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Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

By Wendy Rose Gould
published: October 21, 2019 - updated: February 22, 2023 • 2 min. read
Dog and cat eating together.

Key Takeaways

  • No, cats should not eat dog food.
  • Dog food is specially formulated for the nutrition that dogs need.
  • Dogs are omnivores, while cats are carnivores.
  • The amount of protein differs between dog food and cat food.
  • Dog food is not toxic to cats, however, if they accidentally eat a few pieces of it.

Whether your kitty is tempted to sneak a bite of your dog’s dinner or you’ve just run out of cat food, you may be wondering if cats can eat dog food. This is a fair and common question, so we’ll give you the low down.

Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

The short answer is no, your favorite feline really shouldn’t eat dog food. While cats can technically eat canine kibble and be OK, it’s not something they should eat on a regular basis.

This is because dog food is specifically formulated for canine consumption with the proteins and nutrients that they need to live happy, healthy lives.  Conversely, cat food is formulated specifically for felines and has all the ingredients that they need in order to be healthy.

So, while dog food isn’t technically toxic to cats if they eat a couple of pieces, it’s not going to do them any favors in the long run. In fact, if cats were to only eat dog food, then they’d become malnourished and experience poor organ function, compromised eyesight, and a ragged fur coat.

Dog Versus Cat Diets

Regarding diet, the primary difference between dogs and cats is that dogs are omnivores, which means that they need both high levels of plant nutrients and animal-based protein. Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores, which means that they require a diet with high levels of animal-based protein and fat and less of the fibrous plant stuff.

As such, cat food contains a 26% ratio of animal-based protein, whereas dog food contains about five to 10% less. Further, some of the proteins found in dog food are actually plant-based, which isn’t going to do much for your feline in terms of their health and wellness. Cat food is formulated with specific nutrients that felines need, including vitamin A and an amino acid called taurine.

If you’re in an emergency situation — say, you ran out of cat food, the stores are closed, and your cat is really hungry — then a small scoop of dog food isn’t going to hurt them. Still, they’d probably be better off with some canned tuna or unseasoned, cooked chicken, so opt for that instead if you have some on hand.

The Bottom Line

Cats are obligate carnivores and therefore rely heavily on the high-protein, high-fat food that’s formulated for them. Though they can get away with eating dog food periodically, they cannot sustain themselves on dog food alone.

An interest in the health and well-being of cats means you’re a great candidate for pet insurance. Find out more about cat insurance, and start by getting a free quote. Bonus: Each quote means a donation is made to pets in need.

wendy gould
By Wendy Rose Gould

Wendy Rose Gould is a freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been in journalism for over a decade, and has been freelancing almost that entire time. In addition to lifestyle reporting, she also works with brands to create marketing content for their websites and blogs.

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