“Can cats eat dog food?” Someone asked me. “What kind of a question is that?” I thought to myself. But on thinking about it later, I decided that it wasn’t such an odd question after all, especially for a person who has cats and dogs living in the same house.
To be able to address this issue, we would first need to understand a bit about the metabolism of dogs and cats. What needs to be understood here is what dogs and cats need for nutrition, and a balanced diet and what is or could be harmful to either of them. We all want our pets to be healthy and safe, right? So, let us take a look at what goes into the nutritional requirements of cats.
Can Cats Eat Dog Food? - Nutrition in Cats vs. Nutrition in Dogs
There is quite a lot of difference in between what cats and dogs need to maintain a balanced diet. One of the essential facts about cat nutrition is that they require an amino acid called taurine as a critical part of their food.
Deficiency in taurine can and does result in heart disease and other health complications. Hence, taurine is added to cat food because cats are unable to produce taurine naturally. Dogs, on the other hand, can provide taurine typically in their bodies. Hence taurine is not added to dog food.
Another essential requirement of both cat and dog nutrition is that of vitamin A. Dogs use the beta-carotene in their bodies to produce vitamin A. Cats, however, are unable to do this. Hence, vitamin A is added to cat food, but may or may not be added to dog food.
The next significant difference between dogs and cats is their respective eating patterns which link them to their protein requirements. Dogs are omnivores and can benefit equally from a vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet.
Cats, on the other hand, are known as "obligate carnivores”. This means that their source of protein must come from animals, which restricts their ability to certain types of food only.
Due to this reason, the protein content of cat food is considerably higher than that of dog food. According to the Association of American Feed Control, the minimum protein content in dog food is fixed at 18%, but for cats, it has been set as 26%.
Can Cats Eat Dog Food - Other Ingredients
Besides these prominent ingredients, some minor elements are also essential for a cat's diet as follows:
These are essential to maintaining your cat's coat and kidneys. Arachidonic fatty acid is not added to dog food as it is not as necessary to dogs as it is to cats.
Cats need to ingest higher amounts of this form of vitamin B to maintain good health. Hence cat food contains a higher concentration of them than in dog food.
For the same reasons, cat food contains more folic acid than dog good.
Implications of your Cat Eating Dog Food
Hence, we can go by the rule of thumb that cat food is for cats and dog food is for dogs. If you allow your cat to eat dog food for an extended period, you will be paving the way for an improper diet. Due to deficiencies in the necessary ingredients required for maintaining good health, you cat may fall ill.
Taurine deficiency, for instance, can lead to blindness, heart problem and even deafness. Your cat may experience lethargy, poor posture, seizures and reproductive issues. Complications caused by these related health issues could also result in death or reduction in lifespan at best.
Due to deficiencies in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, your cat may experience digestive trouble. Even if you are feeding your cat regular cat food, but your pet is eating dog food on the side, your pet may not consume sufficient quantities of the essential cat food due to lack of space in the stomach as it is already full of dog food!
Suggested Feeding Arrangement
Follow these tips to ensure that your cat doesn’t eat dog food and vice-versa:
So now, I think you have the answer to the question, can cats eat dog food? Very definitely not recommended. If your cat happens to take a bite from the dog’s bowl once or twice, you needn’t be too concerned. But don’t encourage this on a regular basis as it is not healthy for your cat in the long run.
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