Can cats eat dog food? In short, no. Cats and dogs have different nutritional requirements that are reflected in the ingredients of commercial pet foods. The long answer requires a bit more explanation. It certainly won’t harm your cat to eat a few bites of dog food: there’s no reason to rush them off to the vet if you catch them stealing some of Fido’s snacks (unless your cat has allergies or an underlying health condition). But a diet consisting primarily of dog food will eventually lead to nutritional deficiency in your kitty, which can cause a multitude of health problems.
So, what is the difference between cat food and dog food? Can cats eat dog food instead? The answer to this ultimately comes down to the nutritional requirements for each animal. For example, cats cannot create their own Taurine, an essential amino acid only found in animal-based proteins, so they must get it from external sources, ie. their diet. All cat foods should contain enough Taurine to prevent deficiencies that can weaken the heart. Dogs, on the other hand, can create their own Taurine and don’t rely on their diet to supply it for them. When a cat eats dog food, they won’t be getting enough Taurine to sustain proper system functions which can lead to blindness or heart failure. Taurine is just one example of the many differences between feline and canine nutritional needs. Like Taurine, cats also cannot produce their own Vitamin A or Arachidonic Acid, both necessary nutrients for cats that dogs can produce on their own.
Symptoms of Malnutrition
If your cat has been primarily eating the dog’s food and ignoring his own, here are some signs of malnutrition to look out for:
- Fur loss
- Weight loss
- Dry, flaky skin
- Pale or swollen gums
- Concave claws
How to Prevent Your Cat from Eating the Dog’s food, and Vice Versa
Most people feed their pets in the same location at the same time. While this may be convenient for us, it actually promotes sharing food between dogs and cats. If you’re having trouble getting your cat to stop eating the dog’s food (or the other way around) feed them in separate locations at separate times. Animals do very well on a schedule, so eventually, your kitty will realize that when the dog gets fed isn’t when he gets fed. It also helps to have a differently designed bowl. We like the look of matching bowls in similar sizes and colors, but this isn’t what’s important to cats and dogs (although some animals do have preferences about the material of their bowls). Having bowls that are easily distinguishable from one another will help your kitty understand that this is his bowl and that is Fido’s bowl. Finally, cats do understand boundaries if you are disciplined enough with them. A firm ‘no’ can go a long way in preventing food sharing. Alternatively, if none of these is an option for you, you can get a feeder that connects to your pet’s microchip and will only release food for them.
In short can, cats can eat dog food? Yes, but it’s not recommended.