If you're a pet owner with dogs and cats in your household, you might wonder, can cats eat dog food? Maybe you're out of cat food and hoping your cat can eat dog food in a pinch, or you're simply wondering if you should stop your cat from taking the occasional nibble from your dog's bowl.
Ultimately, eating a bit of dog food here and there won't hurt your cat, but since cats and dogs have very different nutritional needs, your cat will do best on food formulated for felines.
Read on to learn more about the nuances between cat and dog food and your cat’s nutritional needs!
Key differences between cat food and dog food
Cat food and dog food often feature similar ingredients, which may make them seem interchangeable at a glance, but if you study the labels, you'll notice that the composition of the foods is quite different.
The reason for this is that cats and dogs have different nutritional needs. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means their optimal diet is high in protein. Meanwhile, dogs are omnivores and require a mixture of protein and vegetables for optimal nutrition.
According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, in addition to a high percentage of protein, a cat's dietary requirements include moderate amounts of fat and minimal carbohydrates.
Dog food has a much lower protein component than would be ideal for a cat. Plus, dog food often has a significant amount of carbohydrates in the form of grains and vegetables. While cats do eat some carbohydrates, they aren't an essential part of their diet and eating too many carbs may upset their stomachs.
Ultimately, most dog foods don't contain enough protein to make them a viable food source for cats in the long term.
Can eating dog food harm my cat?
Even though eating dog food isn't ideal for cats, it's not harmful in small quantities. If your cat occasionally grazes from your dog's bowl, there's no need to be concerned. And if you find yourself short on cat food one day, feeding dog food in a pinch can save you a trip to the store.
That said, eating dog food for a prolonged period could harm your cat’s health.
The high quantities of carbohydrates in dog food could eventually lead to weight gain, obesity, and related illnesses such as diabetes if cats eat dog food for a long time.
Additionally, if your cat's diet doesn't include sufficient protein, they may experience weight loss, lethargy, and even malnutrition.
For optimal health, cats should eat food formulated with a cat's nutritional needs in mind. We recommend Snappy Tom Ultimates because they're high in healthy, lean animal protein and all-natural, premium ingredients designed to keep your cat fit, healthy and strong for years to come!