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How to Stop a Cat from Eating Dog Food — 4 Tips and Tricks

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By Nicole Cosgrove

siamese cat eating food from bowl at home

So, you caught your cat red-handed and your dog’s food. What do you do? While this isn’t uncommon, it can seem very unusual to see your cat eating from your pup’s bowl. Naturally, cats are carnivores, they love meat, but will eat dried food if it’s their only option.

On the other hand, dogs are omnivores. So, foods including meat, veggies, and fruit, they’ll eat it all — and do so happily. But is it okay if your cat eats your dog food? Not exactly. So how do you stop it?

Cats can be fussy eaters; they may eat your dog’s wet or dry food if they have access to it and they’re 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 its meal for chowtime, be sure to call your dog immediately so that it 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 we all know that dogs are super territorial when they’re eating.

2. Set Up A “Food Gate”

Set up a tall gate for your dog. The funny thing about cats that eat dog food is that it’s usually the other way around. It’s usually the dog of the home eating the cat’s food. However, this method can work for both animals.

When it’s mealtime, simply set up the gate, you can purchase them from any pet store–even child safety gates 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 the gate up and cover it with cardboard or another item so that the cat can squeeze through it. Sometimes, you’ll need to double the gate’s height (by stacking them) as cats are known for hopping over at all things. Or, of course, you can simply designate a separate room for your dog and shut the door while it eats.

3. Feed Them Simultaneously

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

You can also organize your meals so that you’re feeding both your dog and your cat at the same time. We all know that cats are naturally curious animals, so feeding them their own meal will keep them occupied while your dog is consuming its meal.

The cat will be too busy investigating what’s inside of its own bowl to pay attention to your dog’s food. And if your dog doesn’t complete all its meal, be sure to store it somewhere safe in a closed container where 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 it 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 its 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 true carnivores, which means that they need proteins and animal fat to thrive–and it’s what they prefer most of the time. Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores. They love to eat meat, but they can also eat grains and vegetables in a heartbeat.

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 one to believe that perhaps cats’ “picky” eating habits are just a result of their remaining taste receptors. And 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 dog foods. For example, cats cannot produce taurine, an amino acid important for digestion, vision, and heart health, as well as arachidonic acids, which dogs can produce. An insufficient amount of arachidonic acids in the cat’s diet can cause abnormal kidney and liver function, skin conditions, and poor blood clotting.

Dogs Need More Carbs

Cats and dogs have different carbohydrate requirements. Felines require fewer carbohydrates than dogs. 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?

dog eating cat food
Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

Dog food isn’t necessarily harmful to your cat, but it’s best that you feed it cat food instead. Your cat will not be hurt by dog food if it only eats the dog food occasionally. Keep in mind, however, that your cat is not supposed to eat dog food as its main source of nutrition.

It’s not immediately dangerous, but it is nutritionally insufficient to feed your cat. As mentioned previously, dog food simply doesn’t contain the essential nutrients and vitamins (like Vitamin A, taurine, and 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 it dog food on a regular basis. For example, your cat could become dehydrated, develop hearing loss, heart issues, and other health problems.

Common Reasons Why Cats Eat Dog Food

They Mistake It for Their Food

The smell of dog food in many cases can smell similar to their food. If you have wet foods, 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 grub.

They’re Lazy

And sometimes cats simply eat dog food because of convenience. After all, they are animals, which means that they can also 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 they’re hungry.

Cats are More Likely to Eat Dog Food

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.

The Cat Wants Food Variety

If you’re used to feeding your cat dry kibble, 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

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

It’s also a good idea to pay attention to your cat’s appetite to ensure that it actually likes the food that you provided. If it doesn’t, you may find it sneaking into your dog’s food more often — something that you don’t want to happen regularly.


Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

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