Cat Food vs Dog Food Differences You Need to Know for a Healthy Pet
Everybody loves their furry friends, and everyone wants their cats and dogs to stay safe and healthy. Nutrition is the most important factor in canine and feline health, and that’s why it’s essential to keep their meals balanced. The easiest way to achieve it is to purchase dog or cat food.
But is there a difference?
You must have heard that there’s special food designed for different cat and dog breeds, different ages, and stages of development. But really, does puppy food differ from sterilized cat food? And why is it important if your dog can eat basically everything? What if you have a pack of cat food in the kitchen cabinet and want to feed it to your dog? Is it dangerous?
Let’s try to figure this out. Read on!
What Are the Main Differences Between Cat and Dog Food?
Many ingredients in feline and canine foods are the same, with the final product looking and sometimes smelling the same. But don’t get mistaken: dog and cat foods are actually very different. Dogs and cats have different nutrition requirements; additionally, dogs can adapt to life on very little, while cats have higher needs for many essential nutrients.
Here’s some of them:
Your cat and dog stay in different positions of the food chain. Felines are carnivorous, which means they’re predators existing at the top of the food chain. They can eat other types of animals, but you don’t have to worry – unlike lions and tigers, your cat prefers smaller prey – most often, canned and packed.
Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivorous – just like humans – which means that they can survive on both animal and plant food. Simply put, cat meals will contain more meat, while dog food should include plants as well. And meat equals protein. By the way protein is super important for big dogs, like the German Shepherd breed (learn more), American Bulldog, Afghan Hound, etc.
Cats have higher protein requirements than dogs, and they use it as a direct energy source. If you compare the contents table in feline and canine foods, you can see that the first one contains more than 30% of protein, while the second – around 20%-25%. It may not make a difference for humans, but for cats, it’s extremely important – they need that extra 5% to satisfy their energy needs.
Does your dog love feline food? This can be easily explained – more protein in it simply impacts the flavor.
Skin, coat, muscles, and bones all require vitamin A, which is essential for cats and dogs. However, while your pup can get its daily dose of the vitamin from certain plants and fruits, like carrots, converting beta carotene, cats can’t. That’s why an appropriate amount of vitamin A is added to feline food.
A similar situation occurs when it comes to thiamine or vitamin B1 – cats need five times more of it than dogs. Typical thiamine deficiency symptoms include poor-quality coat, lack of appetite, a hunched posture, and neurological problems, like seizures. B3, or niacin, is another vitamin essential for cats that they can’t synthesize and which is added to their foods.
Amino and Fatty Acids
Some amino and fatty acids are necessary for both cats and dogs. However, when dogs have 11 essential amino acids, cats have 12 – the additional one being taurine. It’s only found in animal tissues, like fish, beef, or poultry. Cats don’t synthesize it, so they need it from their meaty food. If your cat doesn’t get enough taurine, it may eventually go blind, deaf, or even develop heart failure – fortunately, well-balanced cat food can prevent it.
Cat foods are also richer in arachidonic acid, which is an essential fatty acid. Dogs can receive it directly through meat or synthesize it from vegetable oils. Cats, however, have only one choice, which is meat.
Taste and Texture
Another important factor for the cats is food’s texture. While dog food can look like slop, and the pet will gobble it down anyway, cats are pickier. They also prefer meaty and salty foods, while dogs are into sweet tastes. The mysterious flavor “umami,” savory and characteristic for broths and cooked meats, is often said to be their favorite.
Can Cat Food Hurt Dogs?
But what if my cat eats dog’s food accidentally, you ask. Or what to do if you’re only left with dog food in the house, unable to go shopping?
Don’t worry. If your cat eats canine food rarely, no problem will occur. Of course, firstly, you’ll need to check the table of ingredients on the package – some of the ingredients that dogs can digest are harmful to felines – for example, propylene glycol, which can cause health problems in cats.
However, it’s never a great idea to feed your cat with dog food all the time. As nutrients in it are less concentrated, your furry friend may develop protein, amino acid, and fatty acid deficiencies.
Can Dog Food Hurt Cats?
With dogs eating cat food, the situation is a little more complicated. Felines tolerate some nutrients better than canines – vitamin D, for example. Fish or marine-based foods have high levels of it and are safe for a cat, but can make your dog very sick.
Also, if your dog doesn’t have such a protein-thick eating routine as cats do, feline foods should be forbidden even as uncommon snacks – your canine will most probably get an irritated stomach. This is especially important when it comes to cat canned foods, which are high in protein and can be tough on your dog’s system.
Cat Food vs Dog Food? They’re Not The Same
Cats and dogs are very different. While felines have higher nutritional needs, canines don’t – and they’re omnivorous, just like humans. To provide the best nutrition for your fluffy friend, it’s an excellent idea to go for specifically created foods, which are surprisingly different for different pets.
For cats, which are carnivorous, food will be high in proteins, and, as they’re not able to manufacture some essential nutrients, it will also contain necessary vitamins and acids. Dogs, omnivorous, will need food that is lower in calories, less fat, and safe – it can’t contain some nutrients, like vitamin D.
While your dog or cat may try other pet’s food, it’s not completely good for them. If you want your feline or canine to stay safe, make sure to remember about their nutrition needs and feed them with appropriate food.
Jackie Johnston is the founder of Cat Word – a community of cat enthusiasts with a mission to spread as much knowledge as they can throughout the world on every aspect of raising and nurturing cats! In her spare time, Jackie loves reading and spending time with her two sons Logan and Christopher, and of course with their furry felines Simba and Max.