Why Is My Cat Eating My Dog's Food?

If you live in an interspecies home, you may have noticed your canine and feline companions sneaking bites out of the other's bowl from time to time. While they may effortlessly share space and the time they get to spend with their favorite people, swapping meals definitely isn't the most recommended practice pet owners should keep. Cats are known for being particularly picky eaters, so what is it about dog food that a cat might enjoy? And, is it safe for cats to graze from a dog's dish?

Golden Hound and British short-haired cat
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Reasons cats are attracted to dog food

Cats are drawn to certain foods for a number of reasons. Among them, Royal Canin lists the scent of a certain food among the most common. Because cats are meat eaters by nature, a particularly meaty aroma may entice a cat to wander over and pick a few bites from your dog's bowl, especially if there's wet food for the taking. If your cat is not liking her own food but your dog's meals smell good enough to eat, it may be why she's so intent to check it out.

The texture of food is another reason your cat will choose what goes in her mouth. Every cat is different and will have her own likes and dislikes, but if your cat is constantly making her way over to the dog bowl, it could be that she prefers the feel of his kibble over her own. This can ring especially true for short-nosed breeds like Persians, who may have trouble reaching individual pieces of food in their dish thanks to the shape of their faces. Finally, when given a choice, cats will eat what they eat because it simply makes them feel good. While dog food does not contain all of the essential vitamins and minerals necessary to keep a cat healthy, some food may be eaten simply because the flavor or the texture is fun to eat.

hand british cat food eat, close up,  cat with yellow eyes asks for food,  hand with food
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Is dog food bad for cats?

According to PetMD, dog food for cats is not ideal when eaten as anything more than an occasional snack, and should absolutely not be relied on as an exclusive diet for felines. Why? Because dog food lacks certain nutrients that are an essential part of maintaining a cat's health. Vitamin A is an ingredient added to cat food because, unlike dogs, whose bodies can turn beta-carotene into the vitamin, cats need that extra boost to remain healthy.

The same thing goes for the amino acid taurine and the fatty acid arachidonic acid. Dogs are able to make both of these acids so commercial dog food often doesn't feature it as an added ingredient. A taurine-deficient cat, on the other hand, may develop heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can result in heart failure if left untreated. Finally, cats simply require more protein than dogs as they are obligate carnivores, so most dog food will simply not satisfy their protein needs.

The kitten is watching the Golden retriever eating.
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How to keep your cat out of dog food

Although dog food is perfectly safe for a cat to graze every once in a while, some people may wish to keep their feline friends away from the dog bowl. The best way to go about that is to get both pets on a feeding schedule so that no food is left out, or no pet is left hungry for too long, says Catster. You can discourage leaving food in bowls for other animals to pick at by feeding your cat and dog small amounts of food multiple times a day, rather than laying down a big meal all at once. Creating separate feeding areas is always a good idea in shared homes and spaces, as it not only safe but can reduce temptation.