If you are the proud owner of dogs and cats, you might find yourself wondering about the difference between dog food and cat food. Some essential nutrients that cats need to survive simply aren’t found in dog food. And dogs might get an upset stomach if they eat cat food.

Dog Food Doesn’t Have Essential Nutrients That Cats Need

Dog food lacks some essential nutrients cats must have to survive. Dogs are omnivores and can live on a lot of things, from meat and grain to fruit and vegetables. In general, dog food may have a combination of animal proteins, grains, and vegetables. Cats, on the other hand, are far more limited on what they need to eat to survive. Cats are obligate carnivores and must get their nutrients from meat, not plant material.

Cat food is designed to provide the amount of taurine cats must have. While some dog food might have taurine, it’s not enough to meet a cat’s needs. Dog food also doesn’t have the minimal amount of arachidonic acid, niacin, and vitamin A that cats need.1

Cats Need More Protein Than Dogs

Cats break down amino acids faster than other animals, causing them to need more protein.2 They need a minimum of 26 percent protein in their daily meals.3 Their bodies’ metabolism doesn’t adjust the rate of protein breakdown like other animals do, so they consistently need a high amount of protein in their diet.

Dog Food Isn’t Tasty to Cats

Besides the purely nutritional component, taste is another big difference between dog food and cat food. Dog food is designed to appeal to dogs, and there are elements to the flavor palette that cats just won’t appreciate. Cats have fewer taste buds than dogs, and they can’t detect sweetness at all.4 Because of these differences, cats simply won’t enjoy dog food very much. On the other hand, dogs may love cat food because of its high protein content—but that doesn’t mean you should let your canine eat as much cat food as he wants.

You Shouldn’t Feed Cat Food to Dogs or Vice Versa

Although dogs can eat more variety than cats, they still shouldn’t eat cat food. The higher protein levels in cat food might cause an upset stomach in your dog.5To avoid this and ensure your dog gets the nutrition he needs, you want to keep your dog out of your cat’s food. The easiest way to do this is to keep your cat’s food out of your dog’s reach. Consider mounting your cat’s food bowl to a window near a window perch. It will be accessible to your cat, but not to your dog.

Cats also will be okay if they sneak a little dog food now and then. But cats should never be fed dog food exclusively. They can’t survive off it.

If you’re looking for nutritious options for your dog and cat, consider AvoDerm Natural food. Cats love AvoDerm Natural Duck with Turkey Meal Formula or the canned Grain Free Salmon & Chicken Entrée in Gravy. If you have dogs, consider AvoDerm Natural Lamb & Sweet Potato Recipe or the canned Beef & Potato Stew Recipe.

There are some pretty significant differences between dog food and cat food. Your cats might not even enjoy your dog’s food because the differences can be so distinct. But even if your pets like each other’s food, it’s still best to keep their bowls separate. Your pets will be happiest and healthiest when they eat the food designed specifically for them.

1. Burke, Anna. “Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?” AKC, 28 December 2016, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-cat-food/.

2. Lewis, Betty. “Why Do Cats Need a High Protein Diet?” The Nest, https://pets.thenest.com/cats-need-high-protein-diet-9930.html.

3. Lachlei, M.B., “How much protein do cats require?” The Nest, https://pets.thenest.com/much-protein-cats-require-12867.html.

4. “Do Cats Have a Sense of Taste?” CatHealth.com, https://www.cathealth.com/cat-care/nutrition/2178-do-cats-have-a-sense-of-taste.

5. Fiorella, Linda. “Why Does My Dog … Make a Beeline for Cat Food?” VetStreet, 14 August 2013, http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-does-my-dog-make-a-beeline-for-cat-food.