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My Dog Is Eating Cat Food: Is it OK?

dog eating cat food

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Most people who share their homes with both dogs and cats have asked the same question: Why is my dog eating cat food? The simple answer is, because it’s food!

Most dogs will eat anything and everything they can get their paws on, and cat food is no exception. That doesn’t mean they should be eating cat food, though, as it is species specific for a reason. But is cat food bad for dogs?

Is it Safe for Dogs to Eat Cat Food?

Can dogs eat cat food? Is it safe for them? A dog eating cat food “is not necessarily dangerous … if eating modest amounts rarely,” says Dr. Patrick Melese, DVM, MA, DACVB, a board certified veterinary behaviorist at Veterinary Behavior Consultants in San Diego, California.

But there are important differences between the dietary needs and tolerances of dogs and cats. Feline foods often are higher in protein and fat, while canine cuisines typically contain more fiber and carbohydrates.

Adverse reactions to a dog eating cat food include weight gain and obesity, vomiting and diarrhea. Other issues can stem from deficiencies or excesses of important vitamins and minerals.

If your pooch frequently sneaks cat food or is getting sick even from the occasional treat, it’s time to take action.

Stop Your Dog from Eating Cat Food

There are plenty of ways to prevent dogs from eating cat food, whether teaching your dog a command or putting up much-needed barriers. Here are five ways to put an end to your dog eating cat food.

1. Keep the Cat Food out of Your Dogs Reach.

“Since most cats can jump up higher to reach their food, you can place the cat food high away from your dog’s reach,” Dr. Melese says.

But be sure to pick a spot without furniture, like a chair, that a “creative dog may use to get to the cat food,” he cautions.

One idea is to place the food at the very top of your cat tree. Not only is the food far away from your pup, but your feline has to work for his meal.

If your cat has a window perch at home, you can use K&H Pet Products’ EZ Mount Up & Away cat food bowls, so your cat can dine in peace.

Keep in mind that elderly cats “may not be able to access food that is higher,” Dr. Melese says. So be mindful of your cat’s needs and current abilities when choosing a method to keep your dog from eating cat food.

2. Put Up a Safety Gate.

Another option to prevent your pooch from eating cat food is to block off the cat’s eating area with a safety gate. Cats usually are able to jump over safety gates with ease while most dogs are unable to scale them.

“Try to find one that is harder for a dog to climb by avoiding horizontal cross supports,” Dr. Melese says. “Look for a gate that has vertical supports.”

Some gates allow for easy access for smaller pets, but will block dogs. For example, the Carlson Pet Products Extra Wide Walk-Thru Gate with Pet Door features a walk-through design for humans as well as a pet door for your cat to pass through.

3. Schedule Feeding Times.

Keeping dogs from eating cat food can be as simple as scheduling feeding times and staying close by as your kitty eats.

“Supervising while they eat can also cut down on food stealing by your hungry pooch,” Dr. Melese says.

You also can try feeding your dog and cat at the same time in different rooms so your pooch doesn’t get jealous or tempted to head to your feline’s bowl.

4. Teach Your Dog Commands.

If you prefer not to put up barriers or place the cat’s food higher up, then the “leave it” command could be the fix you’ve been looking for to stop your dog from eating the cat food.

Each time you catch your pooch heading toward the cat’s food bowl, use the leave it command to get to leave the food alone. Be sure to stay consistent with this command and continue to keep an eye on your dog so you can take action whenever she comes close to gobbling up the wrong food. Click here for more .

Avoid using “any harsh punishment, but rather instruct your dog what you want her to do and then reward her success,” Dr. Melese says.

Positive reinforcement goes a long way and will get you the respect needed to achieve the results you want.

5. Get the Perfect Bowl.

Don’t underestimate the power of the bowl. Your pet’s bowl could be the answer you’ve been looking for if you prefer to free feed so your cat can grab a bite whenever she pleases.

One such bowl is the SureFeed Microchip Small Dog & Cat Feeder. The feeder is programmable to only respond to a designated pet, so it keeps the food securely covered until that pet chooses to eat.

Once you choose the best choice for you and your furry family, your dog and your cat will thank you!



Lindsay Page, Pet Central Associate Editor
The moment Lindsay started her career here at Chewy, she hit the ground running in customer service; she knew that this is the company she wanted to grow with from then on. When Lindsay isn’t spending her time writing for Pet Central, she’s most likely binge-watching a Netflix series with her husband and their 80-pound fur baby, Dexter.