maine coon eating from dry food bag

Can Your Maine Coon Eat Dog Food?

If you own cats and dogs, I am sure most people will have come across this question. After all, it looks the same, .. nearly. But is it a good idea? Would you be doing damage to your cat by feeding them dog food?

In short, dog food does not poison a cat, it just lacks the correct nutrients. What this means is that a single meal is not detrimental to your cats health. Long term use, without proper cat food is what you should worry about. Amino acids, like taurine, cats do not produce themselves and get it from their food. As dogs produce it naturally it is not present in dog food. Thus cats eating dog food exclusively, will become nutritionally deficient and become susceptible to health issues. Think of it as eating an unhealthy meal, it’s OK in small doses but without proper nutrition, available in cat food, your cats health will suffer.

Not being a pet biologist I had to do some research for this article and it turned up some interesting facts.

Maine coon eating from a bowl

The Simple Explanation

Turns out many cat owners feed their felines dog food. Some on the occasional basis, and some slightly more often. But what are the long-term results? Some cats even seek out and enjoy dog/puppy food, but not unsurprisingly, it’s not the best choice for them.

It’s also not a wise choice on a regular basis. That’s because all felines digestive systems needs certain nutrients in kitty food like super-high protein, taurine, Vitamin A, and other stuff.

The big problem is when felines eat canine kibble every day instead of a doggie biscuit now and then. Over time your pet could become ill and even develop many long-term health problems. The nutritional deficiency could cause symptoms like vomiting and hair loss, as well as behavioral issues. Canines could experience the same symptoms after eating cat food.

maine coon looking at camera

What Is in Cat Food?

It might seem like a case of stating the obvious but “cat food” is named as such because unlike puppy food it was designed and manufactured for them specifically. However, unlike a lot of other things it is not a marketing ploy.

There are genuine reasons why cat food is marketed and produced for cats only. Sure, their are some cross nutrients that benefit both species, but there are some things a cat needs from its diet that a dog manufactures itself.

Here are some of the key ingredients:

1. Protein

Fun Fact: Cats are carnivores because they lack the “sweet” taste buds of pup/adult canines. While other ingredients can benefit a feline’s health, they get all their nutrition from protein. Canines need super-high protein levels to get the energy they need. Food for dogs are high in protein but not high enough for felines.

2. Taurine

This amino acid is among the different building blocks of protein. Cats need taurine

in their diets, as they do not produce it from food. Canines produce this amino acid from their diets, so it’s not a problem for them.

Essentially, dog food does not contain taurine which is needed by cats for their health.

Meanwhile, a taurine deficiency (such as prolonged use of feeding your cat a dogs diet) can cause cats to suffer a serious heart disease known as “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.” Store-bought canine foods usually include extra amounts of this particular amino acid.

In fact, a fish-only diet is unhealthy for kitties because it’s low taurine. This has resulted in the widespread myth that fish is bad for cats. They can eat it, but they should

also eat other protein sources like chicken and beef.

3. Arachidonic acid

This is a fatty acid that canines’ bodies can produce themselves. Meanwhile, felines need this “good” omega-6 fatty acid in their diet. It provides benefits related to skin growth, blood clotting, and allergy-fighting.

4. Vitamin A

Cats & dogs process Vitamin A and the plant-based coloring known as beta carotene (the stuff that gives carrots their orange color). Canines’ bodies just need to eat the beta

carotene then their bodies convert it to Vitamin A.

Cats’ bodies need Vitamin A specifically. While some canine foods have some, it’s usually not enough for a feline’s nutritional needs.

maine coon and dog together

What Is in Dog Food?

There’s also a reason this food is named as such. Like cat food, you can find different varieties for canines. That includes different flavors and ingredients. For example, you can find canine products that are designed for the animal’s age, size, and breed. You can obviously also buy flavors like beef, chicken, lamb, or even ostrich.

There are some key differences between puppy and cat food. For example, dog’s food has a higher amount of the plant coloring beta-carotene. This is needed because the dog converts it into Vitamin A. It’s especially important in older dogs for boosting their immune system.

There are some other notable differences between kibble for ‘Fido’ and ‘Fluffy’. For example, it’s somewhat lower in protein than feline food. While canines need protein, they don’t need as much as their feline friends.

In fact, cats get all their nutrients from protein. One example is wild cats actually get all their water from raw meat. Meanwhile, dogs need different plant-based foods like

vegetables and grains.

Dog food is also high in vitamins and fiber, and lower in fat. The reason there’s lower fat content is canines tend to gain weight faster than felines. The lower fat content helps to prevent them from becoming overweight or obese.

