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Can Cats Eat Dog Food? Read This Before Feeding

January 15, 2023
Can Cats Eat Dog Food? Read This Before Feeding

As a cat owner, you've likely been faced with the question: Can cats eat dog food? After all, dogs and cats may be considered two of our most popular household pets, and their food looks so similar! We've asked ourselves this same question at least once, and to help answer your curiosity, we are here to share our story on why you should never feed your cat dog food. 

Not only does a cat not receive the essential nutrients it needs from eating certain dog foods, but an improper diet can lead to serious health issues. So let us tell you about what happened when we put our own curious pet into this tempting situation.

Is It Ok For a Cat to Eat Dog Food?

You love your pets, which is why you tend to wonder what they can take or can’t take. For example, some pet owners wonder if their cat can take benadryl, while others will question whether or not to give their dog pepto bismol

As for whether or not your cat can eat dog food, the answer is “No!” Cats cannot survive on a diet of dog chow. If a cat is given dog food exclusively for an extended time, it can be harmful to their health. This is because dog food and cat food formulas include distinct nutritional components to fulfill the unique dietary requirements of these two species.

What Do Cats Need To Eat?

As carnivores, cats require meals heavy in protein, lipids, and taurine in their diets. Cats need:

  • Protein derived from meat and seafood
  • Amino acids like taurine and arginine (from meat or fish)
  • Fatty acids
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

Several vets agree that 35 to 45 percent of a cat's diet should contain protein.

What Can Be Found in Cat Food?

cat food

Taurine is an essential amino acid for optimal cardiac function, eyesight, and reproduction. Since taurine is found in animal protein, all cats must consume meat to satisfy their nutritional needs.

Cat foods are highly high in protein, calories, fat and include the appropriate quantity of taurine. More precisely, the following characteristics of nutritious cat food are:

  • Wholesome, natural ingredients
  • At least 30 percent premium animal proteins
  • Healthy animal-based fats (15 to 20 percent)
  • Carbs that can be digested and fiber
  • Essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids
  • No by-products, fillers, or synthetic additions

Differences Between Cat Food and Dog Food

Here are only a few important changes in the formulation of dog food and cat food.


Unlike dogs, cats cannot detect sweetness, and even the number of taste receptors differs between the two species. Cats only have 480 taste buds, but dogs have 1700, and humans have around 2000-4000.

To convince our finicky (and taste-bud-deficient) feline pals to eat, cat meals are designed to be very tasty. It is unusual for cats to consume dog food since they often find it unpalatable. However, dogs like the tasty, high-protein composition of cat food.


Cats are strict carnivores and need food with a far greater protein level than dog kibble. Certain brands and varieties of dog food have greater quantities of protein; however, even these specialty dog diets do not provide the protein required to keep your cat healthy.

Most dog food contains a protein content of 18%. You should aim for a minimum of 26% protein for cats


Cats (and humans) are among the only animals incapable of producing taurine; thus, they must get this crucial nutrient from their food.

Cats who lack taurine in their diet may have:

  • fragile hearts (dilated cardiomyopathy)
  • Loss of vision
  • Digestion issues

Today, taurine is included in every commercially available cat food, although it is seldom used in dog food.

Arachidonic Acid

Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid that cats cannot produce; it must be consumed. Cats with low arachidonic acid levels exhibit nonspecific symptoms, including:

  • High liver enzymes
  • Abnormal kidney values
  • Increase skin problems

As a result, this fatty acid is seldom added to dog food, as dogs can produce it on their own.

Vitamin A 

Vitamin A is another nutrient that cats cannot produce on their own and must get via food supplements. While many dog meals include vitamin A supplements, these quantities will never be sufficient for healthy cat nutrition.

Cats deficient in vitamin A will exhibit the following:

  • Poor quality coatings
  • Weakness and degeneration of the muscles
  • Night blindness


Niacin must be included in a cat's diet since they cannot produce it on their own. The most prevalent source of niacin in cat foods is animal tissue, but vegetables can contain trace amounts. However, a meal with a smaller percentage of animal tissue and a larger portion of plant tissue, such as grains, may not provide adequate niacin.

What If Your Cat Consumes Dog Food By Accident?

Dog food is not harmful to cats; however, it should not be used as a substitute for cat food. A cat can consume dog food without getting sick, even though it is not the optimal diet for them.

If you neglected to swing by the store to get additional cat food and all you have is dog food, your cat will be OK if you feed it dog food. There is no need to be concerned if your cat steals a few bits of food from your dog's dish. Just don't make this a habit or a long-term plan.

Remember, for their long-term diet; cats cannot sustain on dog chow alone. Without enough protein, they will lose muscle mass and become sluggish. The amino acid taurine is essential for eyesight, digestion, heart function, fetal development, and a robust immune system.

Final Thoughts

cat drinking and eating food

Cats and dogs have different dietary needs, so it's not recommended to feed your feline friend any of Fido's kibble. Dogs need more carbohydrates and fewer proteins, whereas cats need the opposite. They require taurine, which won't be in dog food. 

If your cat accidentally takes a few bites of dog food here and there, there shouldn't be any major problems. In any case, we want to hear from all the pet owners out there - if your kitty snatches up some food from his canine counterpart, please let us know how it went! We'd love to hear your stories and take away lessons that can help other people out there too. So don't be shy and tell us all about it!

* All the information and content in this blog post are intended for informational purposes only. It should not be a substitute for professional or medical advice. You should always speak with a licensed professional before you follow anything you read in this blog post.

The information is provided by By Hilda Wong. While we try to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the post for any purpose.

Dr. Hilda Wong, MD

My name is Dr. Hilda Wong, MD, graduated from Avalon University School of Medicine. I have over 5 years of medical externship experience and a published researcher on PubMed. I'm also a health and nutrition enthusiast and have written several blogs and magazines in these areas. Forgot to mention that I own a Toy Australian Shepherd and a Betta Fish, and have an amazing zest for life, fashion, health, nutrition, and pets.

Dr. Hilda Wong, MD