If your cat gets into your dog’s food here and there, it’s not something to be alarmed about. But dog food is most certainly not appropriate as the mainstay of a cat’s diet and should never be fed instead of cat food. In fact, a dog could much more easily get by on cat food than a cat on dog food (although both cats and dogs should be fed diets prepared with their own species in mind). Here are some of cats’ unique dietary needs that make dog food the wrong — and unsafe — choice as a cat’s “meat and potatoes,” so to speak.
Protein: Cats need two to three times more protein than dogs.
Arginine: Most animals can make some of the amino acid arginine, but cats cannot. And it is needed to remove the waste product ammonia from their bodies. Without ability to eliminate ammonia, a cat can suffer weight loss, vomiting, neurological problems, and even death.
Taurine: If a cat is fed a diet too low in taurine, she can go blind in addition to developing serious heart problems.
Niacin: Cats require the B vitamin niacin in higher amounts than dogs.
Vitamin A: Dogs can make a fair amount of vitamin A from carotenoids, found in plant foods. Not so, cats. They need the vitamin A already formed.
Vitamin D: Cats cannot use the plant form of vitamin D as efficiently as dogs. They need to get that nutrient from animal foods.
Cats also have a number of other unique dietary needs that cannot be met with dog food. Be sure that the dog food your cat is treating herself to is not crowding out the calories she is supposed to be getting from cat food.