Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

We’ve all been there if we own both furry pets: a cat who snatches a bit of food from the dog’s bowl. But is it dangerous? Is dog food a good replacement for cat food? We’ll dive right in!

Dogs and cats have different dietary needs

Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores meaning that they have to eat meat to survive. Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores, who need a varied diet of meat, grains, and vegetables in their diet. These grains and vegetables are not needed in a cat’s diet. The essential nutrients needed for cats are Taurine and Arginine which are only found in meat.

Did you know that cats require more protein in their diets than dogs or even humans? This is because they have enzymes that are always set for high levels of protein. Cat food generally has around 30%-34% protein (more in tinned food) whereas dog food generally has 18%-26% protein. If we’re looking at cats in the wild, their diet consists of small rodents, but also insects and reptiles. Their diet has hardly changed from what it was hundreds of years ago, no matter how domesticated your cat has become!

What happens if I feed my cat dog food?

If you’ve accidentally fed your cat dog food or if your cat has gotten crafty and stolen food from the dog’s bowl, you don’t need to worry too much. But if cats are fed dog food long-term that can have serious negative consequences. One of these can include a loss of muscle mass and lethargy in your cat. The taurine found in cat food is essential for digestion, vision, heart function, and a healthy immune system in cats.

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Cats and dogs also have different taste receptors with cats often being the pickier of the two animals. This is why cat food is engineered to be highly palatable for our feline friends. It is rather uncommon for cats to feel the need to eat dog food, whereas dogs tend to love the high protein content and flavor of cat food (make sure to keep your dog from stealing your cat’s food too!).

Vitamins are essential for a cat

Other than the protein found in meat, a cat also requires vitamins to lead a healthy life, namely: Vitamin A, Arachidonic Acid, and Niacin.

Vitamin A cannot be synthesized by cats themselves and is generally supplemented in cat food. A lack of Vitamin A will result in a dull coat and muscle weakness.

Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid that can also not be created by cats. A low arachidonic-acid level will result in abnormal kidney and liver levels as well as increased skin issues. Dogs can create this acid by themselves, so it is rarely added to dog food.

Niacin (also known as Vitamin B3) is another necessary dietary requirement for cats. They cannot make Niacin themselves, so it is supplemented in their food. Niacin occurs naturally in meat and fish (as well as eggs and greens) and a deficiency in this nutrient can lead to loss of appetite, weight loss, and inflamed gums.

So should a cat eat dog food?

Technically cats can eat dog food in emergency cases or for short periods. Dog food is not dangerous to your cat’s health, but it simply isn’t recommended for long-term use. If your cat happens to get into some dog food, don’t stress over it.

Should you have any other questions, schedule a video consultation with one of Cooper Pet Care’s qualified veterinarians. Get immediate answers to whatever the issue might be.

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