My Dog Ate Cat Food: Worry Time? (Solved & Explained!)

When you’ve got canines and cats in the same household, it’s not uncommon for a bit of food thievery to occur. Quite often, your dog might decide that the biggest animal gets ‘first-dibs’ and gobble up the kitty’s food. So, what happens if your dog at cat food?

While the occasional cat food it not really going to hurt your dog, you definitely don’t want this to be a regular thing. Aside from creating one very annoyed cat in the house, that cat food has a lot of extra proteins and fat in it and your dog might start putting on extra pounds that they do not need.

There’s a little more to it, of course, and that’s going to be the subject of our article today. Stay with us and we’ll give you the real scoop about why your dog needs to stay out of the cat’s food – and it’s not just out of fear of ‘kitty retribution’!

It’s a nutrition issue, not actual toxicity

The reason that your dog loves the cat’s food so much is that your cat has specialized nutrition requirements due to being an obligate carnivore. What this means is that your cat’s body is designed to get most of it’s important nutrients by consuming meat, while your dog can actually get by on much more varied fare.

Take the common carrot, as an example. If your dog leaves the cat alone and instead decides to start robbing rabbits, then they can actually get vitamins from the carrot which your cat could not. That’s because dogs can convert beta carotene to vitamin A, which is something that cats absolutely cannot do.

 This is only one example but it punctuates the point – with dog food, you can have more veggie and other content that your dog can convert into important vitamins and minerals, while the same food would likely just give your kitty a bellyache.

As a result, cat food is mostly meats, fats, and vitamins presented in a way that an obligate carnivore can process them. Your dog might still get an upset stomach from eating cat food, but more often they will simply end up getting extra calories along with their own food and start gaining weight over time.

What happens if my dog eats too much cat food?

At the most, some dogs will get diarrhea or a bit of nausea, and maybe even a stomachache from eating too much cat food. More commonly, they’ll just get attacked by your hungry cats and simply gobble up the food anyway with no other ill-effects beyond pushing themselves closer to obesity.

With smaller dogs this will be noticed more quickly, especially when you consider their daily caloric intake. A 10 pound dog needs anywhere from 200 to 275 calories each day to maintain their current body weight and to stay happy and healthy.

Now, consider that a single cup of dry dog food will typically have 325 to as many as 600 calories, depending on the brand, and that a cup of dry cat food is an additional 300 calories on its own – and a 6 oz can of wet cat food is 250 calories.

You can start to see the problem, but the final nail in the obesity coffin is that it take 3500 extra calories to gain 1 pound of weight for your dog. That means that for every 12 days that your dog steals a cup worth of cat food, they’ll gain a pound, and you’ll start noticing it over time!

Is my dog stealing the food to spite the cat?

It’s possible, if your cat harasses the dog a lot, that they might be asserting their dominance by ‘hitting the cat where it hurts’ and gobbling up their food every chance that they get. More often than not, however, your dog just likes to eat.

While most dogs will stick to their own bowl, some really like to eat, and will overeat their own food or eat theirs and the cat’s food if you let them.

 If you’ve ever owned a dog that was a bit of a glutton then you’ve seen it before – these are the dogs that will get into the dry food back if you don’t lock it up and gleefully eat as much as they can until you find them whimpering on the floor with an enormous belly full of food!

So, it’s not always a matter of the dog trying to give the cat grief – sometimes you have to step in and moderate your dog’s diet, because they simply love snacking too much to moderate themselves. It’s as simple as that!

How do I keep the dog out of the cat food?

You have some good options at your disposal for keeping the dog out of the cat’s food and we’ll give you the two best ones for doing this. First, you can simply put the cat’s food somewhere too high for the dog to reach.

Your acrobatic feline will have no trouble getting to the food, but your dog might bark at them the first week in protest (and your cat will probably make a show of it to rub it in). The second option is to buy an automatic feeder.

Automatic feeders come in two main varieties, but you’ll want the kind that only opens in response to an electronic tag that you can put on your kitty’s collar.

That way, the bowl only opens up to reveal the food when your cat gets close to it, but it will slam-shut when they move away and effectively thwart your dogs plans to eat it.

Some closing comments on cat food and your dog

So, there you have it! Dogs can eat cat food, but they shouldn’t, as it’s for your cat and the extra fat and calories won’t be doing your dog any favors. The cat food isn’t toxic to them, though they might get a stomachache or diarrhea if they are very sensitive, and the obesity risk actually your real concern here.

Just invest in an automatic feeder or move the cat’s food somewhere higher and your cat and dog should stop stealing each other’s food – as they’ll likely just start working together to get some of yours!