Can cats eat dog food without side effects? Yes! But that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Cats have different nutritional needs than dogs, and the few micrograms of protein they get from canine cuisine won't be worth risking their well-being and satisfy your furry little friend's appetite.
A common question for many cat owners is whether or not their cats can eat dog food. While a small amount of dog food won't hurt your kitty, it will certainly leave them unfulfilled in the long run.
The key difference between felines and canines is that dogs are omnivores while cats are obligate carnivores- meaning they need much more meat than what's offered by pet stores or other commercial brands.
Here is everything you need to know about your cat eating dog food.
Can Cats Eat Dog Food Safely on a Regular Basis?
No, you cannot and SHOULD NOT feed your dog’s food to your cat.
The cat food and dog food formulas are different because they have different nutritional needs. For example, the amount of protein in a can of Purina Cat Chow is much higher than what you would find in Pedigree Dog Food.
This means that cats need more protein to maintain their health as opposed to dogs who only require about 18% of protein per day for healthy living while kitties usually prefer foods with around 30%.
Cats cannot be maintained on a dog food diet. Dog food lacks essential nutrients that benefit the cat in the long run.
Your cat needs to eat food that is right for them. If they don’t, it can make them sick and unhappy.
Specifically made cat food is important for them to stay healthy and happy throughout their life.
What is the Difference between the Nutritional Needs of Cats & Dogs?
Dogs and cats may share our homes, but their dietary needs are very different. Cats require a meat-based diet to meet all of their body's nutritional requirements while dogs can easily eat both plants or animals because they're omnivores.
Omnivores are more flexible than carnivores and they could sustain on a plant-based or mixed diet. Cats are pure carnivores and they could not do well on plant and grain-based food.
Since dog food is designed and formulated for dogs, it is appropriate for a dog’s bowl only. For the cats, a cat’s diet will need to have more animal protein and meat. Their dietary requirements could be satisfied through a specially formulated diet only, and a dog’s diet is far from it.
What are the Key Differences between Cat Food and Dog Food?
Here are the key differences between feline and canine food and dietary needs.
- Differ in Taste
Cats are picky eaters because they have fewer taste buds than their canine counterparts and can't detect sweetness. Cat foods contain higher levels of protein to entice the cat into eating it but still lack a certain 'something,' so pet food manufacturers add various flavors in order to make them tastier for cats.
Cats perceive taste differently from dogs—they don’t like sweet things due to having fewer taste receptors on their tongues while also possessing significantly fewer flavor-sensitive cells overall.
This is why commercial cat foods tend to be high in fat content and by adding special ingredients such as fish oil or probiotics, they try to make them enticing for the cats.
- Differ in Protein Content
Our companions, animals as they may be to us humans, are very different in what is best for them. Cats need food that has a much higher protein content than dog food does because cats are strict carnivores by nature.
Dogs can eat both meat and vegetables so their requirements come with some flexibility. While their food is safe for cats, it is not recommended at all.
Most dog food contains 18-26% of protein, which works for the dogs but would not work for a cat. Cats need high protein between 30% - 40% of the protein in their daily food.
Some companies aim to increase the percentage to 50% by adding some more supplements.
- Taurine Supplements
Cats are among a few mammals that have trouble producing taurine. The essential element is critical to their diets, so they must find it in some form. Some physiological effects of lack of taurine include;
- weakened heart
- loss of vision
- digestion problems like vomiting and diarrhea
These all can also be common side effects if cats don't consume enough levels of this amino acid through food sources because all commercially available cat foods today contain taurine essentially.
- Arachidonic Acid Supplements
Cats can't make arachidonic acid, so they need to eat it. If they don't eat enough, then they might get sick. They might have problems with their liver or kidneys or have skin issues.
Dogs on the other hand can create this fat all by themselves. Therefore, dog food is rarely supplemented with arachidonic fatty acids since dogs do not require these supplements for healthy functioning.
- Vitamin A Supplements
Cats are special animals with specific dietary needs and health issues. One of these is the need for vitamin A, which cats cannot synthesize on their own but must have supplemented in their diet.
While dog foods might contain enough vitamins to keep them healthy, they never contain high enough amounts required by felines needing optimal nutrition levels due to this lack of ability to produce it themselves.
Cats need vitamin A for their skin, muscles, and eyes. Most dog food has this. But not enough for cats. People who feed their cat dog food might have a cat with problems like poor coats, weak muscles, and decay in the eye.
- Niacin Supplements
Cats cannot make niacin on their own so it's important to add enough of this protein to your cat’s daily intake. Not all foods contain the proper levels though. If you want the best quality for your kitty then feed him something with animal tissue.
Niacin is important for cats, but they can't produce it themselves. Many cat food brands contain animal tissue to meet their niacin needs but a diet with too much plant material might not work as well.
Top Cat Supplements 2022 - What is the Best Vitamin for Cats?
