Last Updated on April 11, 2021 by Dogs Vets
Can Cats Eat Dog Food?
We presume that there are only two reasons why you came across this article. One, you caught your cat stealing a snack from your dog’s bowl and wonder if you’ll have a sick kitty on your hands later. Or two, your day has slipped away, you’re out of cat food and wondering if you’re out of luck too.
Can cats eat dog food? Is dog food good for cats?
The short answer to whether or not cats can eat dog food is yes, but only in an emergency or for a short period of time. This is because cats and dogs have different nutritional needs. Dog food lacks the vital nutrition that cats need for a long, healthy life. Cats are carnivores, which means they eat only meat.
Dogs are known to be omnivores, which means they eat meat, grains and vegetables. Therefore, they need a more varied diet than just meat alone to meet their nutritional needs.
Before we get into the specifics of why your cat can’t eat dog food forever, it’s important to start with the basics of cat nutrition and the difference between the nutritional needs of cats and dogs.
What do cats need to eat?
As carnivores, cats need foods rich in protein, fats and taurine. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, cats need:
- Protein from meat or fish
- Amino acids such as taurine and arginine (from meat or fish)
- Fatty acids
Many veterinarians believe that about 35 to 45 percent of a cat’s diet should be protein.
What is cat food made of?
According to Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a small animal and exotic veterinarian in East Texas and veterinary consultant for doglab.com, cats absolutely need food with taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that is important for normal heart function, vision and reproduction.
Because taurine is only found in animal protein, all cats need a meat-based diet to meet their nutritional needs.
Cat food is high in protein, calories and fat and contains the required amount of taurine. Specifically, Patrick Mahaney, DVM on PetSafe, explains that healthy cat food looks like this:
- Natural whole-food ingredients
- High-quality animal proteins (at least 30%)
- Healthy animal fats (about 15% to 20%)
- Digestible carbohydrates and fiber
- Essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fatty acids
- No by-products, fillers or artificial additives
What is the difference between dog food and cat food?
Dog food contains protein, but also grains and vegetables for omnivorous diets.
Cat food contains only protein (no grains or vegetables) because they are carnivores.
Carbohydrates such as rice and corn in small amounts are fine for cats, but not necessary for a cat’s diet. However, they usually play an important role in dog food.
What if my cat accidentally eats dog food?
If your cat accidentally eats your dog’s dinner, don’t be afraid.
Dog food is not dangerous to cats, but it should not be eaten regularly in place of cat food. A cat can eat dog food without illness, although it is not the best diet for them.
If you are in an emergency situation where you forgot to stop by the store to pick up more cat food and you only have dog food, it is okay for your cat to feed it, Dr. Ochoa says. And if your cat takes a few pieces of food from your dog’s bowl, there’s no need to worry, she adds.
But cats can’t survive on dog food alone for their long-term nutrition. Without the right amount of protein, cats lose muscle mass and become lethargic. When it comes to taurine, VCA Animal Hospitals explains that the amino acid is critical for vision, digestion, heart function, fetal development and a healthy immune system in cats.
What if my dog eats my cat’s food?
Mealtimes in households with multiple animals can be intense. Cats hover around bowls, dogs literally drool over everything. It’s pretty common for the whole family to grab food from each other’s bowls when they can, but is it okay?
Although a dog could potentially live on cat food alone, this is not advisable, according to the American Kennel Club. The calorie density, high protein content and high fat doses are not ideal for dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts and can lead to obesity or even pancreatitis.
Your dog can certainly try some of your cat’s food, but a diet consisting solely of cat food will not give your dog the balanced nutrition he needs.
How do I feed my household with multiple pets?
Cats and dogs can live together harmoniously, but their food mixes just don’t match. The simplest solution for feeding your cats and dogs: separate feeding areas.
Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior expert at Rover, suggests having separate food bowls for each animal in your home and placing them in separate areas. “Remember that cats naturally hunt small animals that they don’t share,” she explains. “Although it’s a ritual for us to eat together, that’s not true for cats!”
Delgado also raises an excellent point about cats’ natural instincts: “They prefer their space and privacy when eating and don’t always want to take turns in a shared bowl.”
What foods are toxic to cats?
Cats should not eat chocolate or onions, which contain toxins that are dangerous to cats. Although kittens will drink breast milk at a very young age, cow’s milk is generally unsuitable for cats and will cause stomach upset if your cat cannot digest it properly.
