Why Is My Cat Eating Dog Food?

Why Is My Cat Eating Dog Food

For pet owners who have both cats and dogs, the issue of these two animals eating the other’s food is quite common. Sometimes it may even seem like your cat enjoys the dog’s food more than it does cat food.

Is there something wrong with your cat when it seeks out the dog’s food?

No, there is nothing particularly wrong with your cat. But there may be some issues regarding the food you are giving them or their feeding routine that need to be addressed.

Can your cat eat dog food?

The short answer is yes, but it is not an ideal permanent food replacement for cat food.

In this article, we will dive deeper into the reasons why your cat loves stealing from your dog’s food stash, as well as what you can do as a responsible pet owner to keep your cat from doing it. If you are having a similar issue, keep reading to learn more.

Is cat food different from dog food?

There are significant differences between your cat’s and dog’s food:

1. Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they need to have an almost completely protein-based diet. Technically, they can ingest plant-based food without any harm, but their bodies are not made to process these foods in large amounts.

Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivorous, meaning they should eat both meat and plants to complete their diet.

2. The differences in cat and dog dietary needs means that pet food companies formulate the animal’s food to specifically cater to its needs. Cat food has higher protein content, while dog food may have a higher carbohydrate content.

3. Dogs are able to produce amino acids, such as taurine, in their bodies. Therefore, it is not a part of the supplements added to dog food. Cats cannot produce taurine themselves, but they need it to maintain their health. The only way they can get taurine is through their food.

4. Dogs can create vitamin A in their bodies using the beta carotene they ingest, while cats are unable to turn the beta carotene into vitamin A. Because of this, vitamin A has to be added into their food as a supplement. Vitamin A gives cats better vision at night and keeps their skin healthy.

Why is my cat eating dog food?

There are multiple reasons why your cat is eating your dog’s food.

Cats like the smell of dog food.

Cats base a lot of their decisions about food on their sense of smell. It is possible that they find the dog food more appealing smell-wise, or the dog food smells a little too similar to their cat food and they cannot tell the difference.

Cats are lazy.

Sometimes cats feel like eating but might not want to go all the way to their food bowl. If they pass by the dog’s bowl, which is closer, they end up taking a bite of the dog’s food. The same goes for when they come across human food as well.

Cats can eat dog kibble more easily.

There are certain cat breeds with short noses who may have a hard time picking up tinier pieces of cat kibble. They gravitate towards dog food which comes in larger pieces and is easier for these cats to eat.

Cats enjoy the dog food’s texture.

Another factor that makes a cat like a certain food is how it feels in their mouth as they eat it. Maybe you have been putting the cat on a strictly wet food diet, so when it comes across dry dog food, it might become curious and give the crunchy food a try.

Cats can grow bored of the same food.

The same way humans look to eat different foods at every meal to not get bored, cats can also go looking for variety in their diet. Cats see humans as equals, so that is why they may feel that what we eat is for them as well. This will drive your cat to give your dog’s food a try just because they want to.

Cats want to be the alpha.

Your cat eating your dog’s food may be their way of showing the dog that they have the authority in the relationship. They assert their dominance by showing the dog that they can get whatever they want and there’s nothing your dog can do about it.

Is dog food harmful to my cat?

Dog food does not really cause any harm to your cat if the cat only snacks on the dog food on occasion. But keep in mind that your cat still isn’t supposed to finish an entire bowl of dog food every day.

It is not harmful as much as it is simply insufficient for your cat. As mentioned above, dog food contains neither of the amino acids-taurine or vitamin A- that your cat needs to consume daily to remain healthy. If you feed your cat dog food exclusively, the cat will soon feel the effects of the lack of these essential nutrients. Your cat may become malnourished and develop blindness, deafness, and even heart problems in the long run.

Can my cat have dog food as a snack?

Giving your cat, or allowing your cat to munch on some dog food from time to time won’t hurt them. They can go over to the dog’s bowl and steal a few pieces of kibble if they feel hungry. It might prove to be difficult to always watch your cat to make sure they never eat dog food, so this is just a reality you will learn to live with.

It is kind of like how people take a cheat day from their diets and order takeout from a fast-food restaurant. We know it is not good for us, but we like to eat it on occasion because it is delicious. But we would never eat fast food every day because that would be unhealthy.

That said, if you are able to, teach your cat to stay away from dog food. 

What can I do to keep my cat from eating dog food?

Schedule the cat’s and dog’s meal times separately

  • This is the most effective method you can try to keep your cat from eating the dog food. 
  • Keep them in different rooms while you feed one.
  • Make sure your dog finishes its food so the cat cannot just wander into the room with the dog’s leftovers and eat them.
  • Wash the dog’s bowl immediately after so the cat does not go snooping there to check the smell.
  • This will help both animals stay satiated at all times and lessen the possibility of either one stealing the other’s food.
  • Try distracting the dog while the cat is eating by playing with it, and vice versa.

Feed them in different parts of the house

  • If scheduling their meals does not work, try to feed them far from each other. Even if they are eating at the same time, they will not associate any other place in the house with feeding.
  • This provides the cat and dog with the privacy they need to eat in peace without getting distracted by the smells of the other’s food.

If I run out of cat food, is it okay to feed my cat dog food?

This scenario has happened to every pet owner at some point, and the answer is yes. In cases when you will not be able to buy cat food until the following morning, you can feed your cat dog food if that is the only available option.

If you have cooked meat, such as chicken or beef, you can give that to your cat as well.


Cats may eat your dog’s food for several reasons. It can be because they are tired of their food and find the dog food’s different aroma and taste interesting enough to give it a try. They can be lazy enough to just pick food off of the dog’s bowl instead of making their way to their bowl that is farther away.

Whatever the reason may be, make sure that this happens as minimally as possible. Even though dog food is in no way toxic to your cat, it is not a viable alternative for their everyday meals. This is because dog food lacks many of the nutrients that are in cat food like taurine and vitamin A.   Not having these can make them malnourished, cause cats to go blind and deaf, or even aggravate heart problems.

Make sure your cat’s diet is still predominantly cat food and train it to avoid dog food by feeding them at different times and in different rooms.

Image: istockphoto.com / humonia