Is it Okay for Cats to Eat Dog Food?

can cats eat dog food

When it comes to cat and dog food, you may think it’s okay to alternate the two or feed your cat dog food on a regular basis.

However, your cat has very different nutritional requirements to stay happy and healthy, and they may not get what they need if you only feed your cat dog food.

If you choose to feed your cat only dog food, they can become deficient in a few key vitamins, acids, and their protein levels. Having deficiencies in these few key things can lead to more severe health problems if they go unchecked for an extended period of time.

Related: The Best Grain-Free Cat Food

Nutrients Your Cat Needs They May Not Get From Dog Food

Arachidonic Acid

An essential fatty acid that dogs can produce naturally and cats can’t is Arachidonic acid. Your cat will get this fatty acid from their food, but dog food will have either low amounts or no trace. You can find this essential acid in animal fats, and it supports several key bodily functions including proper blood clotting, controlling or suppressing an inflammatory response like allergies, regulate skin growth, and keep both the gastrointestinal and reproduction systems functioning normally.


The protein content is another big reason your cat shouldn’t be fed dog food. Although you can purchase dog food brands with very high protein counts, it’ll fall short of the levels your cat needs to stay healthy. Cats use the protein content in their food to build a base for amino acids, and this promotes a healthy coat, regular digestive system, healthy muscle growth and maintenance, and healthy eyesight. Dogs are omnivores and cats are carnivores, so cats need more protein.

Related: The Best High Fiber Cat Food


Taurine is essential to your cat’s continued health. It is a type of amino acid found in cat foods, and it is an animal-based protein. Dogs can make their own naturally, so many dog foods are deficient in Taurine because your dog simply doesn’t need it. The symptoms of Taurine deficiency can take anywhere from five months to two years to present themselves, and it depends on the age of your cat. This type of deficiency can lead to impaired vision or blindness, tooth decay, muscle weakening, and in extreme cases heart failure.

Vitamin A

Your cats need Vitamin A to support their several healthy body systems including eyesight, especially night vision, healthy skin and coat, and healthy muscle growth. Cats are one of the few animals whose bodies can’t convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Dogs can, and their foods usually contain amounts of beta-carotene. You cat requires their Vitamin A intake to be already processed in the fats they eat. Your cat can get the required amounts of Vitamin A from fish liver oil, liver, and egg yolks.

Cat and Dog Nutritional Requirements

NutrientsCat Growth MinimumDog Growth MinimumCat Maintenance MinimumDog Maintenance Minimum
Arachidonic Acid0.02Not Established0.02Not Established
Taurine0.10Not Established0.10Not Established
Vitamin A9,0005,0005,0005,000

Bottom Line

Although you can feed your cat dog food, this practice isn’t recommended for the continued growth and health of your cat. Dog food simply doesn’t meet the nutritional requirements to support your cat. You may be able to get away with feeding your cat dog food once in a while, but you shouldn’t get into this habit.

Your cat will be happier, healthier, and more active if you feed them pet food that is specially designed for them. You want your cat to be happy and healthy, and this starts with good nutrition.