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Difference Between Dog and Cat Food

Dog and cat food formulations differ considerably to offer various nutritional requirements of each of cats and dogs. Cats, as carnivores, demand a higher proportion of animal-derived proteins in their diet, and cat food has those food formulations. Protein sources are important for cats, and their diets must include taurine, an amino acid that cats cannot synthesize adequately on their own. Cats require a higher fat content, specifically arachidonic acid, fatty acid. On the other hand, dog food is made to provide a balanced mix of proteins, gained from both animal and plant sources, because dogs are omnivores. The nutritional variations in dog and cat food focuses to make sure that both cats and dogs receives the required nutrients to support their physiological needs.

What is Dog Food?


Dog food is the food that is made specifically for dogs and that they should eat to remain healthy.

Feeding mode of dogs:

Wild dogs are scavengers that eat meat but also other food items. Unlike domestic cats, domestic dogs are omnivorous, and will eat a range of foods. However, it is important that dogs get all the nutrients they need to grow and remain healthy.


In general, dogs need to have enough protein (at least 18% of the diet). The protein content should be a slightly higher proportion of the diet (22% to 23%) if the dog is pregnant or if it is a puppy. Research suggests older dogs may benefit from an increase in protein intake. Fat content varies but researchers have found that diets very low in fat are sometimes less digestible. It also depends on the age and condition of your dog as to which specific dietary food is best. Consulting a vet is the best way to choose the best food for your pet.

Consequences of feeding the incorrect food:

Food that is too low in protein can cause malnutrition in your dog. Feeding your dog too much food leads to obesity, which is harmful. Excess fat in the diet may result in your dog having obesity and pancreatitis.

What is Cat Food?


Cat food is the food designed and manufactured to feed to cats to keep them healthy.

Feeding mode of cats:

Wild cats are carnivores that prey on other animals in the wild. However, food for domestic cats contains more than just meat. They do contain other macronutrients, which cats can digest.

Composition of diet:

Most owners feed commercial diets that are formulated to include all the essential nutrients that cats need. This includes the correct proportions of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and added vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals. Commercial cat kibble can contain between 20% to 50% carbohydrates, and between 18% to 23% protein. 

Consequences of feeding the incorrect food:

A cat fed incorrectly can develop health problems such as cardiomyopathy or diabetes. A cat can become obese if fed too much food. This is harmful to the health of the animal.

Difference between Dog and Cat Food?


Dog food is the food designed for dogs to eat. Cat food is the food designed for cats to eat.

Protein concentration in commercial diets

In dog food, the protein concentration should be 18% to 23%. In cat food, this should be 30% to 45%.

Carbohydrate concentration in commercial diets

For dog food, the concentration is usually 30% to 60%. For cat food, the concentration of carbs is 20% to 50%.

Fat concentration in commercial diets

Dog food has about 10% to 15% fat. Cat food has about 20% to 24% fat.

Other foods they can eat

Dogs can and will eat various foods such as rice, bread, meat, and vegetables. Cats do not like eating other foods, and are fussy eaters, even preferring certain brands of cat food.

Hunting for small animals as food

It is uncommon for domestic dogs to hunt small animals. It is very common for domestic cats to hunt small animals.

Table comparing Dog Food and Cat Food

Summary of Dog Food Vs. Cat Food

  • Dog food and cat food are specially developed and manufactured to suit the animals’ nutritional requirements.
  • Cat food tends to have more protein while dog food has more carbohydrates.
  • Check with your vet to see which brand and type of cat or dog food will be best for your pet.


Is it OK to feed dogs cat food?

It should not be a regular occurrence. A dog can eat cat food without harm, so long as this is not done often.

Is it OK for cats to eat dog food?

A cat should not regularly eat dog food as it does not contain all the nutrients a cat needs.

Can dogs and cats eat the same food?

No, dogs and cats require different proportions of nutrients so they should not eat the same food.

Can cats tell the difference between dog food and cat food?

Yes, cats are notoriously fussy when it comes to food and will know the food is not their usual cat food.

What can happen if my dog eats cat food?

The food may cause digestive upset since it is not designed for dogs.

Why do dogs prefer cat food?

Cat food may have meatier flavors, which dogs prefer.

Is cat food higher quality than dog food?

Cat food may be considered higher quality since it has higher calories and more fats, proteins, and micronutrients.

