions say it’s dishwasher safe. 

If you have any kind of ant issues, I totally recommend this ant-proof cat and dog food bowl! They’re also sold as singles.

What if you like the bowls you have?

This was an easy thing for me to buy, since I only had one cat and only needed one bowl. But what if you already have bowls that you like, and don’t want to replace them?

This is a tray that ants can’t get to. You spread the included gel onto the inverted cups under the tray. It’s totally safe for pets and kids, but ants can’t walk over it! You can just put your own bowls on top of the tray. I would worry about pet hair collecting on the gel, but the reviews for the product are very good.

The instructions say that one application of the gel can last for more than a year, and the tray comes with enough gel for two applications. But if you’re worried about the gel running out, you can get more here.

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James Carlson

Thursday 3rd of June 2021

What a great idea ... you rock! And Selma is a great name for a cat. We named our cat Salem, and since the same letters are used, numerologists around the world are unable to tell the difference between the two. What an Age we live in!

Cntha

Thursday 17th of October 2019

This is the same way the termite shield around your foundation works - the termites won't climb downwards. But you need to clean off the spider webs now and then so dirty webs don't form a bridge. I get those cat bowl ants too. Thanks for a great idea!

Amy Oztan

Thursday 17th of October 2019

Ooh, I didn't know there was such a thing as a termite shield!

Curtis

Friday 27th of September 2019

I have a regular dog bowl and I read this article and I put the dog bowl with food on top a empty biscuits pan and it worked. no ants came into the food.

They were on the floor around the bowl but could not get in.

Thanks so much.

Amy Oztan

Sunday 29th of September 2019

Great hack!

Susan

Saturday 10th of August 2019

Your link to the bowl goes to ant baits, not food bowls!

Amy Oztan

Saturday 10th of August 2019

Thanks so much for letting me know! I just checked all of the links and found two that went to the wrong product! Fixed.

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