If you have a cat and a dog, you have probably caught your cat nibbling on dog food. This might concern you, as you are probably wondering if your feline friend will become sick. Another reason why you are wondering can cats eat dog food is that you are all out of cat food.
The short answer is: yes, they can, but only a small amount and for a short period of time. A long answer requires a deep dive into the difference between dogs’ and cats’ dietary needs.
While a small bite of canine food won’t cause any harm to your feline, it won’t provide them with good health.
If you are interested to learn in what circumstances can cats eat dog food, you’re on the right spot. Below is some useful information about canine and feline diets and why they aren’t the same.
Why Can’t Cats Eat Dog Food?
Often we hear people wonder, ‘Can cats eat dry dog food?’, or ‘Can cats eat canned dog food?’ The food type doesn’t have any impact on it.
It might look or smell almost the same to us, but it’s the ingredients that count.
Even though we love them the same, cats and dogs aren’t the same. Evolution has made them be completely different animals with different dietary needs.
Cats are carnivores. They require a daily intake of animal fats and meat-based proteins for their organs to function.
In other words, cats can’t live unless they consume meat in any shape or form.
The cat can manufacture most of the substances it needs by itself. For example, Vitamin C can mostly be produced in the liver.
This is unlike us humans, who would die without consuming it. However, there are some other substances that they can’t produce that we’ll talk about later.
On the other hand, dogs are omnivores. This means they can survive on a plant-based diet, even though their primary food is meat-based.
Yes, they are hunters in nature, but they can still live on other nutrients as well.
So then, why can’t cats eat dog food?
One of the reasons is Vitamin A. This essential vitamin is also known as retinol and it is essential for both cats and dogs.
Dogs have enzymes in their intestines that can create active Vitamin A from plant carotenoids. Cats can’t do that.
They require to take Vitamin A from some other animal that can produce it. Other similar nutrients like this include arginine, niacin, taurine, and felinine. All these are substances that dog can create by themselves, while cats can’t.
Another important reason why cats shouldn’t eat dog food is the amount of fat they need to function. Dogs can fast for a long while and they are able to use fat reserves for energy.
Cat’s organism will break non-fatty body tissues to provide enough energy. This is bad for its organs and it can even cause a condition called hepatic lipidosis.
This is why the answer to the ‘Can cats eat dog food?’ is ‘No.’ However…
Can Cats Eat Dog Food in an Emergency?
Dog food isn’t dangerous for cats. They won’t die or get sick from eating it. Felines simply won’t get enough essential nutrients from eating dog food.
However, if there is an emergency, they can survive on it for a brief period of time.
If you have forgotten to buy cat food or your local store has closed, don’t worry. Your cat can eat dog food for a little while.
It is better to let her eat than to leave her hungry or starving. Also, nothing will happen if she stole a few pieces of food out of the dog’s food bowl. Keep in mind that this shouldn’t happen too often.
Dog food is meant for canines and your cat can’t survive on it. It also isn’t smart to let your cat get used to it, as cats are known to be picky eaters.
If they start preferring their friend’s food over their own, you can have problems in the future. Getting cats to like their food once again isn’t an easy task, but it will be necessary.
Do Cats Shed More when They Eat Dog Food?
If your cat loves eating dog food, shedding isn’t what should concern you. However, yes, cats can shed more when they eat dog food.
This is because the quality of their skin and fur is highly dependable on the quality of their nutrition. Protein is especially important for this, and dog food doesn’t have a lot of it.
When cats eat food that isn’t meant for them, their health declines. Without the necessary substances, they can find in meat, they can’t have a good life. The first sign of health problems is shedding.
If you have several pets and you notice your cat started to shed, don’t worry. This usually doesn’t mean that your feline friend has been stealing from the dog’s bowl.
Cats can shed for many reasons. They would have to be eating dog food for a while for this change to occur. It’s more likely that something has been causing them stress which leads to them shedding extensively.
If you have a cat who sheds, and you’ve ruled out dog food as a culprit, you should change her diet. Some cats are simply prone to shedding and losing an unnoticeable amount of hair is perfectly fine. However, if you start noticing bald spots this is a cause of concern. Before you do anything else, consult your veterinarian for advice.
When your cat is losing hair but her health is fine, you should find her the best cat food for shedding. The most important thing that you should look for on the label is a high level of protein.
Lack of meat protein is the biggest reason behind hair loss in cats. Other nutrition you should look for are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Best cat food for shedding should also have enough vitamins and antioxidants.
Also, it doesn’t contain any grains, which is present in dog food but isn’t beneficial for cats. It’s made with completely natural ingredients and doesn’t have any by-products. Of course, what works for our cats perhaps won’t work for yours. Keep changing until you find the food your feline will love!
How to Stop Cat Eating Dog Food?
Despite the rumors, cats and dogs can live together. That being said, their food has to remain separate.
This isn’t easy when you have a multi-pet household, but it isn’t impossible. After reading everything above, you probably wonder how to stop your cat from eating dog food.
The best thing you could do is get everyone a separate feeding area. This doesn’t only mean separate food dishes.
Keep the bowls in different parts of the room – or even better, keep them in different rooms altogether. You can also consider feeding them at a different time.
Dogs are pack animals. They love eating together with their humans, which is why their lunchtime is usually similar to ours.
Cats are used to hunting and not sharing their prey. They won’t feel the need to eat when you do unless you have learned them to. In fact, felines will prefer having their privacy while eating.
Also, you should know that cats and dogs have different eating habits. Dogs will usually eat everything from the bowl, and they’ll eat it fast. Cats are slower and they tend to leave food for later.
This is a great opportunity for your dog to come and to take a bite. Prevent this from happening by putting your cat’s bowl someplace elevated, where the dog can’t reach it.
This will keep your dog from eating food that isn’t meant for him. It’ll also learn your cat that her food is safe and she won’t have to look for other food sources.
If your dog and cat vary in size, you can also play with pet doors in different sizes. Some people like to create puzzle toys to feed their pets. Most cats won’t like playing with dog toys, so his food will be safe.
Can cats eat dog food? Technically, yes, but they really shouldn’t. Even though both are mammals and hunters, their organisms work in a very different way.
Cats need meat and can’t survive without it, while dog food is usually more diverse. Nothing bad will happen if your cat simply stole a piece of dog food.
However, this should be a regular practice. It is in their best interest to keep their foods separate. Not only will it keep your felines healthy, but it will also keep them stress-free and prevent them to lose weight.