Can Cats Eat Dog Food?
There are one of three reasons you came across this post. First, is that you caught your cat stealing a snack from your dog’s bowl and can’t help but wonder if you’ll have a sick kitty on your hands later. (SUPER FAIR). Two, it’s feeding time and you just realized you are out of cat food but still have plenty of dog food. Or three, you’re like me and you’re just curious what is in each of their different foods and what our dogs and cats SHOULD be eating at its core is a constant question you have.
Alright the third one is probably less likely, I agree.
Can cats eat dog food? Is dog food good for cats?
So, the short answer to whether or not cats can eat dog food: yes, but only in an emergency or for a short period of time. The biggest reason you do not want your cats to constant be eating dog food is because they have different dietary requirements than our canine friends.
At its core it boils down to how dogs and cats are different. Cats are carnivores. In all our posts about cats and food, we focus on the fact that cats need meat. Meat needs to be #1 above anything else.
Dogs are omnivores, which means they eat meat, but they also need grains, and vegetables in their diet to be healthy. Dogs require a must bigger variety in their diet than cats which means their food needs to also contain that variety. Let’s dig in a little deeper to what dogs and cats each need to be their healthiest selves.
What foods do cats need to eat?
Like I said earlier, cats are carnivores. That means their main source of food needs to be high in protein, fats, and taurine in their diets. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, cats need:
- Protein from meat or fish
- Amino acids like taurine and arginine (from meat or fish)
- Fatty acids
If you are feeding your cats food. You want to make sure that any food contains the above list.
What is Taurine and Why is It Important in Cats?
Nearly all vegetarians agree that cats need food with taurine in it to be healthy and active. But what is taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid that is important for normal heart function, vision and reproduction. This amino acid is found only in animal-based protein, which again explains why cats require meat in their diets to be their healthiest selves.
Luckily, nearly all canned and dry cat foods are very high protein, calories, fat, and contain the necessary amount of taurine. It is important that you find the right dry and/or wet food to that your cat not only likes but also helps their needs beyond their base nutritional requirements. But more on that in other posts.
What’s the difference between dog food and cat food?
Dog foods contain protein but also contain grains and vegetables for their omnivore diets.
Cat food contains just proteins (no grain or vegetables) because they are carnivores.
Carbohydrates like rice and corn in small amounts are fine for cats, but they aren’t necessary for a cat’s diet. However, they usually have a major role in dog food.
Interestingly enough, when veterinarians talk to cat owners if their cat is overweight. They will ask first about what types of foods they are eating. Some, not many anymore, dry cat food contains more grains than protein. This can cause cats to gain weight and after extended use, can cause them to have health issues related to weight
What if my cat accidentally eats dog food?
If your cat accidentally eats your dog’s dinner, don’t fret.
Dog food isn’t dangerous to cats, but it shouldn’t be eaten in place of cat food on a regular basis. A cat can eat some dog food without illness even though it’s not the best nutrition for them.
If you are in an emergency situation where you forgot to stop by the store to pick up more cat food and all you have is dog food, feeding it your cat will be fine, And if your cat takes a few pieces of food out of your dog’s bowl, there’s nothing to worry about.
I’d compare it to if you have no food made for dinner so you eat a handful of Twizzlers. Is that going to hurt you? No. But if you want to be healthy, you should not make a habit out of it.
What if my dog eats my cat’s food?
So we know that if cats sneak some dog food it’s not the end of the world. Is the same true for dogs? . C It’s pretty common for the whole family to snag bites of food from each other’s bowls if they can, but is it OK?
The answer to that is pretty similar to the answer of the cats. It does not harm your dog to eat cat food in rare times, but it is not something that should be done often.
Not surprisingly, the reason is the complete opposite of the cats. The caloric density, high protein levels, and heavy doses of fat aren’t ideally suited to canine gastrointestinal tracts, and it can lead to obesity or even pancreatitis.
Your dog can safely sample a bit of your cat’s food, but a diet consisting solely of cat food won’t give your dog the balanced nutrition they need.
How do I feed my multi-pet household?
As someone who has grown up in a multi-pet household, I do understand sometimes it is not as simple to keep their bowls separate.
Additionally, as someone who had their dogs eat the cat food and suffer the weight gain because of it, I know the importance in keeping it separate. (Don’t worry, the puppies were fine. A little diet and exercise and they were back to their normal weight).
Cats and dogs can live together harmoniously, but their food dishes just don’t mix. There are two easy solutions for feeding your cats and dogs. First is separate feeding areas. While it seems easier to have all the animal food in one area, this could cause confusion between pets as they are trying to figure out what to eat. Try putting the bowls in different rooms for dogs and cats. This allows your pets to know consistently where their food is and you can watch if the others are trying to sneak into other rooms.
If that is not a possibility, I would have them in the same area but different heights. Cats like to jump and are willing to eat in higher places than dogs. You could place your cat dishes either on a counter or a higher area and leave the dog’s bowls on the floor. This keeps them separate while still being in a smaller area.