Can Cats Eat Dog Food? Pet Owner Must Know.

Cats and dogs are both popular pets, but they have different needs when it comes to their food. This leads many owners to ask: can cats eat dog food? While a small snack of dog food here and there is okay, cats should mainly eat cat food made specially for their nutritional needs.

Can Cats Eat Dog Food

Key Differences Between Cat Food and Dog Food

There are some major differences between cat food and dog food formulas. Here is a comparison:

NutrientCat FoodDog Food
ProteinVery high, over 30% from animal ingredientsModerate, around 18-25%
TaurineAdded since cats require itNot added since dogs make their own
FatsHigh levels to meet energy needsModerate fat around 15-20%
CarbohydratesLow, under 20%High, over 30%

As obligate carnivores, cats need a very high protein, meat-based diet with nutrients like taurine added. Dogs are more omnivorous and can meet their needs with less protein and more carbs.

Risks of Feeding Dog Food to Cats

Feeding a cat dog food for an extended period can lead to issues like:

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Weight gain
    • Higher carbs in dog food often causes obesity in cats
  • Digestive problems
    • Vomiting, diarrhea, constipation from inappropriate diet

Dog food is not formulated to meet cats' stricter nutritional requirements. Eating it regularly can lead to preventable health issues for cats.

When Can Cats Have Dog Food?

While dog food should not make up a cat's normal diet, there are some instances where cats can eat dog food.

  • As an occasional snack
    • A couple bites of dog food won't harm an otherwise healthy cat
  • In an emergency
    • If no cat food is available, small amounts of dog food can work temporarily

However, owners should transition cats slowly back to cat food after giving them dog food in an emergency situation.

Tips for Multi-Pet Households

If you have both cats and dogs at home, here are some useful tips:

  • Feed pets in separate rooms
    • Closed doors prevent stealing each other's food
  • Use microchip-activated feeders
    • Only allows access to the right food for each pet
  • Carefully portion each pet's needs
    • Don't leave excess food sitting out
    • Monitor if pets are gaining/losing weight

It takes effort to properly meet both the cat's and dog's dietary requirements under one roof, but is important for their health.


In most cases, cats should primarily eat nutritionally balanced cat food instead of dog food. While the occasional small snack of dog food is fine, cats fed dog food exclusively are at higher risk of weight gain, digestive upset, and deficiencies over time. Pay close attention to properly feeding pets with different nutritional needs in multi-pet households.

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