Can Cats Eat Dog Food In An Emergency?

How often have you gotten home only to realize you forgot the cat food again?

Or maybe you think you have that extra bag of cat food remaining, only to find that it’s over?

When this happens, you may mule over giving your cat some dog food before your next grocery run.

So, can cats eat dog food in an emergency?


Cats can eat dog food but only in an emergency and for a short time.

Cats are obligate carnivores and have specific dietary requirements that aren’t available in dog food.

Eating dog food frequently will lead to a malnourished cat. 

Let’s look into what you should do if you run out of cat food, why your cat can only eat dog food in an emergency, and your cat’s dietary requirements.

This information will show you why you shouldn’t be comfortable feeding your cat dog food regularly.

Can Cats Eat Dog Food In An Emergency

Can your cat safely eat dog food?

That occasional meal when you’re out of cat food is harmless.

Dog food is not toxic to cats but only when taken as a temporary measure.

However, dog food is nutritionally inadequate and can cause poor health in your cat.

Being obligate carnivores, cats need foods rich in protein and fats and low in fiber, which may be absent in dog food.

Dog food may be okay on that rare occasion but don’t flirt with the idea that you can frequently feed your cat and dog the same food to cut costs.

Your cat needs food rich in animal protein for adequate development of organs and tissues, carbohydrates and fats for energy and good health.

Your feline also requires a diet rich in minerals and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and B6 for growth and general body functions.

These may be available in dog food but not in the proportions required for your cat’s growth and health.

If you have to feed your kitty some dog food to avoid starving, ensure that your cat gets an adequate balanced diet as soon as possible before malnutrition kicks in.

Why your cat shouldn’t regularly eat dog food ?

Pet food manufacturers make the food with the dietary needs of the specific animal in mind.

That’s why dog food is suitable for your canine, and cat food is best to satisfy your cat’s dietary needs.

Regularly feeding your kitty dog food is dangerous as long-term consumption could lead to diseases and malnutrition.

Lack of proper meals for your feline will lead to:

Digestive problems

Unhealthy skin

Unhealthy fur


Muscle weakness



Weight loss

Difference between cat food and dog food

Cats are obligate carnivores and depend on a diet rich in protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins.

Dogs are omnivores and can survive on a diet of meat, grains and vegetables.

This basic difference makes their dietary requirements vary.

Other glaring differences between cat food and dog food are:

Amino acids

Taurine and arginine are essential amino acids that should be in a cat’s diet.

Your feline can’t produce these amino acids like dogs and should therefore be a part of the nutritional targets for your cat.

On the other hand, your dog can produce enough taurine from other amino acids and survive on an arginine-free diet.

Arginine is essential in eliminating animal protein waste in your cat.

Taurine is found in animal-based protein and is necessary for your kitty’s digestion, heart functions, and maintaining a healthy immune system.

Taurine deficiency in your cat’s diet can impair vision leading to blindness, weaken the heart muscles, and cause digestive issues.

Deficiency in arginine leads to ammonia toxicity in your cat, seen by drooling, vomiting, and lethargy.

Vitamin A

Cats require a different Vitamin A than dogs.

Your feline lacks the enzymes needed to break down the plant-based carotenoids and instead relies on Vitamin A from the meat they ingest.


Your cat relies on meat and a protein-based diet to remain strong and healthy.

Your dog’s digestive system can handle meat, grains, and vegetables, but your feline friend heavily relies on animal protein to thrive.


Dog food tastes different from cat food.

Cats are picky eaters, and cat food is extra enticing to attract your cat’s palate.

How to stop your cat from eating dog food

In a multi-pet household, your curious pets will probably try sampling each other’s meals.

Your pets eating from each other’s bowl becomes a concern when it is habitual, but with a little planning, you can curb the behavior through the following tips:

Separate feeding stations: Set up different feeding points for your cat and dog during mealtimes. It helps if these stations aren’t accessible to the other pet. Separate feeding points will encourage your pets to enjoy their meals individually.

Different feeding times: Feed your pets at different times. If feeding your cat first, keep your canine away and vice versa. Different meal times may take a little time and attention but ensures that your pets get all their nutritional needs.

Meals in different rooms: You can choose to feed your pets in different tooms. Have a bowl set for your cat in the kitchen and your canine in the living area. This way, your pets will enjoy their meals uninterrupted.

Training: Train your cat and dog to keep away from the other’s bowl. Reward good behavior by offering a treat in your pet’s bowl. 

Safer food options for cats 

Instead of offering your cat some dog food, you can prepare these simple meals that are more meat-based and safer for your kitty.

Avoid salt and seasoning when preparing your kitty’s homemade meals.

Salmon/ Tuna and rice: Blend a mashed potato, a quarter cup of brown rice, a teaspoon of olive oil, some cooked salmon or tuna, and serve your kitty. You can substitute the tuna or salmon with chicken, turkey, beef, or lean pork.

Chicken/ Turkey: Blend your chicken or turkey, a quarter cup of boiled oatmeal, mashed potato, and a teaspoon of olive oil, and serve your feline friend. You can substitute the chicken with beef, tuna, or lean pork.


Dog food is not toxic to your feline friend.

However, your cat can only eat dog food in an emergency, that random day when you run out of cat food.

If you live in a multi-pet household, set up different feeding areas for your cat and dog to reduce the chances of your cat eating dog food.

Always maintain a wholesome, nutritious meal suitable for all your pets to ensure they grow strong and healthy.

Megan Turner

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