Excited Cats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

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

Dog food and cat food look pretty similar once you open the bags. As long as you compare apples to apples, such as dry kibble dog food to dry kibble cat food, the differences seem minimal. But just because they look the same doesn’t mean they are. If you have a dog and a cat and you’re out of cat food, the occasional meal of dog food isn’t going to hurt your feline. But if it becomes a staple in their meal regimen, then you could end up with a very malnourished cat. Let’s take a closer look at dog food and how it would affect your cat.

cat face divider 2

Is Dog Food Safe for Cats?

dog-food-pixabay
Credit: mattycoulton, Pixabay

If you’re only feeding dog food to your feline once, then yes, it’s safe. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. There are some primary differences between cats’ needs and dogs. Dogs are omnivores that can thrive on a mixture of meats and plants. But cats are obligate carnivores. They’re not meant to eat plants and they need far more protein than dogs.

For a hungry cat, a meal or two of dog food isn’t likely to cause any major problems. It could potentially upset your cat’s stomach, but it won’t cause the same kinds of problems that could arise from continued feeding.

Differences Between Cat Food and Dog Food

If you take a look at the ingredients and nutrient profiles of popular feline and canine foods, you’ll notice some serious differences.

Dog and cat eating dry food_135pixels_shutterstock
Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

Taurine

Dogs’ bodies can make taurine. Cats, like humans, do not have this ability. This means that unlike dogs, cats need to get sufficient levels of taurine through the foods they eat. A cat that’s deficient in this vital nutrient can exhibit some serious side effects, including dilated cardiomyopathy or a weakened heart, impaired vision, and problems with digestion.

Because dogs can make the taurine they need, it’s rarely added to dog food. But cats require this nutrient, so it’s almost always included in cat food. You can supplement with taurine, but it’s much better for your cat to get adequate levels through the food they eat.


Protein

Many vets recommend a diet that consists of 35%-45% protein for adult cats. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog food containing that much protein. If you were to feed dog food to your cat for an extended period, even if it was high-protein dog food, it likely wouldn’t meet your cat’s needs and would cause deficiencies.


Vitamin A

Dog food often contains vitamin A, but not at the same levels as cat foods. Cats are unable to synthesize this vital nutrient, and if they’re low in vitamin A, they can develop a host of health issues. Vitamin A deficiency can result in unhealthy skin and coat, night blindness, deteriorated muscles, and more.

For cats eating a diet of high-quality feline food, vitamin A deficiency is rarely an issue. But dog food is lacking in vitamin A compared to cat food, and your cat is likely to be deficient in this vitamin if they eat dog food as a substitute for cat food regularly.


Grains

Because dogs are omnivores, their foods often contain grains that make cheap fillers but still provide some nutrition for canines. But cats are carnivores and grains don’t sit well with their stomachs. Usually, a cat can handle a little bit of grain without adverse effects, but if you feed them too much, an upset stomach and worse are likely consequences.


Flavor

The truth is, most cats won’t be attracted to dog food. Cats are known for being picky eaters. Dogs, on the other hand, are known for eating out of the trash and ingesting such nasty things as poop and puke. Ironically, dogs have several times as many taste buds as cats. While cats have just 470 taste buds, dogs have a whopping 1700.

Cat foods are specifically made to appeal to a cat’s picky flavor preferences. As such, dog food is generally unappealing to them. Granted, you will find the occasional cat that likes to munch on dog food here and there, but by and large, they’re a rarity.3 cat face divider

What to Do If Your Cat Eats Some of Your Dog’s Food

You just walked in and saw your cat eating out of your dog’s bowl. Now, you’re concerned for your furry friend’s health and you’re wondering what effects this meal could have on them. Don’t worry. Dog food isn’t toxic for a cat. The problems arise when your cat is eating dog food in place of cat food because they won’t be getting all of the nutrients they need to remain healthy.

kibble-pixabay
Credit: pzbasnik, Pixabay

cat + line divider

Conclusion

If you need to feed your feline some dog food for some reason, then it’s not going to hurt them if you keep it to just a few meals or less. Prolonged feeding of dog food over cat food will result in a deficient cat that can develop a variety of health problems. But a single meal of dog food isn’t going to be a threat to your cat’s health, even though their taste buds aren’t likely to be interested.


Featured image credit: ariesa66, Pixabay