When given the opportunity, dogs will eat almost anything that’s put in front of them, including cat food. Do cats do the same behavior? Can cats eat dog food? The short answer is “no.” There’s no immediate danger if a cat accidentally eats dog food. However, there are several reasons why it’s not recommended. This includes a difference in dietary needs between cats and dogs as well as how cats process foods.
Pet owners should keep food dishes and in some cases, food areas separate if they have both cats and dogs in the home. There may be similar ingredients in certain brands of pet food, but cat food is formulated to give felines the nutrients they need. This isn’t the same diet dogs follow. To help understand why cats can’t or at least shouldn’t eat dog food, it makes sense to explore their needs more closely.
Cat Nutritional Needs
Cats require certain vitamins to keep them in good health. They aren’t typically as active as dogs and their bodies require different nutrition than canines. Plus, all cat food is not created equal. Some are based on cat breed, diet restrictions, and the age range of a cat. It’s important to take all of these factors into consideration when creating a food plan for your cat.
Cat food has vitamin A which helps with a cat’s skin, fur, and muscles. A vitamin A deficiency is outwardly apparent because a cat’s coat won’t look as shiny or full. Also, dog food may weaken your pet’s muscles, which can cause lethargy in some cases. They may not want to move around or play as much as before. Vitamin A is essential for pregnant females because kittens need it for healthy nerve and muscle development. It’s not the same for dogs because their bodies are able to convert beta carotene into this specific vitamin.
Another important nutrient for cats is taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that is a building block of protein, which is primarily found in meat and fish. Many cats don’t receive a sufficient amount of taurine and a deficiency can result in heart disease or heart failure in cats, feline blindness, and decreased reproductive growth in female felines. Again, taurine doesn’t affect dogs in the same way because their bodies are able to produce it. As a result, it’s not often an ingredient added in dog food.
Cat Dietary Behaviors
You may not think of cat diets the same way as human ones, but just like humans, cats also need personalized care when it comes to what they eat and how active they are. Some cats stay indoors without exploring the outside. Others are as active as dogs, roaming the backyard or the neighborhood. Pet owners should consider the age and activity level of their cats to determine how much food is necessary to keep their pet healthy.
Diets will change over time as a cat becomes older and requires additional or alternative nutrients to help achieve optimal wellness. The best thing to do is to know exactly what’s in your cat’s food. If your pet is suffering from stomach issues or other health problems, write down any new foods or unusual eating habits. Has the amount of food your cat eats daily changed? How do different cat foods agree with their digestive systems? Are there issues such as cat allergies or problems with digestion? Allowing your cat to eat dog food can be one of the contributors to future health problems in cats.
Symptoms of Cats Eating Dog Food
A cat that eats a small amount of dog food, one time, won’t negatively affect his health in the long run. However, if your furry friend has an especially sensitive stomach or has been eating dog food without you noticing, symptoms that may occur will include cat vomiting, feline diarrhea, or weight gain. Often, cat behavior is more subtle than dogs. They may hide their accidents if they eat food that doesn’t agree with them. Keep dog food out of reach as much as possible and be on alert of any changes in your cat’s eating habits.
Protect Your Pet’s Health and Wellness
Technically speaking, can cats eat dog food? Yes, but it’s not advised. Just because they can do something doesn’t mean they should. Doing so will deprive them of essential vitamins they need to support their growth. It will also put them at risk for heart, digestive, and other health problems. Finally, they can have an immediate reaction if they eat dog food and it upsets their stomach. Don’t put your cat through the pain. Give them a cat food that’s made exclusively for them. While it usually dogs you have to look out for more when it comes to eating anything in sight, there’s something to be said about cats and their curiosity.
“Daily Vet.” PetMD, 10 June 2016, www.petmd.com/blogs/dailyvet/2009/August/21-4582.
“Vitamin A Deficiency in Cats.” NASC LIVE, nasc.cc/pet-university/vitamin-deficiency-cats/.