Though culturally seen as firm frenemies, pet parents who own both dogs and cats will know that their infamous rivalry is only a bit true. Dogs and cats can happily coexist in the same home with no issues - except when it comes to sharing food.
If your dog and cat dine in close proximity and one has wandered over into a bowl not their own, you may have pondered: can dogs even eat cat food? Can cats eat dog food? Will anything happen to my dog or my cat if their food gets mixed up?
These are fair questions, so to put your mind at ease, read on to be clued up on the difference between dog food and cat food.
The main difference between dog food and cat food is based on the fact that dogs are omnivores; meaning they eat a combination of animal-based food and plant-based food; and cats are carnivores, so only eat fish and meat.
Because cats need to get all of their nutrients from meat, naturally their food contains a higher amount of protein than dog food. Commercial dog food will contain a mix of proteins, carbs, fruit, vegetables and other plants intended to provide them with a varied mix of nutrients.
A higher level of meat/protein means cat food tends to contain more fat. Unsurprisingly, this meat-heavy, fatty food is truly delicious to dogs - so it’s very likely that if your dog comes across a bowl of cat food, he will enthusiastically gobble it up.
Another key element in cat and dog nutrition is that dogs require 10 amino acids to come from their diet, whereas cats require 11 - the extra one being taurine. Additionally, some of the amino acids they both need, such as arginine, are naturally produced in a dog’s body in higher amounts - whereas a cat needs to acquire them through food.
For this reason, food for cats is purposely created to provide these 11 amino acids through meat proteins, whereas commercial dog food provides the 10 they need through both meat and plant-based ingredients.
Read more about the specific nutrients, vitamins and minerals that dogs need.
A cat can eat a dog’s food as a one-off, but it won’t have enough nutritional value to the cat, so should never be used long-term as a replacement for ‘real’ cat food.
Cats require more fat, protein and amino acids than dog food provides, so a cat that eats a dog’s food will be left nutritionally deficient. A long-term diet of only dog food can even prove fatal to the poor moggie.
If a cat has eaten your dog’s food one time, it shouldn’t do the cat much harm - but be sure to switch to something more nutritious, such as hypoallergenic cat food as soon as possible.
A dog sure can eat cat food - with the higher fat and protein content found in commercial cat food, dogs tend to find it tastier and more appetising than their regular dog food. Whether that tasty, fatty cat food is good for the dog, however, is another matter!
As cats are wholly carnivores with no real need for fruits and vegetables in their diet, their regular cat food doesn’t contain these ingredients - so can be detrimental to a dog’s health.
The high amount of fat also found in cat food will cause weight gain in a dog over time, likely to make them slow and lethargic. There’s a host of other risks: it can trigger stomach upset in a dog with a sensitive stomach, boost an overweight dog’s chance of pancreatitis (a condition common in dogs who consume a lot of fat) or worsen the condition of a dog with liver or kidney disease.
Our advice? Best to stick to hypoallergenic dog food that is packed full of the goodness your dog needs.
There are certain exceptional circumstances in which cat food might be a viable alternative to dog food for a dog. If your dog has been ill and needs to gain weight, has cancer, or suffers from muscle loss or a lack of appetite, tempting them with cat food could be a good idea to get them eating again. However, we always recommend consulting with your Vet first before making any such changes.
If you’ve gasped at the sight of your dog hoovering the cat’s food into his hungry chops, don’t worry about it too much. Your pooch has enjoyed a delicious treat meal, at least - but be sure this doesn’t become a habit.
Don’t feed your dog cat food as a regular meal, but be sure they’re eating nutrient-packed dog food with the optimal levels of fat, protein and veggies so they stay lean, energetic and sharp in both body and mind.
Did you hear: our Pooch & Mutt range isn’t just for dogs!? To ensure your dog and cat are getting the nutrients intended for their specific dietary needs, check our range of hypoallergenic food for dogs - and our delicious dry food for cats.