Can Cats Eat Dog Food? Learn What Experts Say!

can cats eat dog food
Cat eating dog food

So, can cats eat dog food? Or the other way around, can dogs eat cat food? Do you ask this question when you are a veterinarian? Yes, a cat can eat a small amount of dog without getting sick or hurting itself in any way.

But the longer answer goes into detail about how cats and dogs are different because they are different species. Even though a little bit of stolen dog food won’t hurt cats, it won’t help them be as healthy as possible.

Here’s how cats eat and why you shouldn’t feed them dog food on a long-term basis.

Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

So, can dogs eat cat food? No, cats can’t eat dog food and stay healthy. If a cat eats only dog food for a long time, it can hurt or kill it. This is because the ingredients in dog food and cat food are different because dogs and cats have different nutritional needs.

Dogs and Cats Have Distinct Nutritional Requirements

So, can a cat eat dog food? Even though we love and keep both dogs and cats, nature has changed them over time to make them very different animals with very different dietary needs.

Cats are “obligate carnivores,” which means that they need to eat meat-based proteins and animal fats for their bodies to work right.

So, can dog eat cat food? Dogs, on the other hand, eat both meat and plants. An omnivore can easily eat both meat and vegetables and has a more flexible diet. Cats don’t get all the nutrients they need from a dog food diet.


Cat Food vs Dog Food

can cats eat dog food
Dog eating food

Here are some vital ways that dog food and cat food are made differently.


Cats are strict carnivores, so their food needs

Some brands and types of dog food do have higher protein levels, but even these special dog foods don’t have the high protein level that cats need to stay healthy.

Most dog foods have an “As-Fed” protein level between 18 and 26%. For cats, on the other hand, I usually tell people to aim for at least an “As-Fed” protein percentage of 30–34%, with canned cat food with 40–50% protein as an optional extra.


Taste is different for cats and dogs. Dogs can taste sweetness, but cats can’t, and the number of taste receptors is also different between the two species. Cats only have 470 taste buds, while dogs have 1700. For comparison, people have more than 9000 taste buds.

So, can cats have dog food? Cat food is made to be very tasty so that our sometimes picky (and sometimes without taste buds) feline friends will eat it. Most cats don’t even want to eat dog food because it doesn’t taste good to them. On the other hand, dogs love how tasty and high in protein cat food is.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is another essential nutrient that cats can’t make on their own and must get from their food. Even though vitamin A supplements are often added to dog food, these foods will never have enough vitamin A for cats.

When cats don’t get enough vitamin A, they will:

  • Muscle weakness and deterioration
  • Possible night blindness
  • Poor quality coats


Cats and people are two of the few mammals that can’t make taurine on their own. This is why they must get this important nutrient from a good food source.

If cats don’t get enough taurine in their food, they can have:

  • Loss of vision
  • Weakened hearts (dilatated cardiomyopathy)
  • Digestion problems

Taurine is added to all cat food sold in stores today, but it is rarely added to dog food.


Niacin should also be in a cat’s food because cats can’t make it on their own. Most of the niacin in cat food comes from animal tissue, but there are small amounts in plants as well. But food like grains with less animal

Arachidonic Acid

Arachidonic acid is a vital fatty acid that cats can’t make on their own; they have to eat it. Cats with low levels of arachidonic acid show vague signs of illness, such as:

  • Abnormal liver/kidney values
  • Sometimes, more skin problems

This fatty acid is something that dogs can make on their own, so it is rarely added to dog food.

Stage Of Life: Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

So, by now, you know, can dogs eat cat food? In the pet food business, there are three main groups of life stages:

  • Growth needs
  • Maintenance of body
  • All-life stages

Cats have specific needs for protein, vitamins, and nutrients in general, and these needs change as they grow up. Kittens that grow quickly need more food and energy, while healthy older cats need more protein to help keep their muscles strong as they age. With less protein and other nutrients, dog food can’t possibly keep a cat alive at any stage of its life for a long time.

Bottom line: Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

So, by now, you know, can a dog eat cat food? The best way to make sure our cats stay with us for a long time is to feed them a healthy, high-quality diet that meets their needs.

Even though dog food is safe and won’t hurt you if you eat a few kibbles, it’s not made to meet your cat’s nutritional needs.

FAQs: Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

can cats eat dog food
Dog food

Can Cats Eat Dog Food Temporarily?

So, can cat eat dog food? In reality, there’s nothing to worry about when your pets switch food for a short time.

Why Does My Cat Keep Eating Dog Food? Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

Lastly, cats will eat what they eat if they have a choice because it makes them feel good. Even though dog food doesn’t have all of the vitamins and minerals that a cat needs to stay healthy, some cats will eat it because they like the taste or texture.

Can I Feed A Stray Cat Dog Food?

If you need to feed a stray cat but don’t have cat food, you might think that dog food is the next best thing. This is not a great plan. Even though they are both foods, pet food is made to fit the stomachs of the animals it is meant for.

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