This is a question that frequently arises during a veterinary appointment.
Yes, a cat, in a nutshell, can consume a a tiny sum. There will be no toxicity or long-term repercussions on the cat.
The extended answer, on the other hand, delves deeper into the contrasts between our feline and canine companions. While a smidgeon of stolen dog food will not damage cats, it will certainly prevent them from achieving their optimal health.
Here’s everything you need to know about cat nutrition, including why you shouldn’t give your cat dog food in the long run.
Can Cats Safely Eat Dog Food Long-Term?
No, cats are unable to survive on a dog food diet.
If a cat is only fed dog chow for an extended period of time, it can have negative, if not fatal, implications.
This is because the nutritional components in dog and cat food are different in order to suit the nutritional needs of these two species.
Cats and Dogs Have Different Nutritional Needs
While we share our hearts and homes with both dogs and cats, nature has shaped them into quite different animals with very different dietary needs over time.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that all of their body systems require a diet of meat-based proteins and animal fats to function effectively.
On the other hand, dogs are true omnivores. An omnivore’s diet is more versatile, as they can eat both meat and veggies. The nutritional requirements of cats are not met by a dog food diet.
Differences Between Cat Food and Dog Food
Here are a few important distinctions between dog and cat food formulations.
Taste is perceived differently by cats and dogs. Cats, unlike dogs, do not have the ability to detect sweetness, and the amount of taste receptors in each species differs.
Cats have 470 taste buds, whereas dogs have 1700. Humans have over 9000 taste buds.
Cat meals are designed to be highly tasty in order to convince our sometimes fussy (and taste-bud-deficient) feline pals to consume them.
* Observation: Cats don’t usually want to consume dog food because it’s unappealing to them. Dogs, on the other hand, adore the tasty, high-protein composition of cat food.
Cats, being severe carnivores by nature, require food with far more protein than dog kibble.
Although some brands and types of dog food have higher protein levels than others, even these specialized dog foods do not meet the high protein levels required to keep cats healthy.
The protein content of most dog meals is 18-26 percent “As-Fed”. For cats, however, I normally recommend aiming for at least a 30-34 percent “As-Fed” protein percentage, with a 40-50 percent protein canned cat food as an optional supplement.
Cats (and humans) are among the few mammals that lack the ability to produce taurine, thus they must obtain it through their diet.
Taurine deficiency in cats can result in:
- Hearts that are frail (dilatated cardiomyopathy)
- Visual impairment
- Problems with digestion
Taurine is now added to every commercially available cat food. However, it is rarely found in dog food.
Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid that cats cannot produce, it must be consumed.
Low arachidonic-acid levels in cats cause nonspecific indications of sickness, such as:
- Values of the liver and kidneys that are abnormal
- Increased skin problems occur from time to time.
Because dogs can produce this fatty acid on their own, it is rarely added to dog food.
Another nutritional component that cats cannot synthesis on their own and must be supplemented in their diet is vitamin A.
While vitamin A supplements are commonly found in dog meals, these supplements will never be sufficient for good cat nutrition.
Cats who are deficient in vitamin A will exhibit the following symptoms:
- Coats of poor quality
- Muscle degeneration and weakness
- Night blindness is a possibility.
Niacin is essential in a cat’s diet because cats cannot produce it on their own.
Although animal tissue is the most prevalent source of niacin in cat food, plants do contain small amounts of the vitamin. However, a meal with a smaller percentage of animal tissue and a larger percentage of plant tissue, such as grains, may not provide enough niacin for cats.
Life Stage Is Also Important
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a non-profit organization that constantly monitors and regulates the pet food market.
“…formulated to satisfy the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profile for… (a life stage)”, says the label on cat foods that follow AAFCO’s nationally agreed-upon nutritional values.
In the pet food industry, life stages are divided into three categories:
- All stages of life
Not only do cats have unique protein, vitamin, and dietary requirements, but these requirements change as they mature.
Fast-growing kittens require more nutrition and energy sources, whereas older, healthy cats require more protein to keep their muscles in good shape as they age.
Dog food, with its reduced protein and other nutrient content, cannot possible sustain a cat in any of its life phases for an extended period of time.
A High-Quality Cat Food Is Essential
The greatest approach to ensure that cats stay in our lives for a long time is to feed them a nutritious, high-quality diet tailored to their specific needs.
While dog food is harmless and will not hurt a cat if a few kibbles are consumed, it is not designed to match the nutritional requirements of cats.