Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

Can Cats Eat Dog Food

Yes, cats can eat small amounts of dog food, but only in emergencies or for a short period. While dog food is not toxic to cats, it does not meet cats’ nutritional needs and can thus be detrimental to their health and well-being if fed on a consistent and long-term basis. This is because cats have different dietary needs from those of dogs.

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that their diet should consist of meat-based proteins and animal fats for their systems to function optimally. On the other hand, dogs are omnivorous; hence, their nutrients can include both animal and plant proteins. Cats also require higher amounts of proteins than dogs. Therefore, dog food that’s nutritionally complete for dogs may not be balanced for cats.

Feeding cats large amounts of dog food for extended periods can lead to various health issues, including poor digestion, organ dysfunction, nutrient deficiency, and poor skin and coat health. The best way to meet a cat’s nutritional needs is to feed it a balanced and complete diet formulated for felines. However, if your cat steals some dog food from your canine’s bowl, it’s unlikely to be harmed. 

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What is the difference between dog food and cat food?

Cat food is formulated differently and contains different nutrients from dog food. The following are some key differences between dog food and cat food:

Protein levels

Cats require higher proteins with a minimum of about 26%  compared to dogs that need at least 18% protein level. Thus, cat food is formulated with more protein than dog food to adequately cater to their energy needs for a happy and healthier life. 


Unlike dogs, cats are not capable of producing taurine. As such, cat food must be supplemented with this nutrient in their diet. Thus, cat food has added taurine while it’s not a must in dog food. Lack of taurine in a cat’s diet can lead to digestion issues, loss of vision, and heart weakening.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an essential part of a cat’s diet. This vitamin is essential for maintaining proper eye, coat, and skin health. It must thus be supplemented in cat food because, unlike dogs, cats cannot produce it in their bodies. Although some dog foods may contain some vitamin A, it’s usually in lower amounts than in cat food.


Dogs are incapable of producing niacin in their bodies. This must also be provided in a cat’s diet. Cat food gets most of its niacin from animal tissues. Foods that have a higher content of plant tissue and lower animal tissue content may not be capable of meeting the niacin needs of cats.

Arachidonic acid

Arachidonic acid is an essential fatty acid that cats cannot produce and must obtain from their food. This fatty acid is not usually added to dog food because their bodies can produce it on their own.

What food should cats eat? 

Being carnivorous, cats need foods high in proteins, fats, and taurine. According to vets, proteins should make between 35%-45% of a cat’s diet. An ideal diet for cats should be protein, amino acids such as arginine and taurine, minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and water.

Cat food comes in different forms, including raw, dry, and canned varieties. Cats can eat any of these foods depending on their tastes and preferences. Wet food is recommended for cats as it can help in keeping cats well hydrated and promoting a healthy urinary tract.

Cats do not require too many carbohydrates, as they play no significant role. Their food should not contain high carbohydrate amounts as this can lead to diabetes, obesity, and urinary tract issues since cats don’t drink sufficient amounts of water.

While raw food can be beneficial to cats, it risks contamination from harmful pathogens. These can lead to serious gastrointestinal issues.

Always talk to your vet before making any changes to your cat’s diet, as he will be able to determine the best diet for it.

Do cats have different nutritional requirements than dogs? 

Yes, the nutritional needs of cats are very different from those of dogs. Dogs are considered omnivores, meaning they can obtain nutrients from animals and plants. Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores, and as such, their food and energy requirements are only derived from animal tissues.

The following are some of the nutritional differences between cats and dogs.

Proteins: Generally, cats require a diet with more proteins than dogs to lead a healthy life. Typically, a cat’s food should consist of one-third proteins. These are essential for providing necessary amino acids like arginine and taurine. While dogs are capable of producing these amino acids, cats are not. These should be supplemented in cat food as low amounts of these can lead to blindness, deafness, or heart failure.

Carbohydrates: While carbohydrates are good sources of energy for dogs, they are not necessary for cats and hence not a dietary requirement for cats.

Vitamins: Both cats and dogs need vitamins for good health. One of the most important minerals for cats is vitamin A which is necessary for eye, skin, and tissue health.  While dogs can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, cats can’t. This should be supplied through their diet.

