Can Cats Eat Dog Food in an Emergency?

Can Cats Eat Dog Food in an Emergency

In a pinch, you can feed your cat dog food. That is better than nothing. Except for a potential tummy upset, you do not have to worry about bad side effects. Take note that cats cannot go without eating for a long period.

However, it should be underscored that your cat cannot eat canine food over the long term. You might think that you can save money by purchasing dog food for your feline but you might be compromising his health over the long term.

A single meal of dog food is not harmful to cats. But be aware that your pet’s stomach may get upset. This is normal, especially in cats. If you have happened to switch between two brands of cat food, you might have noticed this happening during the transition.

Typically, the problem will resolve by itself within a day. 

Getting your cat to eat dog food

Cats are notorious for being finicky eaters. As such, getting your feline to eat dog food can be particularly challenging.

Here are a few tips that will help you coax your cat to feast on Fido’s food.

Cats rely on their sense of smell to “taste” their food. As such, one of the hurdles that you need to overcome is to make the dog food smell like your cat’s regular fare.

Although you cannot totally mimic the scent of the cat food, your cat’s hunger may just work in your favor.

To achieve this goal, drizzle something familiar over the dog food, something with a strong scent like the juice from canned tuna. Alternatively, you can use broth.

Apart from making the dog food appealing to your cat, adding some moisture can be beneficial for your cat.

When your cat’s routine is changed, he may drink less water than he usually does. Adding broth to dog food can counteract your cat’s tendency to consume less water. Plus, adding broth supplies more protein to the dog food.

Why feeding your cat with dog food regularly is bad

In an emergency, you can feed your cat with dog food. There is nothing in dog food that can cause immediate harm to your cat.

However, dog food can never be a permanent substitute for cat food. The main reason behind that is that the dietary requirements of dogs and cats are vastly different.

Cats are what you call obligate carnivores. This simply means that your cat needs ample amounts of protein in his diet. According to experts, the ideal amount of protein in a cat’s diet should be around 45 percent.

Canines, on the other hand, are omnivores. While dogs still need protein in their diets, the amount is considerably less compared to a feline’s needs. 

Additionally, dogs can also eat grains and vegetables. Cats may also eat these in small quantities but they do not really need these in their diets.

Another important reason why your cat cannot eat dog food over the long run is that dog food is formulated differently from cat food. For starters, cat food is loaded with more calories compared to dog food. 

Furthermore, dog food lacks three essential nutrients that cats need.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A or beta carotene is essential for the health and wellbeing of cats. Unfortunately, feline stomachs are not efficient in drawing out the nutrients.

One reason behind this is cats are carnivores and can live exclusively on meat. Dogs, however, are omnivores. This means that canines have evolved not only to eat different types of food. More importantly, they can derive vitamin A straight from sources like squash and sweet potato.

Your cat’s inability to get vitamin A from a natural source does not mean it does not need the nutrient. In fact, cats need the vitamin for the health of their coat and eyes and overall vigor.


Dog food contains little to no taurine, which can be bad for cats because they require this amino acid.

A taurine deficiency can lead to stomach problems, lackluster fur, infertility, urinating issues, vision loss, weak immunity, heart disease and weakness.

Cats, unlike dogs, cannot produce the nutrient in their bodies. That is why they have to rely on food for this.

Furthermore, dog food contains too much fiber which can interfere with the absorption of taurine.

Arachidonic acid

Like taurine, felines cannot produce Arachidonic acid inside their bodies so they must rely on their food to get it. 

Arachidonic acid is vital for a few important reasons. For one, it is essential for the production of blood platelets in cats. Second, it aids in making the skin and fur of your cat healthy. Finally, it is critical for the health of a mother’s unborn kittens.

Dog food can be emergency cat food

It happens. Perhaps you have been too busy at work or you just forgot to add your pet’s food to your shopping list.  It is too late to feel sorry about that. Your cat is hungry and he needs to eat. Go on, feed him your pet dog’s food. Just this once. 

And remember to buy cat food as soon as you can.

Image: / anastas_