Pet Tips

Dog food is for dogs – cat food is for cats – Pet tip 97

A common problem in homes that have both cats and dogs centers around the food issue and which species should eat which food. Unlike many cats that are finicky, in general, dogs truly love their mealtimes and puppies will eat almost anything. If you have cat food lying around, most puppies and many dogs can’t resist it and will eat the cat’s food. Dogs love to eat cat food because they love the higher protein, higher calorie content and because they can get away with it if it’s just lying around. Although the occasional theft of some cat food probably won’t seriously harm your dog and usually the main consequence is some diarrhea or loose stools, try not to let these accidents happen. Cat food is formulated for a cat’s metabolism and dog food is made for dogs. A dog that eats a steady diet of cat food will almost certainly gain too much weight and will miss out on nutrients that it needs from its own food. Cats are carnivores and dogs are omnivores (meat and plant eaters) so cat food is missing the ‘plant’ nutrients that are present in dog food.

On the opposite side of the scale, although many cats are finicky and many of them won’t bother eating dog food, some will. The occasional time it happens it’s probably not a big deal but you would not want to let it happen often. In particular, cat food has taurine which cats need to stay healthy. Dog food has no taurine so a cat eating dog food instead of its own food is obviously missing taurine in its diet. When cats are deprived of taurine for an extended period they can develop heart problems and other serious health issues.

Especially in households where cats and dogs are left alone for many hours without supervision, there is almost certainly going to be some food theft from either the cat or the dog. Usually the dog wins though and eats loads of cat food. The dog gets too fat and the cat gets too skinny and ill from lack of nutrition. The solution for not allowing your dog to eat cat food and vice versa is to deny them access to each other’s food. The harder problem will be to restrict the dog from eating cat food. If you own your own home or feel like purchasing a door for your apartment, you can install a cat flap on a standard sized door. This cat flap will usually be big enough for the cat but too small for the dog to pass through. This will be one of the best solutions possible. Another alternative might be separating the cat and the dog during the day if you have a basement for example. Although this will solve the food problem, some cats and dogs like to hang out together and they won’t be able to do that in this situation. You could create an enclosure for the cat’s food bowl by using a VERY sturdy cardboard box (probably not recommended for big strong dogs that will destroy the enclosure to get to the food) and then creating an opening large enough for your cat but not your dog. Of course you could create that same enclosure out of scrap wood and that would work. Since cats are great jumpers, you could simply put the food high enough so that the cat can get at it but the dog can’t. This solution is good for younger cats but may not be so good for older cats that have trouble with jumping. Finally, most cats don’t eat dry food quickly but many tend to eat wet food quickly. Under your direct supervision, twice a day you could try feeding your cat half of its daily ration.

If your cat likes dog food, simply don’t leave food out for your dog all day. Dogs are normally fast eaters and you can divide their daily portion into two or three portions just like the example above. Then while watching the action, make sure your dogs eats all the food and take it away if he/she leaves any over. Your dog should quickly learn to eat all the food.

It’s always advisable to talk to your veterinarian when changing the way your dog or cat eats. If you have a large deep chested dog for example, some vets suggest smaller portions because that may help reduce the risk of bloat.

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