Is dog food a viable option for cats? A common question that has plagued many cat owner’s minds, the answer though is a surprising yes! Although in small amounts, cats can handle dog food without having any negative effects.
It gets a bit more complicated once we delve into the specifics and differences between canines and felines. Even if a small amount of dog food wont harm your cat, it won’t benefit them health wise either.
In this article we have detailed all that you need to know about cat nutrition and the specifics on why you should not feed your cat any dog food long term.
Could a cat suffer long term effects from a dog food diet?
Yes, they would. Cats cannot be maintained on a dog food only diet, because, if fed for a longer period of time, it could have detrimental and in the worst case scenario – deadly consequences.
The reason for this is because dog food and cat food are comprised of different nutritional components in order to meet the differing nutritional needs of these two animals.
Fact: Cats and dogs have pretty different nutritional needs
Even though cats and dogs share the number one spot as the most common pet, they do not share their specific nutritional needs, due to evolution.
Cats, and felines in general, are obligate carnivores. What that means is they require a diet comprised of meat based proteins and animal fats so that all of their body systems can function properly.
In contrast to that, dogs are omnivores. Omnivores favor a more flexible diet and can eat both meat and vegetables without any problems at all. In conclusion, a dog food diet will not meet the specific nutritional needs that cats require.
What exactly are the differences between cat food and dog food?
We have listed below some of the major differences between cat food and dog food.
First off, cats perceive taste rather differently than dogs do. Compared to dogs, cats do not have the ability to taste any sweetness, and even the number of taste receptors are different between them.
Cats only have 470 taste buds, which is a small amount compared to dogs which have 1700, and an even smaller amount when compared to a human’s 9000 taste buds.
This is the reason why cat food is specifically made to be highly palatable in order to encourage cats, which are often picky eaters, to eat their meal.
Even though small amounts are safe, it is pretty uncommon for cats to desire to eat dog food, as they tend to find it unappetizing. Dogs, on the other hand, love cat food and its high protein content.
When it comes to protein, cats being strictly carnivorous by nature need a higher protein content than dog food generally provides.
Even if the occasional brand or type of dog food offers a higher protein level, as a whole it would barely reach the high levels of protein that cats need to be healthy.
To delve into specifics, most dog foods only offer an “As – Fed” protein amount of around 18% to 26%. When compared to the recommended “As – Fed” protein amount needed for cats which is 30% to 34%, with the occasional and optional supplement of 40% to 50% protein level canned cat food, it is a pretty small amount.
Both cats and humans are two of the very few mammals that do not possess the ability to make taurine, so they have to supplement that in their daily diet.
If a cat lacks taurine in their diet they can possibly have weakened hearts (dilatated cardiomyopathy), digestion problems and loss of vision.
Taurine is an essential component in all commercial cat food, it is not present however in many dog foods.
This is a fatty acid that cats also do not have the ability to create, so it must be supplemented.
Cats that lack arachidonic acid may have nonspecific signs of illness such as increased skin issues and abnormal liver and/or kidney values.
Dogs, however, harbor the ability to create arachidonic acid all by themselves, so naturally, dog food lacks this fatty acid.
Cats do not have the ability to synthesize this vitamin on their own, so in turn it must be supplemented in their diet.
Even though dog foods do often have some vitamin A content, it is usually not high enough to keep a cat healthy.
Cats that lack vitamin A may have a poorer coat quality, muscle deterioration and weakness, and can even suffer from night blindness.
This is another crucial nutrient that cats cannot make on their own and needs to be supplemented instead.
The most common source of niacin in cat food comes from animal tissue, but it can also be found in plants, but in lower levels. This means that food that contains a lower content of animal tissue and higher content of plant tissue, like grains for example, will not give cats the proper levels of niacin that they need to meet their nutritional needs.
Keep in mind the life stage of the cat
Life stages fall into three main groups in the pet industry which are growth, maintenance, and old life stages.
This means that not only do cats should have a specific amount of vitamins, protein and nutritional needs, but these needs also vary throughout all of their life stages.
Kittens generally need more nutrients and energy sources since they are still growing, while older and generally healthy cats require a protein heavy diet to maintain their muscles as they grow old.
This further solidifies the claim that dog food, with its generally low percentages of proteins and other cat required nutrients, are not suitable for a long term feline diet in any of its life stages.
In conclusion: Get yourself some high quality cat food
One of the best ways to ensure that our feline friends can share a bigger part of our lives together is to make sure that they are fit with a healthy and high quality diet that meets all of their nutritional needs.
So, even though dog food is not toxic and will not cause harm in small amounts, it is not made for cats and should not be fed to them long term.