Feeding cats and dogs in our modern world is relatively easy. Most of us simply go to the store and buy some pet food off the shelf. We may start to think that there’s not much difference in the diet of our cat and dog, but that would be incorrect. Just because their food is processed and comes in similar bags or cans doesn’t mean that the ingredients are the same. Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs. People often wonder if dogs can eat cat food. The answer is, no.
Long, long ago cats and dogs shared a common ancestor but since that time they have developed in different ways. Both animals are carnivores but they are different from each other. Dogs are meat-eaters but they are also omnivorous. They can eat other things besides meat. In fact, dogs can often get along by scavenging and eating what they can find whether it’s protein or not. Dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years and they can eat many of the same things that humans eat.
Cats, on the other hand, have not been domesticated as long as dogs. They have a much more restricted diet. They are known as “obligate carnivores.” They must have meat in their diets. They are not as flexible about what they can eat as dogs are. In addition, cats are not able to regulate the rate at which their liver enzymes break down protein. They have to continue consuming a high level of protein. Otherwise, their body will start breaking down the protein in their own muscles. This is something that doesn’t happen with dogs.
What this means in terms of pet food is that cat food has to have a much higher level of protein in it than dog food. Cat food also has Taurine and Arginine, amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) added.
Why do dogs like cat food?
As you can guess, dogs usually love the extra protein in cat food, even in a processed cat food form. Cat food is often made from fish and other foods and has a strong odor that attracts dogs, too.
Can you feed a dog cat food?
No, you really can’t. Dogs have different nutritional requirements from cats. They usually do well eating dog food with a protein level between about 18 and 25 percent, unless someone is feeding a high protein diet for some reason. Cat food has a protein percentage around 25-30 percent, minimum. The ingredients are different, the chemistry is different. A dog that is fed a diet of cat food will not have his nutritional needs met and he will eventually become ill. He cannot thrive on this diet.
What if your dog eats cat food by accident?
If your dog eats cat food by accident or manages to eat your cat’s food occasionally, it will not immediately make him sick. But if he eats the food over a long period of time, his skin and coat will start to show the effects and his health will deteriorate in other ways. He will not be getting the nutritional benefits that he needs from the food.
There are a few occasions when you might give your dog cat food on purpose. If your dog is refusing to eat or recovering from an illness and won’t eat, you can try feeding him a few bites of canned cat food to tempt his appetite. Most dog people are aware that this is a good way to try to get a dog interested in eating again. However, you should not continue to feed your dog the cat food once he is eating again. Put him back on dog food as soon as possible.
Some people like to use a few pieces of cat kibble as rewards for training. As a treat, tiny pieces of cat food can be highly motivating for dogs. But remember to just use tiny pieces and only as a reward when your dog is very good.
If you give your dog cat food under these circumstances, and keep a close eye on how much he consumes, he should not experience any problems from it. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t give your dog cat food as a meal in place of his regular dog food meals.
Can cats eat dog food?
No. Just as cat food is not a good substitute for dog food, dog food is not a good substitute for your cat’s food. It doesn’t contain enough protein to meet your cat’s needs. In addition, most cats are not very interested in dog food. It is less palatable to them than cat food.
If your cat does eat a few bites of dog food it won’t hurt him, but don’t let him make a habit of it.
Having discovered a fondness for insects while pursuing her degree in Biology, Randi Jones was quite bugged to know that people usually dismissed these little creatures as “creepy-crawlies”.