Cat and dog food look pretty much the same for humans, right? However, the differences between them go far beyond the shape and size of the kibble.
Differences between dogs and cats
Dogs and cats are two domestic animals who share a lot of characteristics but have very different nutritional needs. Cats, on one hand, are obligate carnivores who need a high dose of protein in their meals. They require a meat-based diet with animal fats in order to be healthy. On the other hand, dogs are omnivores who don’t necessarily need meat to thrive. They have a more flexible diet where they can eat both meat and vegetables.
Even though cat and dog kibble might look similar, their content is very different.
Can dogs eat cat food?
No, dogs are not supposed to eat cat food. Naturally, if your dog eats cat food by accident (even if it is a whole bowl) there is nothing serious to worry about: at worst, they might suffer from GI distress, abdominal pain, vomit, or diarrhea. However, if you give your dog cat food on a regular basis, the high amounts of protein and the nutritional imbalance can damage your dog’s kidneys and liver, and lead to pancreatitis and obesity.
Can cats eat dog food?
Just as dogs are not supposed to eat cat food, cats shouldn’t eat dog food either. Dog food doesn’t contain the appropriate amount of protein and other important minerals cats need on their diets. So, you can feed your cat with dog food in an emergency, but administrating dog food daily won’t cover their nutritional needs in the long term.
Differences between cat and dog food
Dogs and cats need the same essential group of 6 broad nutrients to carry healthy lives: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. However, the proportions and specific nutrients they need are definitely not the same.
- Niacin: Dogs’ bodies can make a certain amount of niacin (VitB3), while cats can’t produce it at all. In both cases, vitamin B3 should be included in their foods; however, the quantities are significantly different in cats and dogs.
- Taurine: It is a type of chemical called amino sulfonic acid that many mammals (including dogs and humans) can produce within their bodies thanks to other amino acids. However, cats don’t have the ability to synthetize taurine from other foods, so they must get it from their diet. If they don’t receive enough taurine, their health may decline significantly, possibly leading to blindness and heart enlargement. That is why cat food contains taurine, while dog food doesn’t.
- Arachidonic acid: Just as it happens with taurine, cats can’t produce arachidonic acid on their own, while dogs certainly can. Therefore, cat food contains arachidonic acid, while you will rarely find it in dog food.
- Calories: Since cat food contains higher levels of protein when compared to dog food, it usually results in a lot more calories as well.
- Taste: Usually, cat food has a stronger meat flavor and smell than dog food, which makes it more appealing to dogs. On the other hand, dog food can be a little unsavory and unappealing for cats.
How can I stop my pet from eating the wrong food?
First of all, if your dog or cat ate from the wrong food bowl, there is no need to panic: one meal won’t hurt your pet.
However, if you are a pet parent to both a cat and a dog, make sure to place their food bowls away from each other, preferably in a different room. Alternatively, you can set a feeding schedule for your pets and pick the bowls up once the meals are over, to avoid any further temptation.