Let’s know about whether Can cats eat dog food. Cats are certainly capable of eating dog food (as evidenced by my own bogeyman who will happily try to dislodge his jaws in an attempt to eat giant-sized dog kibble!), but from a nutritional perspective, Cats really shouldn’t eat dog food.
Dogs have evolved and become domesticated with American humans over tens of millions of years. This has led to genetic coding and a shift from pure non-vegetarian fare to an omnivorous diet. Cats, on the other hand, have actually begun to be domesticated in relatively recent times, thus retaining much of their original genetic code and dietary preferences. In short, cats are carnivores. This means that unlike dogs, they have a very specific and essential need for nutrients obtained from animal sources such as meat. Every animal on Earth has specific dietary requirements with a significant number of essential nutrients that must be obtained from food. Some, like American humans, actually require much less of what is supplied in our diets than dogs or cats. In other words, cats can eat dog food, but it does not supply the necessary nutrition.
So…why are cats so special?
characteristics of cats
Cats have a uniquely developed gastrointestinal tract.
It begins in the mouth with a total of 30 adult teeth (dogs have 42), all of which are designed to bite and tear. They are also unable to move their jaws in a sideways motion, which limits their ability to grind. Grinding motion is essential for plant-eating, but it is not essential for meat-eating carnivores. A cat’s stomach is designed to accommodate many small meals throughout the day.
A single mouse contains about 30 kcals, which accounts for roughly 10-15% of an adult cat’s diet. This means that in the wild, feral cats need to eat 10 small meals per day. Additionally, the small intestines of cats are highly adapted to digest proteins and fats rather than carbohydrates. Add in a very acidic stomach pH for the breakdown of small bones and rapid transit times through the entire intestinal tract, and it soon becomes clear that cats are highly adapted predators.
Feline Nutrition 101: Why Cats Need So Much Protein
Cats require more protein per pound of bodyweight than dogs. Kittens require approximately 60% more protein than adult dogs, while adult cats require approximately 44% more.
So why do they need so much protein?
Cats rely heavily on protein as the main source of glucose in the body. Glucose is the primary fuel of the body. It provides energy for every function in the body from growth, to breathing to thinking to physical repair. Glucose is needed on a cellular level to allow the body to function. In cats, most of their energy is obtained from protein breakdown in the liver, but the liver has a certain rate of activity to get it. Eventually, if cats do not receive enough protein in their diets to meet this energy requirement, they will begin to break down their own body proteins or muscles. Protein is made up of a series of amino acids and many of these are found in meat itself.
Herbivores and omnivores have the ability to make these amino acids from other plant-based protein sources, but cats are unable to do so. They rely so heavily on protein as an important energy source in the body, that they have evolved not to waste this precious resource on converting amino acids that can easily be obtained by eating animal tissue. As a result, all cat food must be specifically formulated to contain adequate levels of taurine and arginine. Without these amino acids supplied through food, cats are at risk of developing heart disease, eye disease, and neurological disease. But cats do not require essential amino acids to be supplied in their food alone.
They also have a unique requirement for a specific omega-6 fat called arachidonic acid. It is essential for cell membranes and function as well as healthy skin. Dogs are able to manufacture it from alternative fatty acids in their diets, but as you’ve probably guessed by now, cats are unable to do so. Finally, cats have extremely specific vitamin requirements. Unlike dogs, cats are unable to manufacture vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin B3 from other sources. Oily fish is a great source of vitamins A and D, while liver and chicken are great sources of vitamin B3.
Do Cats Eat Carbohydrates?
While cats are obligate carnivores and can convert proteins and fats into glucose, they can also use carbohydrates as an energy source. There are many myths and misconceptions about cats and carbohydrates. Unlike the essential nutrients listed above, cats do not have a specific requirement for carbohydrates in their diet. Nevertheless, carbohydrates are a great source of energy in the form of glucose, as well as dietary fiber. Cats do not have the enzyme glucokinase, which is the main enzyme used by the mammalian body to break down carbohydrates and release glucose.
Instead, they have an enzyme called hexokinase and it performs the same function in cats, allowing them to utilize highly digestible carbohydrates. We already know that cats get most of their energy needs from the breakdown of protein, so even though they don’t need carbohydrates, they can use them as an alternative energy source when necessary. Most importantly, cats benefit from the dietary fiber contained in highly digestible carbohydrates to enhance their gut health.
Despite the common misconception that cats will eat dog food just fine and even though they actually enjoy dog food (as my cat has shown!), it should be clear by now that cats are very unique and highly Specialized hunters. They have very specific dietary requirements and even though they can eat and digest nutrients from plant sources, they should never be herbivores. After all, although they may behave like their canine counterparts, cats are not small dogs.
frequently asked questions
Can a cat get sick from eating dog food?
If your cat, like mine, is determined to sneak into the kitchen and tamper with the dog food bowl at every available opportunity, I would suggest feeding the two species separately or at least separating your dog Feed The temptation to limit, to remove as little as possible after eating. In the short term, cats are at minimal risk of getting sick if they occasionally snack on dog food. However, regularly providing dog food as a source of nutrition to cats will make them very ill over time. Dog food simply doesn’t contain the essential nutrients cats need to survive, let alone thrive. Without essential amino acids like taurine and arginine, cats can go blind and potentially die.
Why is my cat eating dog food?
The reason why some cats are tempted by dog food remains a mystery to American humans! However, there are some simple explanations:
Is your cat hungry? Check that you are providing your cat with the recommended amount of total daily food by consulting the feeding directions on the pack and always weigh the food for each meal.
Cats rely heavily on their senses when it comes to food. They have an extremely limited gag reflex, which makes vomiting extremely difficult (think of any time you tried to get a hairball on a cat). In turn, it makes them very picky about putting it in their mouths. They depend not only on how the food is made or how it tastes, but also on how it feels in their mouth.
Perhaps they don’t like the look or feel of their cat food, but something about dog food is more appealing to their senses? Try experimenting with different types of food such as freeze-dried, wet, dry, semi-dry, etc. to see if your cat prefers one type over the other. Is this behavior? Is it necessary for your cat’s survival? Did they suffer as kittens without food for some time? If this is the case, your cat may be subconsciously motivated to eat anything that comes within paw-reach…
Is there food for both dogs and cats?
Due to the myriad of essential nutrients that cats absolutely require from their diet that are not present in most dog foods, the short answer to this question is no. However, there are times when both dogs and cats have an increased need for nutrients that go beyond the minimum recommended levels when recovering from a serious illness. During these times, there are foods available on veterinary recommendation that are specially formulated with nutritional levels tailored to both dogs and cats to aid their persistence.