For many people, there is a misconception that pet food is pet food. Some people on a tight budget might purchase dog food for their cats, thinking there is little difference between dog food and cat food.
However, there is a reason there are separate foods for dogs and cats. While it won’t kill a cat if it eats a bite or two of dog food, veterinarians and pet nutrition experts agree that a steady diet of dog food for cats is unhealthy over a long period of time.
The main reason dog food is not good for cats as a regular diet is it consists of different nutrients than those found in cat food, and therefore doesn’t meet the cat’s nutritional needs. While cats should not be allowed to eat dog food all the time, it won’t hurt them if they get a bite now and then.
However, dog food does not provide the necessary amounts of protein, taurine and arachidonic acid needed for their systems. This is due to the fact that cats are carnivores, while dogs are omnivores. While not sounding very important on the surface, it makes a tremendous difference to a cat’s nutritional needs.To achieve their best health, cats need a meat-based diet that’s full of protein to give them their energy. Thus, dog food and its absence of protein will leave a cat lacking what it needs.
Taurine is another nutrient that is very different in cats and dogs. Dogs are able to manufacture their own taurine, but cats are not. So it’s essential cats be fed a steady diet of cat food to obtain the necessary amount of taurine for their bodies. By having enough taurine in their bodies, cats are able to prevent such serious health problems as blindness, respiratory difficulties and cardiovascular issues.
Arachidonic acid, while sounding harmful, is actually a necessity for cats that’s not found in dog food. A fatty acid that cats cannot produce on their own, it’s an essential part of the daily diet that dog food cannot give them.
Another major difference between cats and dogs is their metabolism. Because of this, dog food and cat food are made differently to account for this difference. In general, cat food has more calories than dog food to account for cats burning calories quicker than dogs. Because of this, if a cat eats a steady diet of dog food it will likely lose too much weight due to the lack of protein in the dog food.
Cats also need certain vitamins added to their foods, particularly vitamins A and B. Vitamin A is necessary for cats to have stronger immune systems, lower their cancer risk and prevent cells from being damaged. Because cats lack the enzymes dogs possess to break down vitamin A naturally, they need their food supplemented. Vitamin B, also known as Niacin, is needed by cats to keep their enzymes functioning correctly.
Cats also tend to be pickier eaters than dogs, and this is taken into account with their food. Cats pay more attention to the texture of their food, and prefer meat flavors that are more salty than sweet. Dog food tends to have less flavor and texture than cat food, and is less likely to be desired by cats as a steady diet.
So while cats can eat dog food now and then, it’s better for their health and well-being to be fed the food that’s formulated for their bodies. For both cats and dogs, eating the right foods will keep them healthy and happy for many years.