Can cats eat dog food in an emergency?

Yes, cats can in an emergency, eat dog food.

What’s in cat food that’s not in dog food?

The nutrients vitamin A and taurine are in cat food but not in dog food.

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  1. So, it would seem that you shouldn’t feed dog food to cats, but you could feed cat food to dogs as long as you supplemented with some beta-kerotene, right? I accidentally bought some cat food, and placing it side-by-side with the dog food, my dog preferred the cat food.

  2. Actually, dogs are not omnivores. Dogs are opportunists, but are, indeed, carnivores. I have never understood where the view that dogs are omnivores came from.

    -have medium length digestive tracts so that they can digest both meat and plants. Plants require a long digestive tract while meat does not.
    -have both flat molars for grinding and mashing food (thus thoroughly mixing it with saliva) and sharp teeth for ripping and tearing food. Plant material MUST be ground down in order to be digested.
    -amylase in their saliva to aid in the digestion of carbs and starches
    -have jaws that move both vertically and horizontally to allow for grinding of plant material

    -have short digestive tracts that are not long enough to digest plant material… hasn’t ANYONE ever noticed that when a dog DOES eat plant material it comes out looking EXACTLY how it went in?
    -have sharp teeth designed for gripping, killing prey, tearing off large chunks and slicing into swallowable sizes. Their molars are like triangular serrated blades. They are not flat for crushing plant material.
    -have jaws that move vertically and only vertically. Carnivores simply CANNOT grind up food. It is sliced into swallowable pieces and then it goes straight down the throat.
    -have no amylase in their saliva. Because they have no need to digest plant material, they have no amylase. With no amylase, there is no reason to mix their food with their saliva so it is simply swallowed. Feeding carnivores plant material actually makes the pancreas work harder due to this lack of amylase. The pancreas will attempt to produce what the body needs to digest it, but, as you can see by a carnivore’s poo, it doesn’t work.

    Let’s see where dogs fit in:

    Dogs have short digestive tracts, sharp teeth with a lack of flat molars, jaws that only move vertically, and have no amylase in their saliva. I’m pretty sure dogs fit WONDERFULLY into the carnivore category. Yes, they will eat various other things, but that doesn’t mean it is good for them. We eat cookies, cake, and ice cream, but that doesn’t mean it is good for us. We were not designed to eat them. It is pleasurable to eat them but benefits them in no way. No, dogs are not omnivores. They are carnivores through and through.

    • You are wrong, dogs are not only omnivores as they naturally eat a variety of vegetables and grains, but they go out of their way to eat them,and they seem to thrive on the diet.

  3. it seems to me that #1 cancels out #3. since it states that dog food is high in “vitamin a” and not beta-kerotene… #3 is moot. just sayin

    addendum… i think jess has it right, but my concern as a cat owner is, how long can a cat go without Taurine and Arachidonic Acid before it has an effect.

  4. Dog food and cat food is suppose to be made to balance a dog or a cat but its not , its all bad for them , so giving a dog food to a cat or a cat to a dog makes no difference . In realty you shouldn’t be given either to them . What they really put in the food science fiction movies are made from .

  5. In all actuality dogs (like wolves) are carnivores. And like wolves in the wild, dogs may consume plant-based material. However, the vegetation consumed in the wild comes from the prey animal, the material in the stomach and intestines. The plant material they consume is simply a by-product of the prey animal. Dogs (or wolves) do not go out of their way to eat vegetation, but they may consume it. Dogs and wolves do not hunt plants, they may eat them if hunger demands it, but don’t actively seek it out unless animals aren’t available. Domesticated dogs can eat an omnivorous diet but it is better for them to consume a more carnivorous diet.

  6. I wanted to know because my dog finishes what the cat leaves , would that harm her ?

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References :

[0]Daumas, Caroline, et al. "Evaluation of eight commercial dog diets." Journal of nutritional science 3 (2014): e63.

[1]Laflamme, D. P. "Pet food safety: dietary protein." Topics in companion animal medicine 23.3 (2008): 154-157.

[2]Villaverde, Cecilia, and Marge Chandler. "Commercial vs Homemade Cat Diets: What you need to know." Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 24.5 (2022): 415-428.

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADasXVZxnA-grey-cat-eating-food-from-orange-cat-bowl-/

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADaqqr5oz4-bernard-sennenhund-with-food-bowl-at-studio/

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