Well, that isn’t a question you get to hear often, but I was curious about it, and surprisingly, a lot of people want to know. So here I am, clearing all your doubts with all the information I gathered in my quest for an answer to the question – Can dogs eat cat food?

Now it isn’t about feeding your dog with cat food because your cousin bought some over since he thought you owned a cat and not a dog.

It’s probably because you have both a cat and a dog, and being the voracious eater that he is, your dog manages to eat half of the cat’s food before you could stop him, and now you’re wondering if you should take him to the vet.

Many dogs show a tendency to show a preference for cat food, and if given an option, would definitely scarf down your cat’s treats faster than you could say ‘No’. Is there a specific reason for this? What is it that draws our canine friends so strongly towards feline food? Let’s check it out.

What does cat food contain?

First off, let me make this clear: Dogs and cats have extremely different dietary requirements, with cats needing a more protein dense diet as compared to dogs who require fibrous content up to a certain extent which cannot be obtained through an all-meat diet.

This can be explained by the fact that cats are obligate carnivores, which makes meat their primary source of nutrition as opposed to dogs, who are omnivores and need vegetarian as well as a meat diet to keep their digestive tract healthy and functioning to its optimal capacity.

Cat food mainly contains chicken, fish meal or egg (depending on the flavour advertised), with fillers like wheat, corn gluten meal and brewer’s rice, poultry by-product meal and fats like beef tallow.

They also use Vitamin A and mixed tocopherols as preservatives, and potassium chloride, phosphoric acid, calcium carbonate, citric acid and tetrasodium pyrophosphate are some of the mineral contents of cat food.


Apart from containing more proteins than dog food, cat food also contains higher levels of fat and lower levels of fibre as compared to dog food.

Why do dogs like cat food?

This is a question that puzzles most of us because we assume that the content of both foods is the same. But now that we know the contents of a typical cat food, we can safely guess the reason why it is so appealing to our canine friends.

The high protein content in cat food and treats is what draws the attention of dogs, along with the appealing smell that cat food has.  

This preference shown by dogs towards cat food seems to make owners mistakenly believe that it is better to just let their dog eat what he so clearly prefers. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Not only is feeding your dog a diet consisting of only cat food bad, it can lead to some serious health problems.

How much is too much?

can dogs eat cat food?

This is something that all dog owners need to learn because as much as your dog loves eating any kind of food, it also makes his digestive system weak and disease prone.

When it comes to dogs that eat cat food in large quantities (1-2 bowls/ day), they are more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal problems and even vitamin deficiencies, since cat food does not contain the essential nutrients your dog requires on a daily basis to keep him healthy and in good spirits.

Even though certain pet owners believe that their canine has an iron gut, long-term consumption of cat food can slowly deteriorate even the strongest stomachs – just imagine humans trying to survive on apple pie – sounds yummy but won’t keep you healthy in the long term.

Apart from nutritional deficiencies and digestive problems, dogs eating cat food are sure to gain a bigger waistline as well, especially breeds that are prone to gaining weight, like Labradors and Golden retrievers, and they must be monitored closely if they do end up gulping down cat food.

Is a little bit alright?

It is a known fact that any habit if practised in moderation, can lead to better results than overindulgence in the same.

The same is true for dogs being given cat food. If your dog does not show any health problems the first time he is given cat food, it is okay to give it to him once in a while.

A few dog trainers are known to use cat treats as rewards since they seem to have a better effect as an incentive to perform better.

Even a few stolen treats from the storage, or from your cat’s food bowl is fine, as long as you keep a check on your dog’s consumption of cat food.


While cats can handle the high amounts of fat present in cat food well, dogs aren’t equipped with the same mechanisms and become susceptible to obesity and pancreatitis.

Health Risks Associated With Dogs Eating Cat Food

The first signs that cat food does not agree with your dog’s digestive system is vomiting and diarrhoea. This may happen a few hours after consuming the cat food, or even on the next day.

You should keep a watch on your dog’s bowel habits if you are aware that he has eaten cat food sometime in the day, and should watch out for symptoms of weakness or an upset tummy.

A more serious complication is pancreatitis, which can be fatal if not treated in time. Signs that your dog might be suffering from pancreatitis are:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Hunched back
  • Distended abdomen
  • Fever

If your dog’s renal system, i.e. his kidneys are unable to eliminate the excess proteins in his diet, he will end up having kidney problems and accumulation of urea in his body.

In addition to this, obesity is one of the problems that your dog will definitely face if on a long-term cat food diet.

How Do I Keep My Dog Away From Cat Food?

  1. Keep your cat food in an airtight bin, preferably in a closet that is hard to reach.
  2. Feed your cat in a room that is not accessible to your dog.
  3. Install a cat door that your dog cannot fit through.
  4. Feed your cat in a crate which your dog cannot get into.
  5. Feed your cat on a higher surface than your dog, like a kitchen countertop.

Final verdict

Although letting your dog have cat food once or twice a week as a treat sounds perfectly acceptable, I would strongly advise you against including it in his diet as a permanent feature.

Even if your dog might be finicky when it comes to eating kibble, there are a variety of options when it comes to feeding your dog (Check out my recipe of beetroot chips which are a great treat ) which are a much better source of nutrients for him.

As I keep saying, ‘A healthy dog makes for a happy home’, so why not keep your dog healthy by keeping him away from cat food! 

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