If you have both a dog and a cat in your household, you may have wondered: “Can dogs eat cat food?”. After all, they are both carnivores and seem to enjoy each other’s food. 

However, cat food and dog food are different and are suitable for distinct nutritional needs. This article will explain this difference and reveal the potential risks of dogs eating cat food. By the end, you will have a better understanding of your pet and know how to react when your dog eats cat food.

The Difference Between Cat And Dog Food

Cat and dog food are designed to provide a balanced diet for their respective species. However, cats and dogs have different dietary needs and preferences that affect their food’s ingredients, composition, and flavor. Some of the main differences between these two types of food are:

  • Protein: Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must eat meat to survive. They also need certain amino acids, like taurine and arginine. Yet, they cannot synthesize on their own and must obtain from animal sources. Thus, cat food typically contains higher meat-based protein levels than dog food to meet these needs.
  • Vitamin A: Cats require preformed vitamin A (retinol) in their diet, as they cannot efficiently convert beta-carotene (found in plant-based sources) into active vitamin A. Meanwhile, dog food may contain beta-carotene, which dogs can convert to vitamin A.
  • Calcium and Phosphorus Ratios: Cats need a more precise calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in their diet compared to dogs. Improper ratios can lead to health issues, particularly in growing kittens.
  • Texture and Palatability: Cat food is often softer and more finely textured, catering to a cat’s preference for moist and tender foods. Dog food may come in various textures and forms, including dry kibble, canned, and semi-moist options.
  • Flavor: Cats have different taste preferences than dogs because they have fewer taste buds and a distinct sense of smell. These tend to prefer meaty, fishy, or salty foods, while dogs prefer sweet, sour, or bitter foods. Typically, cat food has stronger flavors and aromas than dog food to appeal to cats’ senses.

You might be curious why your dogs love eating cat food, even though they have their own food. These treats look similar and come in identical packages, so it might seem like your dog is just confused. 

But actually, they know what they’re doing. Dogs have a strong sense of smell, and that yummy smell from the cat’s food might make them want to try it. And that first taste has locked the deal.

Also, cat food might seem more delicious to dogs because it contains a lot of meaty stuff. 

Further, some dogs just love doing things they’re not supposed to. If your dog is a bit of a “rebel,” they might want to eat cat food just because they’re not allowed to. 

So, it’s a mix of their nose leading them to the smell and maybe a bit of mischief there, too!

Can dogs eat cat food?

Can dogs eat cat food? Answer revealed

Dogs might try cat food occasionally, but it’s not a good idea to eat it all the time. Cat food is explicitly created for the unique nutritional needs of cats, and it differs significantly from what dogs require. 

It’s best to prevent dogs from consistently eating cat food. Ask your vet if you’re worried about what your dog should eat. They will help you choose the food that keeps your dog healthy and happy.

What Happens If My Dog Eats Cat Food? 

We know you have many questions, Can dog eat canned cat food? Can dogs die from eating cat food? It’s crucial to note that feeding a cat with dog food or vice versa can lead to nutritional imbalances and health issues over time, including: 

Weight Gain

Here is the most common issue: Cat food is calorie-dense due to its higher fat and protein content, which can contribute to excess calorie intake in dogs. Dogs consuming these nutrients excessively can put on extra weight, especially if their activity level remains unchanged.

Weight gain in dogs can result in health problems like obesity, joint issues, diabetes, heart complications, and a decreased quality of life.


Can dogs eat cat food: potential pansreatitis

Is cat food bad for dogs? Yes. Besides weight gain, cat food’s high-fat content can pose a serious threat to dogs. Excess fat consumption, as often found in cat food, might lead to pancreatitis—a painful and potentially life-threatening condition. 

The pancreas becomes inflamed due to the overconsumption of rich and fatty foods. As a result, it causes severe abdominal discomfort and digestive issues.

Urinary Issues

Another concern is the potential for urinary issues. Cat food has special minerals like magnesium and phosphorus that help cats stay healthy. These minerals are different from what dogs need. 

When dogs eat cat food with these minerals, it might cause an issue: The development of urinary stones or crystals forms inside their bodies. They make it uncomfortable and even painful for dogs to pee. 

Imagine trying to pass something like that through a small tube! It’s not a nice experience for them.

Allergies or Sensitivities

Can dogs eat cat food: potential allergies

Dogs, like humans, can have allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients. As we all know, cat food often contains ingredients not commonly found in dog food. Therefore, constantly feeding dogs cat food might make them feel bad. They could get allergies or sensitivities, which can cause skin troubles, tummy problems, and discomfort.

Behavioral Changes

Believe it or not, the food your dog eats can affect how they act. Their behavior might change due to the different nutrient composition. It could make them highly active, unable to sit still, or tired because of too much weight.

Handle Your Dog’s Cat Food Cravings

Handle Your Dog's Cat Food Cravings

Don’t worry if your pup likes to sneak a taste from your cat’s food bowl; there are a few things you can do to help them stop doing that.

One way is to feed your cat and dog in different rooms. This way, your dog won’t be able to get to the cat food so easily. Moving your cat’s food bowl higher up where the dog can’t reach is also a good idea. 

Cats are good at jumping, so it’s not a problem for them, but it will prevent the dog from eating cat food. Also, get a cat crate to give your kitten a quiet place to eat away from the dog.

And if you’re wondering where to buy meals for your cat, our article Best High Fiber Cat Food for a Healthy Feline” can give you some ideas.

Final Verdict

Can dogs eat cat food? The answer is yes, but only occasionally and in small amounts. As we shared in this article, cat food is not suitable for dogs’ nutritional needs and may cause some health problems in the long term. 

Therefore, you should feed your dog suitable food for their breed and life stage. Remember, giving your pet the right food helps them stay healthy and enjoy their time with you!


Hanni covers topics including travel, pets, and entertainment. These topics have nurtured her love for the environment. She didn't pursue this path academically, but her enthusiasm for green living and forest conservation has found a perfect home at Tenereteam. In her articles, Hanni focuses on practical tips for sustainable living, drawing from her experiences and research. In her free time, Hanni loves exploring farmer’s markets and, of course, traveling.

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