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Can Humans Eat Cat Food? What You Need to Know!

Have you ever been putting together your cat’s meal for the night and thought to yourself “wow, I really want to taste this delicious cat food! It seems so gourmet!” Yeah, us neither. In general, cat food doesn’t smell or look terribly appetizing, but to each their own! Whether you’re interested in eating cat food for the taste or out of necessity, this article aims to inform you of the safety of such an action. Luckily, there’s nothing in cat food that should kill you or cause an immediate and awful reaction, but that doesn’t mean we recommend substituting it for your dinner.

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Delicious Labels

Cat food, like any product, hopes to entice you into buying it. One way they do this is by using names that appeal to people. After all, your cat isn’t reading the label on its food, you are. So, advertisers try to pick names that you might want to eat yourself. The idea is, if something sounds tasty to you, you’ll want to give it to your cat.

Here are some actual names given to cat foods:
  • Grilled Chicken and Cheddar Cheese Feast in Gravy
  • Ocean Whitefish and Tuna Dinner
  • Savory Chicken Entrée
  • Tender Beef Feast

If a microwave dinner had the same name as any of these cat foods, you probably wouldn’t hesitate to buy it. So, it’s not that surprising that some people do try their cat’s food.

dry cat food
Image Credit: Crepessuzette, Pixabay

FDA Oversight

In America, all pet foods are subject to oversight by the Food and Drug Administration. Individual states each handle the regulatory work following guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. As such, there are many regulations and strict standards that pet food manufacturers must meet. However, these standards are not the same ones imposed on food made for humans. Because of this, if you happen to get sick eating pet food, you may not have many options for legal recourse.

Food from the Same Farms

The truth is, a lot of the ingredients in your cat’s food come from the same farms that produce the food we eat. There’s a big difference between the ingredients in human food and cat food though. In human food, only the highest quality parts of each animal are used. By-products are generally not made into food for humans. You won’t find ground-up bones, scraps, and offal in your TV dinner, but you will in your cat’s food.

For cat food, manufacturers use the parts of the animals that weren’t used for human food. While we get the good cuts like tenderloins and back straps, it’s everything else that goes into cat food, including many parts you’d probably rather not eat.

Canned Cat Food vs Dry

canned meat with sauce and dry kibble cat food
Image Credit: Jiri Hera, Shutterstock

Dry pet food is more susceptible to contamination than food in cans. It’s ripe for E. coli infection and other harmful pathogens. But canned cat food is sterile because of the canning process. This means that you’re generally better off trying canned cat food than dry kibble.

However, even canned cat food can become contaminated. Back in 2007, pet food from more than 150 brands was recalled because a Chinese manufacturer added a type of plastic to their protein exports. This resulted in the deaths of multiple pets in the US, and if you had eaten any of that pet food, it could have killed you too.

Ironically, you’re even more likely to bite into contaminated human food, which is recalled all the time. Shortly after the 2007 recall, baby formula in China was recalled for the same contamination of the melamine plastic, which resulted in over 300,000 sick children and more than a dozen deaths.

What Will Happen if you Eat Cat Food?

So, the big question: if you eat cat food, what will happen? Truthfully, you’ll probably just be full. Nothing in cat food is indigestible for humans. In fact, it’s made from the same basic foods we regularly eat. The difference is in the quality. High-quality ingredients are used for human food, but the lower-quality equivalents end up in pet food. Eating a single meal of cat food poses no real health risks.

That said, there are health risks that could be associated with long-term consumption of cat food. Even though it’s made of ingredients we commonly eat, it’s lacking in some vital nutrients that cats don’t need but we do. For example, vitamin C can be produced by your cat’s body, so it’s not included in cat food. You can’t produce this vitamin though, and without it, you could suffer some serious consequences, including scurvy, which occurs as a result of extreme vitamin C deficiency.

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Conclusion

All in all, it’s not that unsafe to eat some cat food. Canned food is safer than dry kibble since canned food is generally considered to be sterile. We probably wouldn’t eat either, but if you’re going to choose one, canned is the way to go. But don’t eat cat food long term. While it doesn’t pose any serious health risks when consumed in small amounts, long-term consumption can lead to deficiencies and health issues that you’d be better off avoiding. For our meals, we’ll stick to the other parts of the grocery store and only purchase food for our cats from the pet section!

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Featured Image: Jiri Hera, Shutterstock