It’s hard not to feel a little dog bias when wandering the isles of your typical supermarket in search of nourishment for your family pets. Wherever you go, canine food just seems to be somewhat cheaper than feeding your feline. This of course can make it tempting for cash-strapped owners to consider just getting a big economy bag of dog food and letting both pets eat it. An idea that only seems to make more sense given how cats are all too willing to help themselves to the dogs dinner.
Sadly this isn’t a good idea for a number of reasons starting from the most obvious ones: Cat’s and Dogs are very different beasts. Dog’s, perhaps in part due to their long association with humans, are omnivores like humans and as a result can happily eat vegetables or meats as anyone foolish enough to leave a family dinner unattended with a dog in the room can attest.
Cats by contrast are obligate carnivores. In nature they almost exclusively eat meat and require it in order to remain healthy. As predators domestic cats have traditionally lived around human settlements subsisting on mice and other vermin that were attracted to grain and other food stores. For whatever reason, their diet even as house pets needs to reflect this meat based existence.
Specifics in the Science
The reason dog food is generally cheaper than cat food is that cats have far more specialized dietary needs than dogs do. One of the most important chemicals needed by both cats and dogs is Taurine – a chemical you may be more familiar with from its prominent position in energy drinks like Red Bull. Dogs, like humans are able to make their own Taurine in the body, but cats lack the ability to make their own and must depend entirely on their food for the taurine they need.
Without Taurine, a cat will find its cardiovascular system seriously impeded and will suffer degradation in the retina, possibly leading to blindness. Because dogs can make their own dog food is generally deficient in the chemical, but cat food is typically deliberately fortified with Taurine to make sure that felines are able to get what they need.
Other benefits inherent in cat food is the higher level of protein present due to the meat content. There are also a range of amino acids and other vitamins that cats require that simply are not present in dog food.
Keeping Kitty on a Leash
In a nutshell then, giving kitty dog food is always a bad idea. However, given the imperious nature of felines particular care needs to be given to households that are home to both a dog and a cat to ensure that both are eating their right food.
Sadly, cats don’t know anything about animal nutrition for themselves. To some cats, dog food is like delicious junk food and one doesn’t need to be a dietician to know that the equivalent, a human eating only cheeseburgers is a very bad idea. Even if both food bowls are put out, care must be taken to ensure that the right animal eats the right food as if the cat fills up on dog food, they won’t have room to eat their own more nutritious food. So make sure your cat gets the right nutrition so they can remain a beloved pet for many happy years!