If you live in a multi-pet household, you know how hectic meal times can be when your dog loves to steal the cat’s food. Luckily, we have tips for stopping this behavior and making sure your dog doesn’t keep snacking out of the cat’s bowl. But what is it about cat food that dogs love so much?
Why Dogs Eat Cat Food
Dogs love the smell and taste of the higher protein and fat content in cat food. If you free-feed your cat, your dog probably also loves that the food is available all day. If your dog is like most, she seems to want a treat all the time. A bowl of cat food can look (and smell) like a bowl of treats to your dog. Who can resist that?
Can Dogs Eat Cat Food
It’s often cute to catch a dog snacking on the cat’s food but there are reasons to stop this behavior. Cats are obligate carnivores and cat food is formulated for felines’ high protein needs. That means denser protein content than your dog is used to digesting. It also means more fat, which can lead to weight gain.
A dog who eats cat food once in a while might be gassy and have an upset stomach. A dog who eats the cat’s food all the time won’t be getting the right nutrients that her body needs. Plus, your cat will be missing out on his meals! That’s not going to help your dog and cat get along.
How To Stop Your Dog from Eating Cat Food
Training your dog to stay away from the cat’s food is important in keeping both of your pets healthy. Dogs can be stubborn, though—especially when it comes to food and treats. Free feeding your cat can make the problem even more difficult to control.
Luckily, there are ways to keep your dog from eating cat food. Follow these training tips to teach your pets to respect each other’s food bowls.
- Hide bags of cat food from your dog
The simplest solution is to hide the cat food from your dog. This means hiding the cat’s bowl as well as the bags of food. Some dogs learn that they can open a bag of cat food or spill an unsealed bag onto the floor. If your dog has picked up this clever skill, you’ll have to hide the bags of food in a cabinet or a high place that she can’t reach.
- Keep your cat’s food in a high place
Cats are experts at climbing and reaching high places. Dogs, on the other hand, don’t usually venture much higher than a couch. If you have a small dog, it’s easy to put your cat’s food out of reach.
You can feed your cat on his cat tree, if it’s large enough. Or, put his bowl on top of a shelf or table. Window sills and washing machines can also act as feeding stations that are easy for your cat to reach but too high for your dog.
- Use a pet gate that your dog can’t knock down
Sometimes, a pet gate or baby gate can solve the problem. By putting your cat’s food in another room and blocking the doorway with a gate, you can easily keep your dog out. However, your cat still needs to reach his food!
Use a gate that has wide enough openings for him to fit through. Or, if your dog is small, install a shorter gate that your cat can jump over. In a home with a large dog, keeping your cat’s food bowl in her crate might put it out of your dog’s reach.
- Try feeding your cat on a schedule instead of free feeding
Free feeding dry food is great for most cats but makes it difficult for a multi-pet household to control who’s eating the food. Instead, consider timed feeding. Serve your cat his food at set meal times each day and maintain the schedule, as dogs and cats are sensitive to routines.
- Feed your pets together
You can even feed your pets at the same time to distract them both with their own food. Though this might not work for a dog who loves cat food, it might be enough for dogs who only eat it because it’s available while their own food is already gone.
- Keep your dog distracted
While your cat eats, you can take your dog for a walk, play with her or otherwise distract her from the cat food in the other room. This makes pet gates unnecessary and means you won’t have to worry constantly about your dog knocking things over as she tries to reach the cat’s bowl.
- Use treats to reward your dog for leaving the cat’s food alone
If other prevention methods don’t work, you can try to train your dog to stay away from the cat’s food. Start with her favorite dog treat and a few pieces of cat food. Establish a command, like a simple “no,” and close your hand around the food so she can’t eat it. Don’t punish her for trying to get to it. Then, offer the treat to her, instead.
Throughout the day, when you see her go to the bowl of cat food, say the “no” command and move the food out of reach. Then, do the training exercise and give her the treat. Repeat this training regularly and have patience. It could take weeks for your dog to understand what behavior is expected, but it could teach her to stay away from cat food by associating the new behavior with a reward.
Cat food might have become a favorite snack for your dog, but it won’t give them the nutrition they need. You don’t want your cat missing meals because your dog steals his food. Use these tips to keep your dog from eating cat food and find a happy balance in your multi-pet household.
- Easter, Fanna. “How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Cat Food.” Animal Behavior College Blog, Animal Behavior College, 1 June 2018.
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