Can Cats Eat Dog Food? Know What’s Safe and What’s Not for Your Kitty
- Is it safe for cats to eat dog food?
- Why is my cat eating dog food?
- Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs
- Difference between cat food and dog food
- Cat eating dog food side effects
- What if my cat ate dog food by mistake?
- How to stop your cat from eating dog food?
- Can dogs eat cat food?
Can cats eat dog food is a pretty common question. Chances are, you may have come across your cat stealing from your dog’s food bowl and am wondering whether your cat will be healthy or you are totally out of cat food and want to wait till the next day to get more.
Well, this article will let you know all about your cat eating your dog kibbles and snacks, including what side effects it may have on your cat.
Is it safe for cats to eat dog food?
The short answer is, yes. Cats can eat dog food but only in an emergency or for short periods of time.
If you plan to do so in the long term, then no, cats should not and cannot be maintained on a dog food diet.
Why so? Because cats and dogs have different dietary requirements and nutritional needs. Your cat eating your dog’s food in the long term can be detrimental to the health of your cat.
Why is my cat eating dog food?
To be honest, only your cat knows why it likes eating cat food. There may be a few reasons we can guess at, which include:
- Your cat is curious.
- You are feeding your cat dry food, which is usually coated in the same animal digest as dog food.
- Your cat wants a variety of food.
- It tastes better
Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs
Cats and dogs are very different animals, which means their nutritional needs are very different too.
Cats are obligate carnivores. They require meat-based proteins in their diet in order for their system to function properly. Cats require more protein to survive and function properly. They do not require much carbohydrates (less than 10% of its diet) at all.
Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores, which means they can eat both meat and vegetables and do not rely entirely on protein. In fact, it needs other nutrients that come from vegetables and grains to be healthy. Cats do not.
Therefore, a cat’s diet does not meet the nutritional requirements of a dog and vice versa.
Difference between cat food and dog food
There are a few key differences between cat food and dog food. These include:
Cat and dog food tastes different. Cats and dogs also have different taste receptors. For example, most cats actually lack the ability to taste sweetness whereas dogs can.
Cats have only 470 taste buds whereas dogs have 1700 taste buds! Just for comparison’s sake, humans have over 9000 taste buds.
Usually, cat food is specially engineered to be more palatable for our feline friends so that it can entice even our picky cat to eat. That is why usually, cats do not really want to eat dog food as they find it rather unappetizing. Dogs, on the other hand, usually love cat food.
2. Protein content
As obligate carnivores, a cat diet requires a higher protein content than a dog diet.
Although dog food also contains protein, the protein level definitely does not reach the high level of protein needed to keep cats healthy.
3. Vitamins and minerals essential for a feline
Cats are unable to synthesize certain vitamins and minerals that are essential for its well being. They have to get these vitamins and minerals from food sources instead.
Cats do not have the ability to make taurine and have to get this essential element from their diet. Without taurine, cats will suffer from vision problems, digestive issues, loss of heart muscle function and inability to maintain a healthy immune system. Most cat food has taurine added to it. However, taurine is rarely included in dog food.
Arachidonic acid, which is important for its reproductive performance, is another essential element that cats can only acquire from their diet. Dogs, on the other hand, can create this fatty acid by themselves. Therefore, dog food is seldom supplemented with arachidonic acid.
Your cat is unable to synthesize vitamin A on its own and has to have it supplemented in its diet. Although most dog food contains vitamin A, it is usually not enough for your cat's optimal nutrition.
4. NiacinAnimal tissue is the most common source of niacin in cat food. Although plants and grains do contain low levels of niacin, it does not give cats the proper levels of niacin that they need.
As protein is required in cat food, cat food is higher in calories. This is another reason why it is not recommended for your cat to eat dog food as not getting enough calories is bad for cats in the long term.
Cat food tends to be smaller when it comes to food portions. Overfeeding a cat by allowing it to eat up a dog’s larger meal, which is larger in size, will lead to multiple digestive issues in your cat.
Cat eating dog food side effects
If your cat accidentally ingested some dog snacks or even a whole meal on purpose, your cat will be alright. It is generally safe but only in the short term.
There will be side effects if your cat eats dog food everyday.
One of the side effects is that your cat does not get its essential nutrients. Taurine and arginine are essential nutrients that are only found in meat. Your cat has to consume sufficient amounts of protein to synthesize these acids.
As cats’ enzymes are constantly set for a high level of dietary protein, another side effect if your cat is eating dog food for long periods of time is that they are unable to regulate the activity of liver enzymes involved in the metabolism of amino acids.
By eating dog food on a regular basis, your cat will suffer from many nasty side effects due to insufficient nutrition including:
- Loss of vision and eyesight problems
- Metabolism being affected
- Kidney failure
- Heart diseases
- Reproductive system being affected
- Affecting the fur coat
Dog food is also bad for cats as it lacks moisture. Usually, dogs will drink water when it senses it is getting dehydrated. However, cats are known for not drinking water. Wet cat food contains sufficient moisture in it to ensure your feline friend is well hydrated and as expected, dehydration in cats can lead to many health-related problems.
What if my cat ate dog food by mistake?
If your cat accidentally eats dog food, do not worry. Dog food is not harmful towards cats. However, a cat should not be eating dog food on a regular basis although it is not the best nutrition for them.
If you are in an emergency situation or have forgotten to pick up cat food and the only food you have for it is dog food, feeding it dog food is fine and nothing to worry about.
In the long term, make sure your cat does not survive on dog food. Without the right amount of protein, it is unable to synthesize taurine and arginine, which will lead to multiple health issues such as loss of vision and heart diseases.
How to stop your cat from eating dog food?
While dog food is not harmful or poisonous towards cats, it is important to ensure that your dog’s food does not become the default meal for a curious cat during mealtimes.
There are a few ways to stop your cat from eating dog food, including:
- Keeping your cat and dog food bowls away from each other.
- During mealtimes, keep your pets in two different rooms if possible.
- Feed your cat and dog at the same time as your cat will be busy investigating her own bowl.
- Make sure your cat loves her food. Observe and see if your cat likes what you are giving it.
- Ensure your cat has sufficient food. If it is on a diet, it may take some time before your cat is used to the restricted diet and while getting used to it, may steal from your dog’s bowl.
- Use automatic pet feeders. Cats and dogs have different eating styles. Dogs can eat twice a day while cats tend to nibble small pieces throughout the day. Your cat will therefore feel hungry if it is left with no food for long stretches of time.
Can dogs eat cat food?
Yes, dogs can eat cat food alone. However, it is not advisable due to the different nutritional needs of a dog. Cat food, which is calorie dense, contains high levels of protein and heavy doses of fat are not suitable for dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts and can lead to obesity or pancreatitis.
A small bit is okay for your dog but a dog on a cat diet is detrimental towards its health.