The ingredients and nutrition in food for dogs explain why in the long-term canines should eat canine chow and felines should eat cat food. It’s important for each animal to get the specific types and amounts of nutrients they need for good health.

maine coon and a dog lying down

Why No Breed of Cat Can Eat Dog Food

You might be wondering if any cat breed, like Maine Coons, could eat dog food and not have any problems. To be honest, the digestive systems and nutritional requirements of different cat breeds does not differ. It doesn’t matter whether your kitty is an American shorthair or a Scottish Fold. Cats’ nutritional needs are basically the same across different breeds.

Cat foods contain all the nutrients cats need and the right amount. For example, it’s higher in protein and fat. Protein is the most important macronutrient for cats since they get all their nutrients from it. If ‘Max’ or ‘Fluffy’ don’t get enough protein, it can cause problems like low energy levels.

All feline kibble and wet food also contain the right amount and types of fat. The overall level is higher than for doggie food. Cats need to get fatty acids or “Vitamin F.” This includes different types like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

It’s important to get into the nitty-gritty of cat’s and dog’s nutritional needs. For example, no cat breed produces certain nutrients like arachidonic fatty acid. So, they’ll need to acquire it from kitty food. Canine kibble simply won’t have high enough levels of these nutrients.

There are other important nutrients cats need from cat food. They include Vitamin A, Taurine amino acid, and Arachidonic fatty acid. These nutrients are “essential” because the cat’s body can’t produce them.

This is, in a nutshell, why cats cannot eat dog food for a prolonged period. Dog food is missing essential ingredients, such as taurine, that cats do not produce from their food.

These nutrition needs are basically the same for different breeds. That’s why the main types of commercial cat food on the market are for Kittens or adults. Different breeds can get all the needed protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants from the same products.

maine coon and a dog lying down

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

While kitten/adult felines shouldn’t eat dog chow in the long-term, how about the opposite? In some cases, canines might eat (and like) cat food.

This shouldn’t be a problem once in a blue moon. For example, there are times when you’re out of cat kibble, and all local supermarkets and pet stores are already closed. In that case, it shouldn’t be a problem.

The problem becomes more complex when a dog turns up their nose at store-bought dog food and wolfs down kitten kibble instead. A cat food-only diet might seem practical in this case. However, dogs shouldn’t eat feline chow in the long term.

OK, a dog can technically live on just kitty food. However, it’s not a good idea. The main reason is food for cats can cause various health problems for pups/dogs that affects their bodyweight and digestion.

Dogs have different nutritional needs than cats. The higher protein/fat content of kitty chow could cause weight problems since dogs tend to gain weight faster. Cat kibble also includes stuff like amino acids and fatty acids that dogs’ bodies produce naturally. So, there’s a chance they could be getting too much of a good thing.

When canines eat food for cats, it might not just be unhealthy but could cause them to get sick. This includes symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. They could even develop serious problems involving the pancreas, for example.

Are there any exceptions? If a feline eats some kitty chow now and then, for example, it shouldn’t be a problem. Just don’t make it a habit.

Cat food is not poisonous or anything to cats, so a it’s not something anyone needs to panic over, but if a dog is experiencing regular meals of cat food, in preference to its own, then action to stop the behaviour will need to be taken.

What If My Maine Coon Eats Some Dog Food?

If your Maine Coon eats some doggie food is it a big deal?  We know that dog food is missing some vital ingredients needed for your Maine Coon, so if you see your Maine Coon tucking into the dog food, should you worry?

This might be a concerning situation since your cat is eating the “wrong” stuff. This can be a super-scary situation for pet owners concerned about their pets health. You might panic, and Google “can cats eat dog food.”

It’s normal to be concerned about your furry friend. In many situations our pets become family members, and we’re concerned about their health and diet as much as our own immediate family. If cats nibble the wrong kibble is it a problem?

It depends on the situation. If your feline accidentally ate some doggy food once or twice then it’s not going to be a problem. In a way, it’s like humans having a “cheat meal.” It’s not the healthiest thing for us, but it won’t be a major issue if we do it from time to time.

There are some situations when you have nothing on hand except doggie chow. In that case, there won’t be a problem if your cat eats a few servings until you can buy some kitten kibble or wet food.

Just make sure feeding dog food to your feline is the exception and not the rule. In the long-term, it can cause various problems related to:

  • Eyesight
  • Coat
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Metabolism
  • Reproductive system

It’s critical for your Maine Coon to get the right nutrition they need. That’s the case whether they’re kittens, adults, or seniors. If feline pets don’t get all the nutrients, they need it can cause various long-term problems.

