Many cats are picky eaters and won’t touch anything but the most delectable wet cat food. Others are keen to munch on just about anything they come across, including dog food. But just because your cat wants to eat dog food doesn’t mean it’s healthy for him. After all, there are reasons kibble is labeled “cat food” or “dog food,” and not simply “pet food.”
Nutritional Differences Between Dog Food & Cat Food
Dogs and cats have different dietary needs. Here are biggest factors that make dog food inappropriate for cats:
- Protein level: In the wild, cats are strict carnivores, so the main ingredient in their diet is meat. Though some dog food brands are high in protein, the minimum requirement set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials is 18 percent, while the protein requirement for cat food is 26 percent. This 8 percent disparity makes a big difference in the health of your cat.
- Vitamin A: Dogs’ bodies can turn beta-carotene into vitamin A, but cats lack this ability. For this reason, cat food must be supplemented with vitamin A for the animal to stay healthy.
- Taurine: This is an amino acid that cats require in their diet. Since dogs’ bodies can manufacture their own, taurine levels are often low in dog food.
- Arachidonic acid: Dogs can create this fatty acid themselves, but cats must absorb it from animal-based fats in their diet.
What Happens if Cats Eat Dog Food?
If you catch your cat in the act, there’s no need to rush him to the emergency vet. Eating a bite of dog food here and there usually isn’t a major concern, but cats shouldn’t eat dog food full-time. The effects of an improper diet vary, but here are some signs that your cat’s health is suffering from overindulging on dog food:
- Lethargy and weakness
- Hunched back
- Poor coat condition
- Reproductive problems
- Loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and other signs of GI distress
- Choking (caused by larger kibble size)
- Blindness, deafness, and heart problems (caused by a lack of taurine)
How to Prevent Cats from Eating Dog Food
Living with both a cat and a dog can bring great joy to your life, but you must make sure each animal only eats his own food. If your cat keeps snacking on your dog’s food, you’ll need to ditch your open-access feeding technique and try these tips instead:
- Feed your dog twice a day (following the calorie intake recommendations established by the pet food manufacturer).
- Monitor your dog during feeding time to ensure your cat doesn’t sneak a taste.
- If your dog leaves food behind in his bowl, dispose of it so your cat won’t find it later.
- Likewise, you can prevent your dog from eating cat food by placing your cat’s bowl on a shelf, table, or countertop where your dog can’t reach.
Seek Dietary Advice for Your Cat at Germantown Vet
Perhaps you have concerns about your cat’s health after catching him eating dog food, or you simply want assistance choosing food that maximizes your pet’s nutritional intake. Either way, visit Germantown Vet Clinic in Montgomery County for a nutritional assessment. We’ll make sure your cat stays healthy and happy with the right food for his needs.
Schedule an appointment at Germantown Vet today!