Why does ingesting dog food have a negative effect on cats? 

While cats can eat small amounts of dog food for short periods, prolonged consumption can negatively affect the health of dogs. This is because dog food lacks the essential nutrients that cats require to live a happy and healthy life. 

Unlike dogs that can eat meat, grains, and vegetables, cats are strictly carnivorous, meaning their diet should consist of meat only. This means that cats require a higher protein diet than dogs. Dogs need a minimum of 18% protein in their diet, compared to 26% for cats. This means that feeding dog food to cats will not meet their protein needs. This will lead to nutrient deficiencies, which can have serious health impacts on cats. Thus, cats need to be fed a complete and balanced diet specially designed for felines.

What are the negative side effects your cat may experience after eating dog food?

Feeding small amounts of dog food to cats for short periods is unlikely to cause harm to your dog. However, when fed over prolonged periods, cats may suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Since cats have different dietary needs from dogs, dog food may lack some of the important nutrients that cats require for long and healthy lives

Some negative side effects that a cat may experience after eating dog food include:

Allergies: Some dogs may experience allergic reactions from consuming dog food. Look out for the following symptoms that may indicate that your dog is reacting to some ingredients in the dog food.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive itchiness and scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Behavioral changes

Nutrient deficiency: If cats over-indulge on dog food for extended periods of time, they may suffer deficiencies as they won’t be getting all the nutrients like taurine, vitamin A, and arginine they require for optimal health and functioning. Symptoms that can show your cat is lacking some nutrients include;

  • Poor coat condition
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and other digestive issues
  • Hunched back
  • Blindness, deafness, and heart problems
  • Reproductive problems

Obesity: Dog food contains carbohydrates that are necessary for energy provision. While carbs are important for dogs, they play no important role for cats. The relatively high amounts of carbohydrates in dog food puts cats at risk of obesity.

What should you do if your cat is suffering from the negative effects of dog food? 

If your cat has had a few bites out of your dog’s bowl, there is nothing to fret about, as it’s likely to be fine. However, if your dog has overindulged and is showing symptoms like poor skin/coat condition, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, unusual urination or defecation, or any other signs of being sick, it’s important to make an immediate appointment with your vet for a proper evaluation and treatment.

Additionally, if your dog is showing signs of allergic reactions, make a note of the specific dog food the cat consumed and consult your veterinarian about any potential complications. 

Then, you will need to discourage consuming the food by keeping it away from your cat to avoid further problems.

What is the ideal food ratio for cats? 

The ideal food for cats should be high in proteins and fats, but low in carbohydrates. Typically, the food should be between 50%-70% protein level, 10 % carbs, and 30% fats. 

It’s important to look at the portions you are feeding your cat in order to maintain a healthy weight. Eating too much will make your cat obese, putting it at the risk of many other serious health issues.

How much a cat should eat depend on its size, age, weight, health condition, and activity level. However, generally, cats should consume 24-35 calories per pound of weight daily. This should be divided into mouse-sized portions and fed 4-6 times a day.

Can Dogs Eat Cat food? 

Yes, dogs can eat cat food in small amounts. However, this should not be part of the dog’s regular diet. Dogs have different nutritional needs from cats. While cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they get all their nutrients from animal proteins, dogs are omnivores and can thus need a more varied diet than meat alone to meet their dietary requirements. They can thus consume meat, vegetables, and grains as part of their diet.

Cat food is higher in animal-based proteins than dog food. This can make it extremely appealing to dogs. However, dogs are not designed to handle these high proteins in cat food. Too many proteins and fats in cat food can lead to obesity and pancreatitis in dogs. Additionally, some dogs may have sensitive stomachs, and cat food may cause vomiting and diarrhea. What’s more, dogs with kidney or liver diseases need to consume moderate amounts of protein. Since cat food is very high in proteins, feeding these dogs can exacerbate their condition.

If consumed over extended periods, cat food may cause health problems in dogs. It’s safer to stick to high-quality and completely balanced dog food for your dog.

Related Article: Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

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Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.