Keeping both cats and dogs can be an involving affair, and at times you might find yourself mixing the two pets’ foods. While cats and dogs are typically sworn enemies, cats are picky eaters who have a tendency to try new foods just for fun. Dogs and cats seem to have similar types of food, which is why a cat may be tempted to eat dog food.
Can Cats Eat Dog Food?
Yes, a cat can eat a dog’s food, albeit a small amount. While cats can eat dog food without adverse effects, that amount has to be little to ensure the cat’s digestive system does not react adversely to the dog food nutrients.
However, a cat cannot rely on dog food for daily subsistence as it would negatively affect its body. Cats are strict carnivores like their bigger wild counterparts –lions, cheetahs, and leopards, while dogs are omnivores, meaning they can survive on vegetables, fruits, or meats. Dog food is highly likely to contain nutrients incompatible with a cat’s bodily needs and might cause more harm than good.
Hence it is better to avoid dog food for your cats than risk giving it to them, instead, treat your cat with natural kibbles, for instance, to make sure it fits its diet.
Cat’s Nutritional Needs
Cats are carnivores, meaning their diet requires a high protein diet derived from animals, not plants. Such a diet might consist of chicken meal, meats, and animal organs that provide essential nutrients, including calcium, arginine, and taurine amino acids derived from animal extracts.
Additionally, dog food is of much higher calories than cat food, ranging between 100-300 calories per pound of dry food, unlike cat food that weighs between 20-40 calories per pound. An average healthy cat requires 20-30 calories per pound of body weight.
Differences Between Cat and Dog Food
Dog food, on average, has lower protein content than cat food when measured pound for pound. Dog food averages between 18-25% protein content while cat food averages at least 30-35%, with most canned cat foods ranging between 40-50% in protein content.
Recall that cats are obligate carnivores while dogs are omnivores. This brings us to the second most crucial point; that the protein content in cat food is of a different origin than that of dog food. While dog food may contain soy and corn as protein sources, a cat’s carnivorous diet requires animal-derived proteins almost always.
Taurine is an essential supplement in cat food that is unavailable in dog food. Lack of this element causes heart disease, vision loss, and digestive tract issues in cats, making their lives unbearable. Cats also suffer from vitamin A deficiency, and thus, their food is always supplemented with this nutrient.
Lack of this nutrient causes rough coats, weakness, and even blindness, which is why dog food is inappropriate for a cat. Niacin is also an essential nutrient that cats need for survival. Cat food is supplemented with high levels of niacin that cannot compare to dog food content.
Thus, giving a cat dog food predisposes it to health problems in the long term. Cats also lack arachidonic acid, and therefore it is supplemented in their food, unlike dogs which naturally produce the acid.
Dog food is also likely to contain higher amounts of grains, vegetables, dairy products, or chocolate, which can cause stomach upset in cats. Generally, dog food is unfavorable for a cat’s needs.
Also Read: The Best Wet Cat Food for Your Cute Cat
What to Do If Your Cat Eats Dog Food?
When your cat happens to consume dog food, do not worry. A little dog food does not hurt a cat, the only exception being if the cat has eaten too much dog food. Keep the cat on watch and monitor its vitals; if it shows signs of distress or illness, take it to the veterinary. Hydration can also work to purge out any excess dog food that the cat might have taken. Ensure to secure all dog food in the house to prevent a repeat of the incident in the future.
While dogs and cats seem to have similar dietary needs, they are very different in reality. Cats are carnivores requiring high animal proteins, while dogs are omnivores that can get by almost all food types. A little cat food will not hurt your cat, but you should be keen to avoid similar incidents in the future.