Food, whether for humans or their pets, can seem too tempting to resist, even for the most obedient pup.
And while that shouldn’t be too much of a problem in a dog-only household, some people live in multi-pet households.
This can cause owners to worry about how strictly they have to limit dogs stealing cat food.
Can dogs occasionally eat cat food? What’s the best way to prevent this? Newsweek asked the experts.
Should dogs eat cat food?
Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinarian for the American Kennel Club (AKC), notes that dogs and cats have different dietary needs.
He said Newsweek“Cats need meat in their diet, while dogs need meat and vegetables to meet their nutritional needs.
“Your dog probably won’t be harmed by eating cat food once in a while, but there’s a reason dog and cat food are formulated differently.
“If you share your home with dogs and cats, it’s best to discourage one from eating the other’s food.”
Can cats eat dog food?
Dogs and cats are often characterized as not getting along, but a greater danger may lie in the incompatibility of their food, suggests Vicki Jo Harrison, president of the International Cat Association (TICA).
She said Newsweek“People who live with dogs and cats often ask if there is anything wrong with dogs and cats sharing the same food.
“While a small amount of stolen dog food will not harm your cat, continuously feeding another’s food can be hazardous to their health and is not advisable in the long term. Dogs, however, love the delicious protein content of cat food.
“While the ingredients in dog and cat food are remarkably similar, they are not equal.
“Dog and cat food formulas have different nutritional components to meet the different dietary needs of these two species. A dog’s diet does not meet the specific nutritional needs that cats require.”
She noted as an example that cats are obligate carnivores, “meaning they need a diet of meat-based protein and animal fats to stay healthy and to get all their bodily systems are functioning properly”.
Harrison added that dogs should be fed different foods because animals are omnivores.
She said: “Their diet is more flexible and they can easily eat meat and vegetables.
“Cats generally find dog food unappetizing. Dogs, however, tend to like the high protein content of cat food.”
The AKC’s Dr Klein added: “Cat food is much higher in meat-based protein than dog food, so while it may be appealing to your dog, eating too much of it can lead to gastrointestinal upset. -intestinal, obesity and pancreatitis.
“Even if your dog is eating cat food and doing well, the high levels of protein can be hard on the liver and kidneys.”
The difference between cat and dog food
There are several key distinctions between food types that owners of the two popular pets should be aware of.
Lisa Guiney, operations manager at animal charity Mayhew, adds that while the use of store-bought pet food is still advised for a balanced diet, people should be aware of faddy forage.
She said Newsweek“The pet food industry is big business and there are a lot of expensive boutique foods on the market right now that aren’t necessarily the healthiest diets.
“We advise owners to consult their veterinarian for recommendations on which brands and types of food would be best for their pet.”
“Cats, unlike dogs, don’t have the ability to sense sweetness and perceive taste any differently than dogs,” Harrison said.
She added: “In fact, felines only have 470 taste buds, while dogs have 1,700 and humans have over nine thousand.
“That said, cat foods are created with extra flavor to appeal to cats that lack taste buds.”
A cat needs taurine, which, according to TICA’s Harrison, “dog food lacks the amounts required for cats.
She added: “Insufficient dietary taurine could lead to a weakened heart (dilated cardiomyopathy), loss of vision or digestive problems in felines.
“Taurine is an essential amino acid in cats. Felines and humans are among the few mammals that cannot produce taurine and must obtain it from the foods they eat.
“All commercially available cat foods today contain taurine. However, it is rarely included in dog foods.”
Because domestic felines are strict carnivores by nature, Harrison believes “cats need food that has a much higher protein content than dog food.”
She said: “Most dog foods have an ‘As-Fed’ protein amount of 18-26%, while the ‘As-Fed’ protein percentage for cats should be 30-34%, with an optional canned cat food supplement with 40-50% protein.”
Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid which, like taurine, cannot be created by cats and must be ingested. I wish Harrison’s notes could cause serious trouble for kittens.
She said: “Cats with low levels of arachidonic acid lead to abnormal liver/kidney values and an increased risk of skin problems.
“Dog food rarely includes this supplement because dogs can create this fatty acid on their own.”
While dog and cat foods typically contain vitamin A supplements, Harrison said “cats need it more than dogs because their bodies can’t create it on their own.”
She added: “Without enough vitamin A, cats can suffer from weakened muscles, dull coats and potential night blindness.”
Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, is an organic compound and a form of vitamin B.
Harrison said, “Cats are also unable to produce niacin independently and require foods that supplement their needs.”
Feeding tips for multi-pet households
Here are the TICA President’s suggestions for owners who have problems with their dogs and cats eating other people’s food.
- Put your dog and cat on different feeding times.
- Try to avoid keeping a cat’s food all day or until it’s finished eating.
The President of TICA said: “Cats tend to nibble one bite at a time and come and go from their bowl throughout the day.
“When you leave food for your cat to nibble on all day, your dog sees the opportunity to empty the bowl.”
- Feed your dog and cat on opposite sides of the kitchen or in different rooms.
- Place cat bowls in high places like the counter, so they are out of reach of hungry dogs.
- Designate a special place for your dog and cat that they can identify as their own territory.
Lisa Guiney adds that there are high-tech solutions for people who don’t have the time or inclination to keep their pets under surveillance to prevent food theft.
She said: “Owners could also consider microchip feeders, food bowls that only allow access to the registered animal using microchip technology.”