Besides the ones mentioned above, cats need a number of other vitamins for their sustenance. Here are some of those vitamins and the best supplement brands for them.
- VetriScience Laboratories Multivitamin for Cats - best for a cat’s overall health
- Rx Vitamins B12 Cat Supplement - best vitamin B supplement
- Rx Vitamins D3 Cat Supplement - best vitamin D supplement
- Vetoquinol Viralys Gel L-Lysine Supplement for Cats - best paste supplement
- Tomlyn Felovite II Nutritional Gel Cat & Kitten Supplement - best for kittens
- Golden Paw 10-in-1 Cat Multivitamin - best vitamin C supplement
- Dr. Bill's Feline Health Defense Vitamin C for Cats - best powder supplement
- NaturVet Senior Daily Vitamin for Cats - best for senior cats
- Zesty Paws Wild Alaskan Salmon Omega 3 Fish Oil Cat Supplement - best for your cat’s joints
All of these are great for felines but consult your cat’s veterinarian before giving anything to your kitty. You can get these from a pet supermarket.
Life Stage - What is the Importance of Life Stage?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a national organization that closely monitors and regulates the pet food industry. AAFCO’s nutritional standards are applied to all certified cat foods, which will be labeled with three main stages; growth, maintenance, and for any life stages.
Additionally, their overall protein, vitamin, and nutrient needs vary throughout different life stages and a dog food brand will not be able to fulfill these requirements.
Cat food has different nutritional needs for kittens than it does for older cats. Older cats need more protein to help maintain their muscles, while kittens just need more nutrients and energy sources for their growth.
Dog food cannot possibly provide the proper sustenance long-term at any life stage of a cat's development.
The food we feed to our cats should be as healthy and well-balanced as possible. If you are a cat owner, it is your responsibility to give them the best quality of life that they can have. Cats deserve nutritious meals that will not only keep them healthy but also ensure their longevity in your home.
But while dog food will not cause harm if it’s eaten occasionally, it's just not designed in the same way as cat-specific diets. Therefore, it cannot meet all of their nutritional needs like specially created feline foods.
Best Cat Food for Your Feline - 2022 Top Brands
Here are the top picks for cat food in 2022.
- Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cat Food
- Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Natural Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Dry Cat Food
- Tiki Cat Emma Luau Variety Pack
- American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- Purina Beyond: Ocean Whitefish and Egg Recipe
- Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula
- Halo Grain-Free Senior Holistic Chicken & Chicken Liver Dry Cat Food
All of these brands are known for the quality of food they provide and choosing any of them would be great for your kitty. Besides, the best cat food recommended by the veterinarians will offer maximum benefits to your cat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can cats eat dog food in an emergency?
Yes, cats can safely consume dog food in an emergency. But it is suggested that you must not feed it to your cat regularly. Dog food lacks many nutrients that are essential for your cat, which makes it less effective and nutritious for your cat.
Can cats eat wet dog food?
Yes, cats can eat wet dog food, and no, they should not have it as part of their diet. It does not have nutrients like Taurine, Arachidonic fatty acids, and Arginine that are essential for a cat’s healthy sustenance.
Cats cannot eat dog food because unlike dogs who enjoy plant-based foods as well as animal products such as bones and skin, and raw meats, cats are obligate carnivores meaning they need to consume meat for survival.
What will happen if cats eat dog food?
Dogs and cats sometimes like to share a meal. But while an occasional nibble won't hurt your cat, long-term feeding of dog food can lead it to become malnourished and have other health issues.
What food is poisonous to cats?
Here are some foods that are poisonous for cats.
- Onions and Garlic
- Raw Eggs, Raw Meat & Bones
- Chocolate and Caffeinated Drinks
- Alcohol and Raw Dough
- Milk and Dairy Products
- Grapes and Raisins
- Dog Food
Many cat owners do feed dog food or kibble to their cats but, on a regular basis, this would be dangerous.
Is tuna bad for cats?
You might think that your cat is all set because they can eat tuna, but you also need to consider how the type of tuna will affect them. Cats cannot properly digest human-prepared seafood and it'll lead to malnutrition over time with a lack of nutrients being provided by this food source for felines.
Too much eating of tuna, sushi, or other types prepared for humans can cause mercury poisoning as well which has been linked back to organ failure if left untreated.
Can cats eat eggs?
No, raw eggs are not good for cats. It is because the protein in raw eggs binds with biotin and prevents cats from absorbing it, which leads to major health issues over time such as anemia, nerve damage, and even death.
With all these risks associated with eating any type of uncooked food for our furry friends, you should always cook them instead so she's able to enjoy what she eats without worrying about getting sick.
Can cats eat chicken?
You should never feed your cat chicken that is raw, as it can lead to health problems. Always ensure the meat you give them has been boiled and does not have any bones in it so they don't choke on anything while eating.
You may also need to take into consideration other food sources for your feline’s diet. Only giving cooked chicken could cause nutritional deficiencies over time.