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Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

Cat eating dog food

If you keep cats and dogs under the same roof, you may see them trying to eat the other’s food because cats are not aware of the fact that dog food contains a lower percent of proteins and fats compared to cat food.

Can you offer dog food to your cat in case of an emergency (when you don’t have cat food available)?

What happens when cats eat dog food?

This article will answer to all these questions, to help you understand why is not very healthy to feed your cat with dog food.

Today, both dog and cat food are manufactured following different formulas and recipes, and can contain a wide range of ingredients to meet the nutritional needs of each animal, often depending on the age or certain health issues.

Can You Offer Dog Food To Your Cat?

Dogs are omnivores, which means that their food will contain fiber and vitamins (high concentrations of beta carotene, which is used by dogs to produce vitamin A), and a lower concentration of proteins and fats than cat food.

Dogs require vitamins and fibers for a healthy development, and a lower concentration of proteins and fats because they tend to gain weight much easier if they start eating cat food (which is richer in proteins and fats).

Cats are carnivores, and this means that their diet will mostly consist of proteins, fats and vitamins, and a smaller amount of fiber.

Exactly like dogs, cats need to eat food that is rich in vitamin A because they are unable to metabolize this vitamin on their own.

The same is with taurine and other amino acids, which cats in the wild get from meat by eating the organs of the prey (mainly liver and heart), but cats that live with us are not able to produce it on their own, so it needs to be provided in their food.

Taurine is an extremely important amino acid for the health of your cat, and a diet that contains a smaller amount of it, can create health problems (mainly heart disease).

Being carnivores, cats need proteins found in meat, and not vegetable proteins, which can be found in the dog food.

Arachidonic acid is an important omega-6 fatty acid, which is required for a healthy feline diet.

Dogs can produce this fatty acid naturally, so there is no need to include it in their food. If your cat starts eating dog food, the arachidonic acid will be missing from her diet.

If your cat has outdoor access, and she is used to hunt birds and mice, she may complete its diet with the required amino acids while eating the prey.

If a cat eats dog food only occasionally, there is no need to worry because health issues can appear only if the cat makes a habit of eating dog food.

So, if you run out of cat food in the house, but you have dog food, you rather give your cat some meat from your own food, because it will appreciate it much better because is a more nutritious meal (that also tastes better).

If you have a cat that prefers dog food instead of cat food, you should hide it from her because she is not aware that even if the dogs are eating that food with pleasure, that meal is not suited for her.

To help your pets make a difference between one food and the other, you should use food that is different in shape and size because they can make a difference this way.
The bowl used to feed the dog needs to be larger and different than the bowl used to feed the cat.

If you use the same bowl to feed both animals, it is somehow obvious that your cat will start eating dog food instead of her own food.

Use a different place to feed the cat, and this way she will never see what dogs are eating.

Dogs are usually extremely interested to eat cat food (it tastes better), but if they make a habit of eating that food too often, they can become overweight in just a couple of weeks, and may develop kidney and liver dysfunction to to the increased influx of animal proteins and fats.

As a pet owner, you need to make sure that your cat has a complete and healthy diet that keeps her in great shape all the time.

Veterinary student, Melodie Raese, from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine explains why we should avoid giving dog food to a cat and vice versa.

Cats and dogs have different caloric needs because the bigger the animal, the more calories it needs.

Dogs being larger than cats require more calories, so their food will be dense in calories.

An average 10 pound cat only needs about 215 to 300 calories a day, while a 30 pound dog (even with little activity) will require around 500 calories per day.

If the cat eats dog food, it will get way more calories than it needs, however, those calories will not come from animal proteins and fats, so if the cat makes a habit of eating dog food, she may gain weight and become obese.

How Can Cats Be Affected By Dog Food?

What are the consequences when one pet steals other pet’s food?

If your cat ate dog food only once, you don’t need to worry too much, however, for the future, you should avoid this happening again.

If eating dog food becomes a regular practice for your cat, she may get sick, starting with symptoms that can be confused with other illnesses such as discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea and even hair loss.

If the cat keeps eating dog food even after these symptoms, she will start showing signs of malnutrition, which can lead to kidney and liver disease (these can be fatal for cats).

Final conclusion

I also have one cat and three large dogs (Cane Corso – Italian Mastiffs).

The cat does not get along with the dogs at all, so the dogs stay in front of the house, while the cat sits in the back yard.

The cat has outdoor access, so I always feed them at different moments of the day and in different places.

Dogs eat in the front yard, while the cat eats only when she manages to arrive home.

This way they never meet, and they don’t know what the others have eaten because the bowls used to feed the dogs are always in the front yard, while the bowl of the cat always sits in the back yard.

When they were puppies (both the dogs and the cat), they have met in the house several times.

Back then I used to feed them together, but even so, the kitten never tried to eat their food.
However, the dogs tried and even ate cat food, but only a couple of times.

Since they grew up, I keep them separate, so they rarely meet, and they never eat together.

The cat eats its food in the back yard, while the dogs are doing the same in the front yard.

This way, I keep them healthy, and I don’t need to worry that one pet will eat the other pet’s food.

Article written by:

Darius Savin is a lifelong animal lover and protector and the chief editor of Checkmember. He writes and edits articles and is also the creator of the distribution maps for all the creatures featured here.