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Cats Eating Dog Food and Dogs Eating Cat Food

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

I know some of you live with cats and dogs. Often your cat eats on the counter and the dog’s food is on the kitchen floor. What about those of you who don’t want your cats on counters or tabletops?  Has your cat ever tasted the dog food? Has your dog eaten the cat food?

A few of you have written to me asking about feeding both cats and dogs in the same household. I have lived with two cats and one was heavier than the other—so that is an issue too. I spoke with Dr. Amy Dicke, Technical Services Veterinarian, P&G Pet Care, about feeding cats and dogs.

Dogs sharing a meal at Helen Woodward Animal Center. (Photo courtesy of Helen Woodward Animal Center.)

“It’s my experience that dogs like cat food more than cats like dog food,” she explains. “So separate feeding might be as simple as putting the cat food in a place the dog can’t get to.”

Dr. Dicke suggests:

  • Placing the cat’s food at a height attainable by the cat, but not the dog. That would include countertops, washers, dryers, bureaus or wall shelves.
  • Designate one room as the cat’s room. Put a baby gate across the doorway. The cat will have to hop over the baby gate. Or position the baby gate so that there’s just enough room for the cat to crawl under it. You could also install a cat door in the room door and keep the room door closed.
  • Turn an extra closet into a kitty dining room by installing a cat door in the closet door.
  • Use a pet crate that’s large enough for your cat to eat in comfortably, but small enough to keep your dog out; if necessary narrow down the crate door using study cardboard.
  • Train your cats to eat on schedule and supervise them during feeding times.

Multiple Cat Homes

To make sure that one cat isn’t getting the lion’s share of the food, Dr. Dicke recommends putting your cats on a feeding schedule to control the amount they eat.

Multiple Dog Homes

Some dogs will eat only to satisfy their caloric need. Others can feel competitive and try to eat all the food. For situations where one dog wants to eat more than their fair share, Dr. Dicke suggests:

  • Do supervised scheduled feedings. Feeding time should be timed (15-30 minutes) with uneaten food removed.
  • Do unsupervised scheduled feedings, but put each dog in its’ own room with the door closed.
  • Schedule specific feeding times and feed each dog in its’ own crate.

Cats Eating Dog Food and Dogs Eating Cat Food

“Cats and dogs have different nutritional requirements and really should not eat each other’s food long term,” says Dr. Dicke. “Cat food generally delivers more calories per unit than dog food; therefore, a dog consuming cat food can intake excessive calories and develop an obese state.”

“Cats eating dog food as the primary source of nutrition have the potential for a more serious outcome. Cats require a higher level of protein and unlike the dog must have the amino acid, taurine, and the fatty acid, arachidonic acid supplied through their diet.  An occasional venture into each other’s bowls will not be harmful but is not recommended on a regular basis.”

What About You?

Do you live in a multiple cat and dog household? If so, how do you handle feeding time? Please leave your comments in the Comments section below this post.

Editor’s Note: I am going to be on Conscious Discussions radio show with host Lillian Brummet. Here is a link to the show:  http://blogtalkradio.com/consciousdiscussions. The talk will cover how you can get involved with animal advocacy.


16 comments to Cats Eating Dog Food and Dogs Eating Cat Food

  • Jessica Sala

    We are lucky in our home as the cats have their own room where we keep the litter, food and other kitty items. The room is at the end of a long hallway and the only other room down it is my office. My dogs are not allowed to come down the hallway to either my office or kitty paradise 🙂 The dog food is kept in the kitchen and the cats have never expressed much interest in it 🙂

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  • With 4 cats & 3 dogs, I pretty much have all the options you listed. 😀

    I have cat food on a high counter and ‘t dare touch it while I’m home. If I leave, I close the door, so Lola doesn’t get any ideas. I feed the dogs while I supervise them, and Lola always finishes first. I remove her from the room and pet her until the other 2 finish.

    I refined this technique for years. Now it works pretty well. 🙂

    Here are the raised dog feeders I use for the dogs: http://taildom.com/blog/reviews/the-best-elevated-dog-feeders/

    And here are the dishes I use for my cats: http://taildom.com/blog/reviews/the-best-cat-dishes-dog-bowls/

    Both don’t skid when the animals are eating, so there’s no spills or mayhem at dinner time. 😀

  • Isn’t there something about taurine and cats that dogs should not eat their food, too? As a dog mom, I continue to learn from you, Michele.

  • Cats do need protein Carol, and taurine is essential for cats. I was wondering what people in mixed households do. I had a dog and cat once, and we fed out cat on the counter. She never bothered with the dog food. However, the dog would eat the cat food if he could get to it. –Michele

  • Hi Daniela, I read your story about the dog feeders. I have a great bowl for my cat, which is raised. However, he still takes the food out and eats it on the floor. I have a plastic placemat under his bowl.–Michele

  • Barbara Saunders

    My understanding has been that cat food is a fatty treat for dogs. At the SPCA, we used to use it to get dogs to take pills.

  • Pam

    I have two dogs and seven cats…all inside. I put both down on the floor and seem to have very little problems. Yeah, the cats might take a nip of dog food when they hear it being poured and vice versa. Its not often as the dog food kibble is too big for the cats. They end up just licking it for a second and then the big pittie comes over and sneaks her nose in and snatches it up.

  • Georgina

    We have two dogs, and one is heavier than the other, so we feed them at separate times in different rooms.

  • Irene

    We have Maximus, a heavy set cat, and Minimus, a tiny cat. Max tends to eat as much as he can. So, when I catch him eating Mini’s food. I stop him.

  • well i don’t think it’s good food for both of them eating each others meals.

  • We have 2 dogs and four cats , The dogs are very interested in the cats food
    The cats have their own plant room with window perches ect .
    They have wet & dry food in there , No dogs allowed !
    They also have a window seat in a media room , So there is a bowl of dry food in
    there on a hutch so no dogs can reach .
    Interestingly we have the drinkwell 360 fountain and the dogs aren’t interested
    in that at all .

  • Janet Van

    Cat #1 eats in the bathroom with the door closed, as she and cat #3 despise one another. That way, she can eat and drink in peace, then use the litter box also in peace. Cat #2 eats wherever he darn well pleases, which is as close to the kitchen counter where I prep everything as possible. Cat #3 eats up on top of the large plastic container where we keep the dry food bag (one of those giant Tupperware-type containers), and we often have to keep cat #2 from going over and eating cat #3’s food, though only at night, when they get their wet food. It’s Iams dry in the morning. If someone leaves behind some dry food, the others might eat at it but we’ve been very successful at controlling their food intake this way. But it takes a lot of logistics to get it done, lol.

  • I think it has something to do with their animal instincts. Cats and dogs have sensitive sense of smell and they react based on these. Food is a stimuli that urges them to eat it. It does not matter if that really belongs to them or not. I also agree to the points of the author. Very informative and educational! Thanks!