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Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

cat ate dog food

Have you ever wondered if you can feed your cat dog food? It sure would be convenient to only have to purchase one type of pet food. But would dog food be nutritionally balanced or even safe for your cat? Read on to learn more!

The Cat Digestive System

Cats have a very different digestive system than dogs. They are “obligate carnivores,” meaning they survive on a diet consisting almost exclusively of meat. They do not have the physiology or ability to properly digest vegetable matter.

Dogs are considered “omnivores”. Their diet and nutritional needs are much more flexible. Like humans, and they consume both meat and vegetable sources.

What nutrients do cats need in their diet?

There are several essential nutrients that cats require that would not likely be found in sufficient amounts in most dog foods:

  • Protein: Cats require higher amounts of protein than what most dog foods provide.
  • Taurine: Cats also require higher amounts of a specific amino acid or “protein building block” called taurine. If they don’t get the required amount of taurine in their diet, a serious, often fatal heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy could develop.
  • Other: There are several other nutritional requirements such as niacin, vitamin A and arachidonic acid which are all provided for in sufficient amounts in commercially prepared cat food. Dog food, however, does not have the same amounts.

Specific Preferences

Cats may occasionally try dog food, but more often than not, they won’t like it or eat very much of it. Furthermore, they may not eat enough dog food to meet their nutritional requirements simply because they don’t like it.

Cats are typically quite picky little critters and can be very finicky about things like taste, texture, moisture content, and kibble size, shape, and crunch.


So, on occasion, it’s OK if a cat eats a little bit of dog food. They can consume non-meat items from time to time such as catnip, but it would not be considered eating for nutritional reasons. Eating something besides their regular diet may, however, cause some unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, drooling, stomach pain, etc. It's best to prevent their access to the dog food bowl or better yet, to feed any dogs in the home by meal, once or twice daily rather than leaving the food bowl out with food in it all day.

If you have found that your cat has been eating dog food, is having stomach issues from eating dog food, or would like to discuss cat nutrition in general with a vet, you can book a video call with us at FirstVet to get an initial assessment of your pet and to help determine what to do should symptoms arise.

Read more:

Everything You Need to Know About Feeding Your Cat a Raw Diet

Foods You Should Never Feed to Your Cat

Everything You Need to Know About Feeding Your Cat a Raw Diet

Have more questions about foods that are safe for cats?

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