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Can Cats Eat Dog Food? What You Need to Know!

Ashley Bates

By Ashley Bates

dry dog food in bowl

Did you forget to pick up cat food the last time you were at the store? If you’re looking for an emergency meal, you might wonder if you can toss them a dish of dog kibble. But can cats eat dog food safely?

Cats can have a few bites of dog food here and there, but it’s not a suitable substitute for them. That means a single meal won’t hurt them, assuming they find it palatable. But it would help if you never counted on dog food to match all their dietary requirements. Below, we’ll explain why.

Dog vs. Cat Diet

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they derive their nutrients from animal-based proteins. They need plenty of amino acids to keep their muscles, skin, and bones in tip-top shape.

On the other hand, dogs are omnivores, meaning—like us—they eat both plant and animal matter. Dogs need healthy grains, vegetables, and fruits in addition to their daily protein to stay healthy.

Commercial dog food offers more plant-based nutrition than cat food, so the nutritional profiles don’t match.

dog and cat eating pet food together at home
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Nutritional Differences Between Dog & Cat Food

While dog and cat food recipes might look similar at first glance, here are some key differences:
  • Protein Content

While both dogs and cats require that a huge chunk of their diet is made up of protein, dogs can survive with less. Cat food contains a high amount of animal-based protein. Dogs have a pretty steady combination of plants and animal protein in their diets.

  • Taurine

Taurine is an irreplaceable part of a cat’s diet. Their bodies cannot produce it independently and rely on diet to give them this valuable nutrient. A lack of taurine can cause digestion trouble, vision loss, heart, neurologic and reproductive problems.

  • Vitamin A

Dog’s metabolize vitamin A different than cats do. Dog’s diets have a significantly lower amount of  Vitamin A.  Cats without appropriate levels of vitamin A have a declined appetite, a dry coat, and are prone to eye infections, in growing kittens it can cause delayed growth, and extreme cases of lack of vitamin A cause poor muscle coordination, muscle deterioration, and brain damage.

  • Niacin

Niacin is yet another nutrient that cats derive solely from diet alone. Dog foods do not contain a fraction of the niacin your cat needs to stay healthy.

Related Read: Can Cats Drink Goat Milk? What You Need to Know!

bengal cat near cat bowl
Image Credit: golubovystock, Shutterstock

Can Cats Eat Dog Food Every Day?

Cats absolutely cannot eat dog food every day. While you can give them a few hunks of kibble here and there, this substance will not nourish your cat’s body the way that they need. Ultimately, it leads to malnutrition, which can open a whole other realm of possible health issues.

Do Cats Like Dog Food?

Most cats will take one sniff of dog food and snub their nose at the idea. However, some cats might enjoy the taste of savory meals, like canned dog food. And then, of course, there’s always that one weird exception—a cat who is gaga about dry dog kibble.

If your cat doesn’t keep its face out of the dog’s bowl, it might be time to separate them during meals.

Proper Cat Diet

Cats should have a high-quality dry kibble cat food diet with no harmful additives. Above all, your cat’s food should have meat as the first ingredient followed by as few fillers as possible.

If you’re having trouble maintaining a multi-pet household, or you’re low on cash, check with local shelters, rescues, or veterinary facilities for emergency services. They might be able to help you out in your time of need.

There are also tons of homemade cat food options on the web. You might have all the ingredients to make a fast meal in the comfort of your own home. However, run the recipe by your vet to make sure it has all of the key ingredients your cat requires.

Siamese cat eating dry food from a bowl
Image Credit: catinrocket, Shutterstock

Related Read: Can Cats Drink Almond Milk? What You Need to Know!

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a quick meal replacement, you might be able to swing one dog food meal for your feline friend. But make sure it’s one meal only—and don’t make a habit of it. Cats need a particular series of nutrients that are breed-specific, just like any other animal.

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Featured Image Credit: 279photo Studio, Shutterstock

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