There are only two possible outcomes from your discovery of this article. One is that you discovered your cat eating out of the dog’s bowl and now you’re worried that she’ll get sick.
Or, perhaps you’ve run out of cat food and are wondering if you’re also out of luck because the day has gotten away from you.
Can cats eat dog food?
So, in case you were wondering, cats can eat dog food, but only in extreme circumstances or for a short time.
This is due to the fact that cats and dogs have distinct nutritional needs. Cats can’t get the proper nutrition from dog food to live a long and healthy life. Carnivore simply means that cats only eat meat.
To meet their nutritional needs, dogs require a more varied diet than just meat because they are omnivores and also eat grains and vegetables.
It’s important to get the fundamentals of cat nutrition and the differences between cat and dog nutritional needs out of the way before diving into the specifics of why your cat can’t eat dog food forever.
Is It Safe for Cats to Eat Dog Food?
If your cat accidentally consumes a small amount of dog food once or twice, it shouldn’t get sick. But there are a few caveats, as pointed out by the Clinical Nutrition Service:
- Feeding a healthy cat dog food is generally accepted as safe. This standard does not apply if your cat has a preexisting condition like cancer or kidney disease.
- Tolerance levels for various foods can vary greatly from one cat to the next. The Clinical Nutrition Service emphasizes the need to treat each cat as an individual, noting that while one feline might be fine eating a particular food, another might experience stomach upset afterward.
- The number of servings and how often they are consumed are both important factors. When dog food is substituted for cat food on a regular basis, the cat’s health will deteriorate because she won’t be getting the proper nutrition.
What do cats need to eat?
Because of their carnivorous nature, cats require a diet rich in protein, fat, and taurine. The Cornell Feline Health Center recommends the following for healthy felines:
- Animal or fish-based protein
- Meat or fish sources of amino acids like taurine and arginine.
- The Fats
The protein content of a cat’s diet, according to many veterinarians, should range from 35 to 45 percent.
What is cat food made of?
Cats require taurine-rich food, says Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a small animal and exotic veterinarian in east Texas and veterinary consultant for doglab.com.
Taurine is a vital amino acid for maintaining healthy heart function, eye health, and fertility. Taurine is essential for cats’ health, and it can only be obtained through eating meat.
The protein, calories, and fat content of cat food is extremely high, and so is the amount of taurine it contains. Specifically, healthy cat food has these characteristics, as described by veterinarian Patrick Mahaney, DVM on PetSafe:
- Pure, unprocessed, and all-natural foods
- a minimum of 30% premium animal protein.
- Good fats from animals (15% to 20%).
- Complex sugars and fiber
- Nutritional building blocks like B vitamins, iron, zinc, and folic acid
- There are no fillers, byproducts, or synthetic ingredients.
Are There Any Nutritional Benefits to Feeding Cats Dog Food?
Not only do dogs and cats have different dietary requirements, but they also have distinct personalities. Cats can only get the nutrition they need from animal products because they are obligate carnivores.
On the other hand, dogs can eat almost anything. Their nutritional requirements encompass both animal and plant foods (such as grains and vegetables).
This means that a commercial food that is complete and balanced for a dog will not be so for a cat.
Taurine, for instance, is an essential amino acid for felines. However, canines can make their own supply of taurine.
Many experts advise giving your cat wet food rather than dry because of the risk of dehydration.
Your cat may not be getting enough water if she is regularly eating your dog’s dry kibble instead of her own canned food.
Should Cats Eat Dog Food?
The bottom line is that cat food can’t be substituted with dog food. It’s not just clever advertising designed to make you shell out more cash and carry around more baggage; the two items truly are distinct and cannot be substituted for one another.
The Clinical Nutrition Service states, “Cats have specific nutrient requirements that must be met by the diet.”
“A complete and balanced commercial diet developed by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist or an individual with a PhD in animal nutrition is the easiest and most convenient way to meet a cat’s nutrient requirements. ”
Talk to your vet if you are concerned about whether or not your cat is getting enough of the nutrients she needs from the food she eats on a regular basis. Depending on your pet’s specific dietary requirements, they will be able to make some helpful recommendations.
What To Do if Your Cat Eats Dog Food
It’s probably not a big deal if your healthy cat sneaks some of Fido’s food. If you notice any severe side effects, like diarrhea, vomiting, or weight loss, consult your vet immediately.
If your cat has food allergies or another medical condition, feeding it dog food could make things worse.
How to Keep Dog Food Away From Your Cat
To prevent your cat from eating your dog’s food, you may need to get creative, because let’s face it: cats are stubborn. An elevated bowl might help keep the cat away from your large dog’s food.
Keeping your pets’ feeding areas separate is a simple solution. Keeping their bowls in separate rooms reduces the likelihood of them squabbling over food. Putting up a gate or closing the doors during mealtimes can also help.
If you find yourself regularly snacking on dog food, it may be time to see the vet. Keep track of the cat’s food brand and any other changes in behavior that may indicate illness for your vet to consider.
When it comes to feeding time, one option is to not give pets free access to food. Schedule regular mealtimes for your pet, and then be sure to watch them eat before taking their bowl away.
Investing in automatic feeders is another great way to keep your cat from scavenging for leftovers.
What’s the difference between dog food and cat food?
Dogs are omnivores, so their food should include both meat and plant matter.
Cats are carnivores, so their food is strictly protein (no grains or vegetables).
Small amounts of carbohydrates like rice and corn are fine for cats, but they are not required. But they typically play a significant part in dog food.
What food is poisonous to cats?
Chocolate and onions both contain toxins that are harmful to cats and should be avoided at all costs. Cow’s milk is generally unsuitable for cats and will cause stomach upsets if your cat is unable to digest it properly (even though kittens drink their mother’s milk when very young).
Can cats eat dog food for a couple days?
Cats can’t get the proper nutrition from dog food over the long term because it lacks the protein and healthy fats (found in meat) that they need to grow and thrive.
Cats don’t require the additional carbohydrates found in dog food, and consuming too much of it over an extended period of time could be harmful.
Overall, cats can survive on dog food for a limited time, but not indefinitely. There’s really no reason to worry if you have to switch your pets’ diets for a few days.
While it’s fine for your cat to try a bite or two of your dog’s food now and then, regularly feeding your cat dog food can cause nutritional deficiencies.
While feeding your cat some dog food every once in a while probably won’t do it any good, the two species have very different nutritional needs. If you want to avoid health problems, you shouldn’t satisfy your cat’s nutritional needs by giving it only dog food.
It’s probably okay to feed your cat dog food if you have no other options. However, it’s important to keep an eye on your feline friend in case it develops an allergy or sensitivity.
There’s no need to freak out if your cat has taken to eating out of the dog’s bowl. However, you should discourage this practice because dog food typically contains more carbohydrates than is necessary for cats.
However, cats eating dog food can gain weight and develop health problems like diabetes due to the high carb content of dog food.