Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

The four-legged siblings in the household might share a lot of things, including their love for play, cuddles and sleep, but this shouldn’t extend to their food! Find out if dog food is bad for cats and how to keep their paws out of each other’s meals.
can cats eat dog food
can cats eat dog food
can cats eat dog food

Can cats eat dog food? Whether your cat is always helping themself to the dog’s dinner or you’re out of cat food and looking for an alternative, this is probably a question most owners have asked. Here is what you need to know.

Can cats eat dog food?

Yes, but only as a short-term, last-resort solution. A stolen snack from the dog’s bowl isn’t a cause for worry. But cats eating dog food on a regular basis can be detrimental to their health and well-being. You should feed a complete, species-specific diet as this will be suitably balanced for your pet. It is often best to feed your pet a diet that has been designed to best support their life-stage as well i.e. kitten, adult or senior.

Why is dog food bad for cats in the long term?

Cats and dogs have key differences in their dietary needs. Cats are obligate carnivores which means their diet must consist mostly of meat protein, while dogs are omnivorous. By feeding your cat a diet designed for dogs, they will receive the incorrect balance of nutrients. Long-term this can result in a wide range of health problems such as heart disease, and gastrointestinal problems.

cat and dog food

What are the differences between cat food and dog food?

Cats have different nutritional needs to dogs, and their foods are often higher in protein, fat and some vitamins and minerals. Cat food tends to have a stronger smell and flavour too, with scent being a particularly important factor in cat food palatability.

Cats also have a different ability to detect flavour compared with dogs. They have only 500 taste buds, whereas dogs have around 1700 in dogs and humans have 9000. Unlike dogs and people, cats are largely unable to taste the sweet flavour profile. They can detect the other categories – sour, bitter, salty and umami.

Here are some of the key differences between the two types of pet food.


Certain amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) such as taurine and arginine are essential requirements in a cat’s diet. This is because a cat’s body lacks the enzymes to make these amino acids. Taurine deficiency in cats can lead to serious health problems such as blindness or an enlarged heart. The same is not true for dogs as their bodies are able to synthesise taurine, which is why their dietary requirement for taurine is lower.

Cats also need higher dietary levels of protein than dogs because they receive a greater proportion of their energy from its metabolism. Feeding a cat dog food on a regular basis will lead to protein deficiency or deficiency of specific amino acids which has serious consequences for feline health.


Cats and dogs need different levels of some vitamins. In particular, vitamin A, which cats don’t have the ability to produce, but dogs do. Vitamin A has important functions in maintaining the cat’s eyes, skin and coat. Therefore, cat food will often include higher quantities of vitamin A compared to dog food.

Arachidonic acid

Arachidonic acid is an essential fatty acid which cannot be produced by cats and needs to be provided by their diet. Dog food may not be supplemented with arachidonic acid since their bodies can create their own.


The physical size of kibble can differ from what your feline is used to, particularly if your dog is a large breed. With wet food – cat diets tend to be packaged in a smaller portion size, so it’s important not to overfeed them with large portions of dog food.

How to prevent cats from eating the dog’s food

If you’ve caught your cat trying to get into your dog’s food bowl more than once, there are a few things you can do to make sure the food they have access to is the one that meets their dietary requirements.

The “out of sight, out of mind” rule can be helpful in helping cats focus only on the food meant for them. Put enough distance between the cat and the dog food bowls to stop your little feline from being tempted into trying their house mate’s dinner. Having the two pets in different rooms at meal time can help.


is dog food bad for cats

While dog food is not on the list of harmful and poisonous substances for cats, it is important to make sure it doesn’t become the default meal or represents part of their calorie (and therefore nutritional) intake, for a cat curious to try new things at dinner time.

If you want to find out more about the different dietary requirements of cats and dogs, read our handy guidelines for feeding your cat and feeding your dog.