Can I Give Cats Dog Food?

You may have come across this article for one of two reasons: first, you ran out of cat food and have nothing left except dog food in your house; second, you found your cat eating dog food from your dog’s dishes. Whatever your reason is, you might be wondering, can I give cats dog food?

The thing is, you are not alone. This question is commonly heard during veterinary visits. For this article, we’re going to answer some of the most common questions about cats and dog foods, such as the differences between cat food and dog food, what happens if your cat accidentally snacks on some dog food, as well as how to prevent food sharing inside the household.

Can cats eat dog food?

Cats can consume dog food, but only in small quantities and limited time. Although dog food is not harmful to cats, the two animals have different nutritional needs. Therefore, cat food will not benefit dogs in the long run and vice versa. This is why portion size and frequency matter when feeding cats dog food.

In addition, cats are carnivores, meaning they should only eat meat. Meanwhile, dogs are omnivores. This means that they can eat meats, vegetables, grains, and other plants. From this, you’ll already get an idea that while both animals make great household pets, they are very different when it comes to dietary requirements.

puppy and kitten, can I give cats dog food
Image credit: JackieLou DL from Pixabay

Can cats eat dog food for a couple of days?

If you’re in a situation where you ran out of cat food, and there’s nowhere to buy one, you might wonder if your dog food can be safely given to your feline friend. The answer is yes, a dog kibble for a couple of days will not harm your cat.

However, long-term feeding of dog food can lead to several health concerns, including malnutrition. This is because cats need a huge portion of protein and healthy fats to keep themselves healthy and fit. On the other hand, dog food usually contains carbohydrates which can be too much for a cat’s nutritional needs. If given in large quantities for long periods, this can pose health issues.

What should I do if my cat accidentally eats dog food?

If you find out that your cat has nibbled on some dog food, the very first thing you should do is not to panic. Dog food is not dangerous to your cat, so long as it is not given daily. Therefore, you have nothing to worry about your cat accidentally eating dog food.

can I give cats dog food
Imag credit: Felix Wolf from Pixabay

What is the difference between dog food and cat food?

We have talked earlier that cats and dogs have different dietary needs. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between cat food and dog food:

1. Arachidonic Acid

Like taurine, arachidonic acid is not something that a cat’s body can produce. Therefore, it must be a part of their diet. However, dog foods rarely have this fatty acid because their bodies can already create it. A cat with insufficient arachidonic acid may suffer from skin problems and abnormal liver.

2. Protein

As mentioned, cats are strictly carnivores, which means they need higher protein content than dogs. As a result, cats who regularly feed on dog foods may suffer from protein deficiency, leading to several health concerns.

3. Calories

Because cats need a higher amount of protein than dogs, this also means that their foods have higher amounts of calories than dogs. This is only one of the reasons why dog food is bad for cats in the long term.

4. Taste

Cat foods have different tastes than dog foods, mainly because felines have different taste receptors compared to canines. As a matter of fact, cats cannot taste sweetness. To give you an idea, cats have 470 taste buds, while dogs have 1,700. As a reference, humans have more than 9,000 taste buds.

This is also why cats tend to be picky with their foods – most foods not made for them are not usually palatable or enticing. In fact, it is customary to see cats not wanting dog food. However, dogs will enjoy the protein-filled food of cats.

5. Taurine

Vital amino acids are critical for a feline’s health. These vital amino acids include taurine, and in the absence of vital minerals and the right quantity of protein, a feline’s health can suffer considerably.

Cats and humans cannot make taurine; Therefore, they need to get their taurine from their regular diet. In dog foods, taurine is not usually added. Therefore, if a cat has been eating dog food regularly, it may lead to taurine deficiency, resulting in loss of vision, digestion problems, dilated cardiomyopathy, or a weak heart.

6. Vitamin A

Both dogs and cats need vitamin A in their diet. However, the vitamin A found in dog food is usually not enough for optimal cat nutrition. A cat with vitamin A deficiency may suffer from poor-quality of hair, weak muscles, and possibly night blindness.

How do I discourage my cat from eating dog food?

If your cat seems to enjoy dog food and you’ve noticed him trying to sneak into your dog’s food bowl a few times already, here are the things you can do to stop him from doing such a thing:

1. Separate the two pets during mealtime

If there’s a significant distance between the two pets during mealtime, this encourages them to eat their own food. For example, have your cat eat in the living room while your dog eats in the dining room.

can I give cats dog food
Image credit: klachairina from Pixabay

2. Schedule your pets their own feeding time

While this may take more patience and extra attention, this is highly effective in preventing your cat from eating dog food, and vice versa. This also works for those who live in small spaces and cannot separate their pets during mealtime. To do this, have your pets eat one at a time. Once your pet has finished eating, put its bowl up and proceed with feeding the next pet. It is also important to monitor them while they eat to ensure that no other pet comes near them while they are eating.

3. Train your pets

Perhaps this would take significant time and patience, but it surely is rewarding. Train your pets not to touch each other’s food by telling them “No” once they get near the other pet’s feeding bowl. Also, make sure to reward them for good behavior by giving them treats. This will encourage them to do the same behavior next time.

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Final Thought

Should cats eat dog food? Although cats can eat dog food, they should not. Because cat food and dog food are two distinct items, they should not be used interchangeably. However, there may be times when you have no choice but to feed your cat dog food, which is fine as long as it is not a regular part of their diet.

It’s important to remember that dog food is for dogs and cat food is for cats. To ensure that your cat has adequate nourishment, keep a month’s worth of cat food on hand in your pantry to prevent them from eating dog food.

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