Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Food?
A Matter of Taste
Let's face it: most dogs are rather indiscriminate eaters. They are gluttonous beings blessed with a voracious appetite. We can't blame them though, as hunters with a history of scavenging for food, dogs were evolutionary programmed to survive by readily gobbling anything edible up, prior to us welcoming them in our homes and feeding them bags of kibble fed in shiny food bowls.
Cats, on the other hand, are known to be more finicky. Unlike dogs who tend to fill up their bellies without caring much about their food tastes, cats can be very particular about what they are fed.
Veterinarians know this too well: cats are notorious for being difficult to trick when hiding pills in their foods and when their appetite goes off they can be a handful to coax.
To cater to a cat's sophisticated palate, cat food manufacturers must therefore put in a lot of effort to create foods that appeal to cats. This is why you see so many varieties of cat foods with tantalizing flavors such as seafood medley, salmon pate' and seared tuna.
On top of this, cats are obligate carnivores which means that, due to biological needs, cats must eat meat in order to thrive and survive. Cats totally depend on taurine, a special amino acid found in meat, and if they do not get enough, they are at extremely high risk of developing a specific heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), explains veterinarian Dr. Crnec in an article for Dogs Health Problems. Cats therefore require higher levels of protein compared to dogs.
Also, while dog food in general is about 20 percent protein, cat food typically contains at the very least 30 percent. With higher protein levels (and more fat), cat food is very rich, which further makes it particularly appealing to dogs.
From a biological perspective, dogs lack most of the metabolic adaptions to a strict diet of animal flesh that are seen in true carnivores such as cats or ferrets. Compared to true carnivores, dogs produce more of the enzymes needed for starch digestion, have much lower protein and amino acid requirements, and can easily utilize vitamin A and D from plant sources, just as people do. We also have evidence that they also evolved from wolves by eating more plant material. All of these factors make them more accurately classified as omnivores than carnivores.~Dr. Cailin R. Heinze, veterinary nutritionist.
A Matter of Smell
On top of creating tantalizing flavors, cat food manufacturers spend a lot of energy ensuring that the cat food produced is highly smelly to make their foods even more desirable and palatable to cats.
This explains why cat food tends to cost more than dog food. Another reason why you probably don't want Rover stealing mouthfuls from your cat's bowl.
Now That You Know...
With tasty flavors and strong smells, it's no wonder why dogs are attracted like magnets to cat food. The food tastes more like a treat to them. The cat food is irresistible and dogs, as opportunistic beings, will try all kinds of tricks to steal a mouthful from kitty's bowl.
However, dogs are not cats and their digestive systems may suffer from the extra richness of cat food resulting in bouts of diarrhea. Diarrhea may also result from abrupt changes in a dog's diet. Dogs prone to pancreas problems, risk developing pancreatitis with its associated vomiting, loss of appetite and abdominal pain as a result of the fat contained in the cat food. On top of this, dogs who consume cat food on a frequent basis risk packing up pounds quickly.
Finally, something else to consider is the potential for bloat. If your dog gets into your cat's bag of cat food and eats a whole lot in one sitting, he may risk bloat. Food bloat may lead to significant discomfort.
On top of this, a dog's bloated stomach can flip and twist on itself which is a life-threatening situation known as gastric dilatation and volvulus. If your dog develops symptoms such as pale gums, a hard, distended stomach, restlessness, retching and unsuccessful attempts to vomit, these signs require an emergency trip to the vet.
So the next question is: how do I stop my dog from eating cat food in the first place? Following are some tips and ideas.
How to Stop a Dog From Eating Cat Food
- Invest in a pet gate with a small pet door. These pets gates are especially designed to keep large dogs away from a specific area, while cats can pass through the small opening at the base of the door.
- Install a kitty door. You can install one on a utility room door or laundry room door where you feed your car. Some are activated by the cat's collar.
- Take advantage of your cat's agility. Cats are very agile animals and they'll jump to places dogs can dream of reaching. You can place your cat's bowl on a counter, table or even a book shelf or cat tree.
- Schedule meals times. Feed your cat when a family member takes your dog on a walk or when your dog spends time in the yard.
- As a final note: you don't need to keep cat food away from you dog forever. If your dog tolerates a small amount, you use its tantalizing flavor for training your dog and helping him learn desirable behaviors, suggest veterinary nutritionist, Dr. Sharon Crowell-Davis in an article for Vet Street.