Can cats eat dog food for a few days?
Dog food is not a long-term diet solution for cats because it does not contain enough nutrition, which is mainly protein and some healthy fats in the meat. They need to stay strong and healthy. Dog food contains other nutrients, including more carbohydrates, that dogs need but don’t require. They can actually be harmful to cats in large amounts or over a long period of time. Bottom line: cats can eat dog food for a short time, but not forever.
What is the basic difference between dog food and cat food?
Dr. Leslie: Cats have a higher requirement for many essential nutrients, while dogs can adapt to life on very little. Cat food, therefore, tends to contain more protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. Cat food is also smaller for the smaller mouth and higher in calories.
Many ingredients used in dog and cat foods are similar, if not the same. It is the amounts used to balance the food that vary. For example, cats are obligate carnivores and have higher requirements for protein, essential amino acids, fatty acids and many vitamins. Their bodies cannot produce the essential nutrients at all or fast enough to meet their metabolic needs.
So dogs could probably eat most cat foods, but cats should not eat dog food. However, some cat food nutrients are also dangerous for dogs.
Q: What are the dangers of a dog eating cat food?
Dr. Leslie: Cats have a much higher safety tolerance than dogs to some nutrients. Cats seem to have evolved ways to tolerate vitamin D levels that could make dogs very sick and even die. Fish- or sea-based cat foods should not be fed to dogs for this reason.
It’s not hard to convince dogs to eat anything. But cat food is made with slightly more fat than dog food. Dogs that are prone to fat intolerances should also not be allowed to eat cat food, as this is a common cause of pancreatitis and indigestion.
Canned cat food tends to contain more animal protein sources, which in excess can put a lot of stress on a dog’s system.
Q: What are the dangers of a cat eating dog food?
Dr. Leslie: A little nibble here or there is usually not a problem for cats. However, in some cases, dog food may contain ingredients that are harmful to cats. For example, propylene glycol is commonly used in semi-moist dog food. It is perfectly safe for dogs, but higher levels can cause health problems in cats.
If a cat were fed only dog food over time, protein, amino acid and fatty acid deficiencies would be expected. The nutrient requirements of dogs are lower, so the content of dog food is often less concentrated.
What happens when a cat eats dog food?
The truth is, when your pet swaps food for a short period of time, there is no real concern. Having said that, an occasional bite of dog food won’t hurt your cat, but feeding dog food for a long period of time can cause your cat to become malnourished.
What can I do to stop my cat from eating dog food?
Place a small pet food bowl in the box and slowly bite into it. Use puzzle toys to feed your pet. Most cats don’t mind dog toys, so while your dog gets the added benefit of playing with the toy and receiving “payment” in food, dog food may be considered off-limits.
What’s in Cat Food That’s Bad for Dogs?
Cat food is too high in fat and protein for your dog, and the reverse is also true. Dog food does not contain enough fat and protein for cats. Additionally, dog food does not provide the right nutritional balance for cats because cats need more vitamin A and taurine than dogs.
What are the bad foods for cats?
There are seven foods that you should avoid feeding your cat
Milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Many of us grew up with images of kittens drinking milk and cream in cartoons and storybooks.
- Raw eggs, meat or fish.
- Dog food.
- Bread and yeast
- Sea chicken
Can a cat eat dog food for several days?
No, cats can’t eat dog food. Cats need a unique diet and unlike dogs, cats are carnivores and need to eat meat in order to survive. Taurine and arginine are essential nutrients that cats need to consume daily and are found only in meat.
Can my dog and cat share a water container?
Once cats and dogs become accustomed to each other’s presence and gestures, they can play together, greet each other nose-to-nose, and even sleep together on the couch. They can easily share the same water container and in some cases will groom each other.
Is cat feces bad for dogs?
Many dogs will eat cat feces, and they are fine, but any feces they eat can expose your dog to harmful bacteria and parasites. For example, some of these bacteria, like salmonella, can infect humans. Additionally, dogs can be infected with several different species of internal parasites from cat feces.
The truth is, there are no real concerns with your pets swapping food for short periods of time. That said, while an occasional nibble of your dog’s food won’t harm your cat, long-term feeding of dog food can cause your cat to become malnourished.
Feed your kitty a proper diet that is specifically designated for cats.
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