Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts.

Blog topics

Ant Misbehavin’ (Pet-Safe Ant Deterrents and Poisons)

antsAs long as I’ve been a professional pet sitter, I’ve been helping people keep their dog and cat food dishes free of ants. So for years I’ve been implementing non-toxic, safe deterrent methods. Only recently did I have my own ant problem at my own home which led me to research how to kill off entire ant colonies in ways that are safe for companion animals. After a few days of trials, I found something that works. REALLY WELL! Not only is it safe, it’s inexpensive and most of us already have the ingredients in our pantry! That’s right – no need to even get out of your PJs to start murdering those pesky pests.

Please, if you try any of these, will you post in the comments section at the end of this post? I’d especially love to see before and after photos. I didn’t even think about getting before photos when the ants were still coming around or when they were avoiding the cinnamon or when they were eating the cornmeal. I think it would be great if folks would be willing to share photos here.

(My understanding is that the same poisons used to exterminate ant colonies work on termites, also! But if termites are a problem for you, you’ll probably have to follow a few additional steps to get the stuff into the wood that the termites are eating.)

Keeping ants away from food and water dishes (deterring ants)

If you don’t want to kill the ants, and prefer to simply keep them away from your pet food and water dishes, no problem.

  • Cinnamon is a delicious smelling way to deter ants. I was stunned when I first witnessed just how effective this is! (See notes below about how I offer my cornmeal buffet to ants.)
  • Citrus scented products work like cinnamon. The upside: they can be much cheaper than cinnamon (especially if you use citrus scented liquid dish soap from discount stores). The downside: citrus also deters some cats. So I’d be wary of using this approach for fear of a kitty also deciding to avoid his food because of the stinky citrus smell.
  • Additional products that people say will work the same way as cinnamon and citrus, but that I have never tried so can’t attest to their effectiveness are:
    • Vinegar
    • Sage
    • Lavender
    • Peppermint
    • Tea tree oil
    • Cloves
    • Garlic

Killing off the source colony (exterminating entire ant colonies)

“To avoid attracting more ants to your home, it is best not to squash ants. By squashing them, you are triggering a scent that will simply attract more ants.” (“Why do dead ants attract more ants?” Ant Control Toronto Blog.) So if your plan is to eliminate the colony, resist the urge to squish them!  If you’re thinking that you’ll get them to avoid the food dish by killing the ants who get that far, this isn’t very effective. Ants usually just move the deceased ants bodies and then try to find a different route to the food.

ants-aunt-jemimaMy favorite solution that’s totally safe for you and your companions

Cornmeal provides the ants with a very tasty way to die. I personally like the idea that they at least get a little pleasure before they keel over. Ants absolutely love cornmeal! But their bodies can’t digest the cornmeal so the little pieces of cornmeal stay in their tummies undigested. Once an ant ingests liquid, the cornmeal expands and their stomachs burst open. (See notes below about how I offer my cornmeal buffet to ants.)

How do you serve these things to the ants?

Just sprinkle a line of cinnamon around food and water dishes to keep ants from going into the dishes. To make cleaning easier, I use a lid from a plastic storage tub or glass jar, put cinnamon along the inside edge, then place the dish on top of the lid.

ants-deter-varietySome people prefer to use wax paper, or biodegradable items, like paper plates or egg cartons. (Cutting individual cups out of the egg carton makes it easy to spread out your poisonous pest buffet around a room or around the house.)

If you know the route the ants are taking to get to the dishes, another option is to block that access route with cinnamon. My mom did this because she could see where they were coming in off her back deck. If the ants do not find a different route to the dishes, you only need to reapply when the ants show up again.

If you use something like boric acid (see red box below), remember to keep your companions away from this stuff. Please be careful, especially if you mix it with peanut butter or something that might attract your furry family members.


If this article is helpful & you’re able, please consider sending a thank-you tip/donation. Even small donations will help me keep my business running during the travel industry slump that has brought pet sitting to a screeching halt. Thank you! (FYI, for a sliding scale fee starting at $30, I offer consultations to help people solve their specific cat-related issues. Let me know what I can help you with.)

Select sources


1 comment to Ant Misbehavin’ (Pet-Safe Ant Deterrents and Poisons)

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>