Can My Cat Eat Dog Food?

You may have had a situation where you run out of cat food, but dog food is available. You should think twice before serving your feline fur baby dog food.

Cats have nutritional needs that dogs do not. They need specific vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to maintain heart, liver, and eye health. They also need certain nutrients to keep their coat shiny and healthy, and dog food is often lacking in these areas.

Your cat is a carnivore, and they require more animal protein to keep them healthy. If you want to know whether your cat can eat dog food, check out this article.

Cat eating

Do Cats have Different Digestive Systems than Dogs?

Cats have different nutritional requirements than dogs. It is okay for them to consume dog food in a pinch, but not regularly. Cat and dog digestive systems are vastly different. They can both make vitamin C in their liver. However, there are some nutrients that dogs can make in their bodies that cats cannot, which is why it is so essential for them to eat the food that was designed specifically for them.

The Association of American Feed Control administrators works with the Food and Drug Administration to make sure that the food we feed our pets is appropriate and balanced for them. The next time you get cat food, look at the label. You should only choose cat food with the AAFCO seal to give to your feisty feline.

Why is Cat and Dog Food Different?

Cat and dog food are much different in composition, and they require their own distinction. They both have their own needs and specifications. There are many explanations for why cats and dogs have specifically formulated foods.


Dogs have more taste buds than cats. They can taste sweetness, and cats cannot. Dogs have 1,700 taste buds, while cats only have 470 taste buds. Cats tend to be fussy eaters. Many cats only like smelly or fishy food, like tuna, and some cats do not like vegetables in their food.

Dogs are considered omnivores with carnivorous tendencies. Cats are regarded as obligate carnivores, which means that they require animal protein for sustenance. Dogs can eat peanut butter and be happy. Along with meat, dogs also need grains, fruits, and vegetables. On the other hand, cats need more protein to keep healthy.


Dog food does not have the necessary amount of protein for your cat. The Association of American Feed Control recommends a cat eats a minimum of 6.5 g/100 kcal of protein. However, according to many veterinarians, cats need 35 to 45 percent protein in their diet. The AAFCO recommends that dogs have a minimum of 4.5 g/100 kcal for adult dogs. Dogs may need a rough estimate of between 18 to 21 grams of protein in their diet.

Again, check for the Association of American Feed Control Officials on the label to ensure the amount of protein you are feeding your cat is correct. Cats enjoy many types of protein:

  • Fish like salmon, tuna, and whitefish
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Duck
  • Liver
  • Shrimp

Cats tend to be very opinionated about food and can be picky when it comes to their eating habits. Be sure to give them the food they like to get enough protein.

Taurine for Protein

Taurine is a crucial amino acid that helps your cat’s body create the proteins required for proper functioning. Unlike dogs, cats cannot make taurine, which means they need to obtain their taurine from their diet. There can be specific problems if your cat does not get enough taurine:

  • Weakened heart
  • Vision loss
  • Digestion issues
  • Poor coat quality
  • Diabetes
  • Reproductive issues
  • Bone fractures
  • Lack of energy

Taurine can also help keep your cat’s teeth healthy and strong. It can also keep your cat’s immune system functioning optimally.

Arachidonic Acid

Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid that performs a key role in fat processing and energy production. It also facilitates the proper functioning of the reproductive and gastrointestinal systems. Cats cannot make it on their own.

If your cat has a deficiency in this area, they may have abnormal liver/kidney levels and skin issues. Dogs can make arachidonic acid by themselves if they consume enough linolic acid. Therefore, dog food does not typically contain it.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for cats. Dog foods usually have it, but not enough to preserve your cat’s health. Vitamin A is linked to healthy vision and skin in cats. If your cat is not getting enough vitamin A, it can lead to muscle weakness. However, be careful not to give too much of it to your fur baby. Check with AAFCO for proper guidelines.


Niacin is good for your cat’s skin and fur. It also helps break down sugar and fat, which charges energy production. Dog food does not provide enough niacin for cats, as cats must obtain it from animal meat rather than grains. Dog food does not have adequate meat content, which cats require. Niacin deficiency in cats can trigger weight loss, inflamed gums, and diarrhea.


Dog food tends to be higher in carbohydrates than cat food. Too many carbohydrates can cause diabetes and obesity in cats. Cats lack glucokinase, a critical liver enzyme that converts glucose into a useable form to create energy. Cats also lack amylase, which is an enzyme that starts carbohydrate digestion. Cats only produce about 5 percent of amylase that dogs do.

In general, cats have lower carbohydrate digestion enzyme levels than dogs. While they can digest and use carbohydrates, they do not process them the same way as dogs. Carbohydrate intake in cats needs to be conservative to maintain good health.

Why Follow Guidelines When Feeding Your Cat?

When it comes to feeding your cat, they need a specific amount and balance of nutrients to be healthy. When shopping for your pet’s food, make sure it considers certain things, that include the biology of your pet:

  • Life stage
  • Weight
  • Activity level
  • Food allergies

All these factors are essential to know when feeding your pet. If you have both a dog and a cat, you may want to separate them during mealtimes so that no food sharing takes place.

Why is it Important to Feed High-Quality Cat Food?

When feeding your cat, you should know that a lack of wet food in favor of dry food is unhealthy. Again, cats are carnivores and do not process grains and vegetables the same way as dogs. Unfortunately, grains are the cheapest ingredient.

Too many grains are not suitable for your cat. As a general rule, the cheaper the cat food, the more grains and less meat it has. Hydration is another important aspect of nutrition. Canned food has more water, which is beneficial to your cat.


Cats have specific nutritional requirements, separate from dogs. The best cat foods are formulated to keep your cat in good health.

If you ever have a situation where your has no food left but your dog’s food is available, you can allow your cat a couple of mouthfuls to satiate them. Keep in mind that your cat is a born carnivore and a picky eater, and they probably will not even like it.

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