It’s not just related to malnutrition. Your feline’s immune system can also be compromised if they’re not getting the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they need. That can cause other health problems because their bodies are less effective in keeping away “free radicals” that can damage their healthy cells.

What About an Emergency?

In theory, you shouldn’t feed dog food to your feline. However, what about emergencies? Let’s say it’s late at night and your family pet is meowing for a midnight snack.

In that case, dog chow might be the only choice (if your family owns a dog). There shouldn’t be a problem feeding the cat some dog chow in this case.

The big question is: how much is too much? It’s not recommended to keep feeding your cat the rest of the bag. When the local grocery store, pet store, or animal clinic is open make sure to buy cat food ASAP.

You might wonder if a bowl of dog or puppy chow is too much for your kitty. If you have to feed a bowl or two to your kitty, it’s not an issue. They technically won’t be getting all the nutrients they need, but since it’s short-term it shouldn’t cause any significant issues.

On the other hand, watch out if your feline keeps snacking on dog food. In the long-term, this can cause various problems including low energy, bad posture, and even seizures. If it’s a one and done situation that’s different than making it a daily habit.

There’s also an X-factor. If your kitty-cat keeps snacking on dog kibble, they won’t have room in their tummies for their regular cat good. That’s a bad thing because it can cause the same results as feeding dog food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What Are the Long Term Health Issues from Eating Dog Food?

Do enough googling on the issue and eventually the fact that all breeds of cats need taurine. Taurine is an essential amino acid and cats need a relatively large amount of it in their diet, relative to other animals.

Omnivores, such as humans, synthesize taurine from the consumption of other amino acids. Cats do not. Therefore, without taurine in their diet a cat will become taurine deficient.

Taurine deficiency is quite serious and produces a number of diseases such as

 

  • central retinal degeneration (CRD)
  • dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)

 

So eyes and heart problems develop with prolonged use of dog food.

How to Prevent Your Maine Coon from Eating Dog Food

According to cartoons cats & dogs have been arch rivals since the beginning of time, but sometimes Garfield and Odie have to live under one roof. How can you stop your Maine Coon from eating your pet pooch’s food?

Once a canine and feline get used to being around each other they’ll develop a strong bond. This involves sharing the same space, snuggling in the same bed, and maybe even sharing food. This can become a problem if your Maine Coon starts eating dog food on a regular basis.

Dogs and cats swap food for different reasons. They might have finished their own bowl and are still a little hungry. In other cases, they’re just curious about their friend’s food.

Here are some tips to keep your cat from consuming dog food:

1. Set feeding schedules

Cats & dogs are literally creatures of routine. You could set different feeding schedules for your pet based on their nutritional needs. If your pussycat knows to eat at specific times, they’ll be less likely to go on the prowl for dog food at different times.

2. Use bowls with different shapes/sizes/colors

Canines and felines can easily figure out the differences of bowls with different shapes and sizes. You could use bowls with two different colors, but it might not be enough. It’s better to start with different shapes/sizes.

3. Train your pets

It’s important for your cat and dog to know it’s unacceptable for them to eat the other’s food. You can give them a firm “no” if they do it. Make sure to take this step immediately, so they connect your tone of voice with the behavior. You can turn this into  negative reinforcement by then pointing them towards their own food.

Conclusion

Can your Maine Coon eat dog food? If it’s a doggy treat or an emergency situation, then it won’t be a problem. However, it shouldn’t be a bad habit. This could cause long-term health issues due to dog food’s lack of protein, and certain amino acids and fatty acids. Meanwhile, the right diet equals a healthy and happy cat.

If you’ve arrived at this article because your cat has taken a quick bite of your dog’s food then there’s no need to panic. Dog food is not poisonous to cats, it’s just unhealthy.

Following the research I’ve done, the way I’ve decided to think about it is this. It’s equivalent to having a McDonalds. Every time your Maine Coon eats a bit of dog food, think of it as having had a McDonalds (I’m not ragging on McDonalds here, use Burger King if you like).

The idea is this though, if a friend of yours went to McDonalds would you worry? You probably wouldn’t worry if he went 2 or 3 times as long as he was eating better food to counterbalance.

There would be nutritional elements missing from the meal but you wouldn’t panic.

A friend who ate exclusively at McDonalds though (I am thinking Supersize Me film here), and you would start to worry. You’d grow deeply concerned that he was doing long term damage to themselves.

So everytime your Maine Coon eats some dog food, think ‘oh it’s just had a McDonalds’. Nothing to worry about on an individual basis, but something to monitor as it becomes more regular.

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