page title icon Can Cats Eat Dog Food? Is it Dangerous for Cats?

by Linda Mathews Last Updated November 22, 2021

Numerous cat and dog owners face this problem: they notice that their cats eat dry dog food with pleasure and don’t really like cat food. So, is it ok? Do you necessarily have to retrain your pet or just let it eat whatever the cat’s soul desires?

Unfortunately, today there’s a false belief that every pet knows best what to eat, relying on its own animal instincts. But in fact, it’s a misconception: if it was a true fact, no cat or dog would ever suffer from obesity, kidney and heart diseases, which are related to poor nutrition.

Take a look at the teeth of your cat: they’re meant to rip and tear of flesh – meat is what they crave!

Yes, cats and dogs have unique nutritional needs – cats are obligate carnivores (need 60% to 80% of meat in their diet in order to survive), while dogs are omnivores (can eat different types of food and get all essential nutrients from it). And all pet food producers bear the dietary requirements of the intended species in mind to create high-quality products for your little friends.

But what happens if kittens eat dog food? Can dog food make a cat sick? Let’s figure it out!

Why Do Cats Eat Dog Food?

Having summed up the pros and cons, a neglectful owner decides that there’s nothing to worry about in non-specialized feeding. The choice is approved by the enthusiasm of the pet, which eats dog food with pleasure. Moreover, some cats even boycott feline food and require only dog food. What are the reasons?

  1. Guided by instincts, cats may have a feeling that a dog can eat something more delicious.
  2. Simple curiosity or revenge – why not to try?
  3. Since it smells like food, I’m gonna eat it – an attractive aroma or flavor of the dog food triggers some cats (like potato chips beckon humans).
  4. Some dog food ingredients can be very appetizing to cats.
  5. It can be your mistake: since dog food is usually cheaper than cat food, you might cheat once or twice, allowing your cat to taste “something different”.

What’s the Difference Between Dog Food and Cat Food?

Dogs are omnivores, so dog food contains grains, vegetables, and proteins.
Cats are carnivores, so cat food contains only protein. Besides, carbohydrates are important for the dog’s diet, while they are not important for cats.

What Happens If a Cat Eats Dog Food?

What Happens If a Cat Eats Dog Food?

We’ve already mentioned that cats have different nutritional needs from dogs. They rely on proteins, healthy acids and fats, Vitamins B, A, C, taurine, and lots of other nutrients to survive. Cats become underdeveloped and malnourished if fed a diet designed for dogs. So, what are the possible consequences?

  1. The loss of muscle mass and build-up of fat.

Cats need more protein than dogs because they are obligate carnivores. Their liver is constantly working at a high enzyme activity which is ideal for a high protein diet.

Also, dog food contains proteins that come from plant sources, which can’t provide cats with the essential nutrients – they need animal-based proteins to maintain their health.

There are more carbohydrates in dog food, as their energy costs for walks and lifestyle are much higher.

  1. Blindness, heart problems, deafness.

All cat foods contain taurine – an essential amino acid that is found in raw meat. It plays an important role in the metabolism of a cat.

Dogs don’t need to consume taurine as they can synthesize it internally. Eventually, dog food does not contain taurine and some other amino acids (which dogs’ bodies can manufacture) at all.

  1. The weakening of the digestive system, parasites, and infections.

It happens because dog food contains more plant-based components. Cat body is not able to break down the cell walls of vegetables and extract the nutrients from a plant.

  1. Coat, skin, and kidneys problems.

Cats require more fat then the dog food contains. Also, they need both arachidonic and linoleic acids from animal-based fats, while dogs need only linoleic acid.

  1. Anemia and decay.

Since cats can synthesize fewer amino acids than dogs, they need eggs included in their food as a rich source of amino acids.

  1. Improper balance of vitamins = lethargy, seizures, poor posture, poor coat condition, bad immune system, impaired reproduction, and even death.

Cats need more B vitamins (thiamin, niacin), and folic acid than dogs. Also, dog food can be not rich enough in A vitamin (for cats), as it’s often plant-based (sweet potatoes, squash) and can’t be absorbed by a cat’s body.

  1. Dehydration of the body.

The thing is cats, unlike dogs, can’t sense when they’re getting dehydrated. So, cat food always offers enough moisture, while the canine food lacks it.


Dog food with 100% meat, can be an exception. For example, the canned food, which contains only turkey or pheasant, and a little water, with intact pieces of meat and soft bones, will become a tasty and healthy snack for your kitty.

Can Cats Eat Dog Food For A Day? Why is Dog Food Bad for Cats in the Long Term?

Can Cats Eat Dog Food For A Day? Why is Dog Food Bad for Cats in the Long Term?

Now you know that a large amount of dog food will definitely cause lots of health problems for your cat. But what if you feed your pussycat with canine food once or twice? Is it bad for cats?

No, buddy!

As we’ve figured out, dog food just lacks important nutrients, but it is not harmful to cats. So, an occasional nibble of your dog’s food won’t hurt your cat’s health but continued snacking on it certainly will.

As long as you’re sure your kitty’s main meal is cat food instead pooch chow, it should OK.

One recommendation is that dog treats should not exceed 10% of a cat’s caloric intake, the remaining 90% of your cat’s calories should come from a high-quality, nutritionally complete cat food.

 How Do I Stop My Cat Eating Dog Food?

  1. If you’re living in a household with both a cat and a dog, feed your pets in different places (separate rooms), but at the same time.
  2. Remove dog food from the bowl in 15-20 minutes after the pet has eaten. Dogs try to eat everything at once, but cats will come back to the bowl again and again to have a little snack (they naturally tend to eat as many as 12 to 20 times per day due to their little stomachs).
  3. If your dog is big, place its bowl on a countertop, a shelf or a table, slightly below the level of its head. There should only a bowl be placed so that the cat cannot reach and eat it.
  4. Make sure that your cat is inside the house while your canine pal is eating.
  5. Store dry dog food in a tightly closed plastic container so that a cat can’t get into it.
  6. Switch your both animals to meal feeding.

Bottom Line

To feed or not to feed? That is the question. Every pet owner makes a decision by themselves. However, before allowing your kitty to steal dog food another time, think about the consequences it can lead to. Despite there won’t be any serious problems at that point, you may significantly lower the quality of your cat’s life or even shorten it.