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How to Stop a Cat From Eating Dog Food: 4 Effective Tips & Tricks

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Dog and cat eating dry food

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So, you caught your cat eating your dog’s food. What do you do? It can seem very unusual to see your cat eating from your pup’s bowl. Naturally, cats are carnivores, so they love meat but will eat dried food if it’s their only option. Conversely, dogs are facultative carnivores, so besides meat, they can have veggies and fruit in their diet and will eat those happily.

But is it okay if your cat eats your dog food? Not exactly.  The macronutrient and micronutrient content in dog and cat food formulas is catered toward the specific needs of each species. So, how do you stop it?

Cats can be fussy eaters, and they may just eat your dog’s wet or dry food if they have access to it and are hungry. However, you can prevent this by employing a few different methods.

The 4 Tips to Stop a Cat from Eating Dog Food

1. Call Your Dog for Chow Time

senior beagle dog eating food from the bowl
Image Credit: Przemek Iciak, Shutterstock

One of the simplest ways to keep your cat from eating your dog food is to simply feed your dog on the spot. Whenever you lay out their meal for chowtime, be sure to call your dog immediately so that they can go to work on the food before your cat has time to take a nibble.

More than likely, the cat won’t try to eat the food while the dog is consuming it, as most dogs are super territorial when they’re eating.

2. Set Up a “Food Gate”

The funny thing about dealing with a cat that eats dog food is that it’s usually the other way around: Typically, the dog of the home keeps eating the cat’s food. However, this method can work for both animals.

When it’s mealtime, set up a tall gate. You can purchase one from any pet store—even child safety gates will work. This can be in the kitchen, backroom, laundry room, or any other designated area where you decide to keep your dog’s water and bowl.

When it’s time to eat, simply put up the gate, and cover it with cardboard or another item so that the cat can’t squeeze through it. Sometimes, you’ll need to double the gate’s height (by stacking them), as cats are known for hopping over things. Of course, you can simply designate a separate room for your dog and shut the door while they eat.

3. Feed Them Simultaneously

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

You can also organize your pets’ meals so that you’re feeding both your dog and your cat at the same time. Cats are naturally curious animals, so feeding them their own meal will keep them occupied while your dog is eating.

The cat will be too busy investigating what’s inside their own bowl to pay attention to your dog’s food. If your dog doesn’t complete their whole meal, be sure to store it somewhere safe in a closed container so the cat can’t get to it.

4. Use an Automatic Feeder

Depending on the size of your dog and the eating schedule of your cat, it may be difficult to schedule simultaneous feedings. If that’s the case, using an automatic feeder may be better. You can set up the feeder to dispense in half-an-hour or hour intervals, and it may take a few tries to get the timing just right for your animals.

This way, your dog’s food will only be available when it’s time for them to eat, and your cat (which may be more likely to nibble throughout the day) can get more frequent meals and won’t be tempted to eat the dog’s food.

What Is the Difference Between Cat Food and Dog Food?

There are significant differences between cat food and dog food, which is why it is important to make sure that your cat eats their own food on the regular as opposed to your dog’s meals.

persian cat eating dry food
Image Credit: Patrick Foto, Shutterstock

Cat Food Has More Protein

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need proteins and animal fat to thrive, and it’s what they prefer most of the time. Conversely, dogs are facultative carnivores. They love to eat meat, but they can also eat grains and vegetables.

Dog Food Can Contain Sweeteners

Cats can’t taste sweeteners or sugar, which is likely an adaptive trait of their carnivorous nature. However, dogs can. Based on research that looked at the genetic changes in sweet receptor genes, it was found that sweet carbohydrates and sweeteners simply don’t do it for cats.

This leads some experts to believe that perhaps cats’ “picky” eating habits are just a result of their functional taste receptors. We’ve all seen how much dogs love peanut butter and bananas and apples!

a Devon Rex cat eating from a white ceramic plate
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

Cat Food Contains Important Amino Acids

Cats need specific ingredients in their meals that aren’t usually found in the same amounts in dog food. For example, cats cannot synthesize taurine, an important amino acid for heart health, digestion, and vision. They won’t get enough from dog food, as when given the right amino acid precursors in their diet, dogs can synthesize taurine themselves. Likewise, the fatty acid arachidonic acid is essential for cats because they cannot convert it from other fatty acids, unlike dogs, which can convert it from linoleic acid.

Dogs Need More Carbs

Cats and dogs have different carbohydrate requirements. Felines require almost no carbohydrates in their diet. A diet high in carbs can cause weight gain, diabetes, and other health problems. Dogs require more carbohydrates, and these carbs are often derived from plants and grains.

Will Dog or Puppy Food Be Harmful to My Cat?

sick cat
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

Dog food isn’t necessarily harmful to your cat, but it’s best that you feed them cat food instead. Your cat will not be hurt by dog food if they only eat it occasionally. Keep in mind, however, that your cat is not supposed to eat dog food as their main source of nutrition. It’s not immediately dangerous, but it is nutritionally insufficient for cats. As mentioned previously, dog food simply doesn’t contain the essential nutrients and vitamins (like vitamin A, taurine, and other amino acids) that cats need to stay healthy.

Your cat will quickly feel the negative effects of a lack of these nutrients if you only feed them dog food on a regular basis. For example, your cat could develop eye or heart issues and other health problems.

Common Reasons Why Cats Eat Dog Food

1. They Mistake It for Their Food

The smell of dog food in many cases can smell similar to cat food. If you serve wet food, this can be especially enticing for cats. The sense of smell is a big factor in a cat’s food decisions. They might find that the dog’s grub is simply more appealing than their food. Or they may not be able to tell the difference between the dog’s food and their own.

2. They’re Lazy

Sometimes cats simply eat dog food because of convenience. After all, they are animals, which means that they can be opportunists when it comes to eating. In such cases, they may eat the food of the dog (or human food) if they’re close enough to the bowl and are hungry.

3. They Like the Dog Food More

Some cat breeds have short noses and may struggle to pick up small pieces of cat food. These cats often prefer to eat dog food that contains larger pieces, which is easier for them to consume.

4. They Want Food Variety

If you’re used to feeding dry kibble to your cat, and they constantly eat your dog’s wet (or dry) food, it could be that they are simply bored with their food or don’t like it as much as the dog’s food. Consider feeding the cat a different protein or meal brand.

Wrapping Things Up

While it’s not ideal for cats to eat dog food, it isn’t necessarily hazardous to them. But ultimately, you want to feed your cat a food that’s formulated for felines exclusively. Whether you feed your cat dry kibble or wet food, it’s best to ensure that they are fed at least two or three times a day, and snacks throughout the day are also helpful.

It’s a good idea to pay attention to your cat’s appetite to ensure that they actually like the food that you provide. If they don’t, you may find them sneaking into your dog’s food more often, which is something that you don’t want to happen regularly.

Featured Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

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