If you’re a pet owner with both dogs and cats, it may be tempting to just feed them out of the same bag. Can cats eat dog food? After all, cat food and dog food look, smell and feel pretty similar. It seems like it would be much cheaper to buy one pet food, but cutting corners now will lead to paying higher amounts at the vet later, not to mention the reduced quality of life your pets will suffer if you feed them the exact same diets!

One or two bites of the “wrong” food won’t make a difference, but long term, cats and dogs have widely differing nutritional requirements. So, can cats eat dog food? Also, can dogs eat cat food? How do you stop your cat throwing up food? What human food can cats eat? Should you prepare homemade meals for your pets? Read on for the answers to all these questions!

Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

dog food shaped like bones

The short answer is no. Cats should not eat dog food. Cats require specific nutrients (such as fats and animal proteins) in much higher amounts than dogs do. Feline food is specifically formulated to ensure these lean hunting machines have the proteins and fat content they need. On the other hand, dog food follows a very different formula because dogs are much more adaptable.

Some dog food manufacturers create products that contain plant material. This is fine for Fido but not for Fluffy, who is an obligate carnivore (which means Fluffy must have meat in her diet). Dog food is also often made with propylene glycol, or other shelf-stable moistening agents, which are usually fine for dog’s stomachs but can lead to your cat throwing up food.

A few bites now and then aren’t going to hurt your cat. Still, a steady diet of dog food for your cat will lead to malnourishment and medical problems including potentially blindness, deafness, and kidney failure.

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

cat food in a white bowl

If your cat can’t eat dog food, can your dog eat your cat’s food and you still feed them out of the same bag? Again, the short answer is no. For the same reason that cats cannot eat dog food, dogs need to be eating their own food.  Some dog food brands provide special flavors and ingredients that suit each breed’s needs.

Having as much protein as is in a pet food for cats is hard on your dog’s liver, gut, and kidneys. Dogs are not obligate carnivores, and can adapt to a meat-free diet if necessary; even when they’re eating meat, dogs need less meat protein than they would receive in enough cat food to fill them up.

Potential Risks of Feeding Dog Food to Your Cat

So, by now, you already know the answer to “can cats eat dog food?”. They can, as long as you don’t feed them with this kind of treat on a regular basis. On the other hand, if you want to stay on the safe side, you should only provide special cat food for your feline pet. Because dogs and cats have totally different nutritional needs, an improper diet might harm both of them.

Among the most common risks of feeding a cat dog food there the following ones: blindness, deafness, and even heart disease. The lack of taurine from the dog food can cause all these issues. Your cat needs a higher level of taurine.

If you have been feeding dog food to your cat and it shows signs of lethargy and poor posture, it might be an effect of improper vitamin intake. Your cat needs its vitamins. Otherwise, it might develop serious illnesses, or it might even die.

A small bite of dog food given to your cat now and then won’t hurt it that much. Still, large portions of dog food eaten by your cat on a daily basis will definitely have severe consequences.

Should You Make Homemade Cat Food?

a beautiful gray cat

It is possible to make cat food (and dog food!) that your pet will enjoy and thrive on. However, it is important to be aware that feeding your cat a homemade diet is time-consuming, energy-consuming, and carries with it risks such as a lack of balanced nutrients and a lack of quality testing.

Cats require lean protein, amino acids such as taurine and arginine (yet another reason that the answer to “can cats eat dog food?” is no—most dog foods don’t contain these essential amino acids!), minerals, and of course water. You can include some whole grains, such as oats or polenta, which can help reduce the cost of homemade cat food, but most ingredients need to be fresh animal products.

Dr. Jules Benson, a small animal vet, in an article titled “Can Cats Eat Dog Food?” recommends that you avoid raw food diets, which means you’ll be cooking eggs, fish, or poultry at least three times a day if you switch to a homemade diet.

Most veterinarians recommend you to purchase a nutritionally balanced cat food you can use in a free-feeder. This is the best solution, especially if your lifestyle is a busy one and you are gone from home during the day, or if you are too busy to devote a long chunk of time to preparing your cat’s meals each day.

Putting It All Together

So, can cats eat dog food? One or two bites isn’t going to hurt. However, overall, the answer to “can cats eat dog food?” is a resounding no! Your cat and your dog are very different animals with very different needs and very different tastes.

Your cat can eat some human food, and you can create a homemade food for your cat if you have the time, energy, and money to do so. However, most experts and veterinarians agree that the safest, simplest way to ensure that your cat is safe and healthy is to feed them a nutritionally balanced cat food.

By feeding your cat food specially created for cats and your dog food manufactured for dogs, you ensure that each of your pets has the specific proteins, minerals, and vitamins that they need to be as healthy and long-lived as they can be.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5