Can Cats And Dogs Eat The Same Kibble?


Pet ownership is extremely common in the United States, with 68% of households owning a pet as of 2021 (AVMA). With so many households having both cats and dogs, a common question that comes up is whether or not these two species can eat the same types of pet food. While cats and dogs have some similar nutritional requirements, there are also some key differences that impact whether they can eat identical diets. In this article, we’ll explore the unique nutritional needs, ingredients, texture preferences, feeding behaviors, allergies, and health considerations for both cats and dogs. With this information, pet owners will be better equipped to determine if their furry friends can happily share the same kibble.

Nutritional Requirements

Dogs and cats have distinct nutritional requirements due to differences in their biology and metabolism.

Dogs are omnivores and require a balanced diet with a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends that adult dogs receive a minimum of 18% protein and 5% fat in their diet (Source). Higher protein levels may be recommended for puppies or active dogs. Dogs also require carbohydrates for energy and fiber for digestive health.

In contrast, cats are obligate carnivores and require higher levels of protein and fat than dogs. AAFCO recommends adult cats receive a minimum of 26% protein and 9% fat (Source). Cats also have a higher protein requirement per kilogram of body weight. Cats do not have a specific carbohydrate requirement, as they obtain energy from protein and fat.

In summary, cats require a diet higher in protein and fat compared to dogs. Dogs utilize carbohydrates more efficiently than cats. These differences must be considered when evaluating if a single kibble formula can meet the needs of both species.


Cats and dogs have different nutritional requirements when it comes to ingredients in kibble. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need a meat-based diet high in animal proteins and fats [1]. Good ingredients for cats include meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Dogs are omnivores and while they thrive on meat, they also need fruits, vegetables, and grains in their diet [2].

Meats like beef, chicken, lamb, and fish provide essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Lean meats are best for dogs, while cats benefit from fattier cuts to meet their higher protein needs. Meat meals and by-products can provide concentrated sources of protein when clearly defined.

Whole grains like brown rice, barley, and oats add carbohydrates, fiber, and B vitamins. Controversial grains like corn and wheat are fine in moderation for dogs but may cause allergies in some. Cats have no nutritional need for grains, so a grain-free diet is best.

Fruits and vegetables add vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Good options for dogs include carrots, peas, apples, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and cranberries. Cats benefit less from plant matter but small amounts can add variety.

Supplemental vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, calcium, and taurine ensure complete, balanced nutrition tailored to cats’ and dogs’ needs. Taurine is especially vital for cats.

Kibble Texture

The texture of kibble can vary greatly between cat and dog food. Cats typically prefer smaller, softer kibble that is easier to chew and swallow. Many cat foods contain kibble that is round or oval shaped and smaller in size, ranging from 3-6 mm across. Dogs on the other hand tend to do well with larger, crunchier kibble closer to 10-15 mm across. The different shapes and sizes are designed to match the unique jaw and dental characteristics of cats versus dogs.

The crunchiness of the kibble can impact pets’ preferences as well. Cats often prefer a softer kibble they can lap up with their tongue, while dogs enjoy a good crunch and having something to chew. If the kibble is too hard, it poses a choking risk for cats. On the flip side, kibble that is too soft may not provide enough abrasion to help clean dogs’ teeth. Overall the texture of kibble should be tailored to the unique needs of cats and dogs.

Feeding Behaviors

Cats and dogs have very different feeding behaviors that impact their ability to share kibble. Cats are grazers, meaning they prefer to eat small amounts throughout the day. Dogs, on the other hand, tend to gorge, consuming their entire daily ration in one or two meals (source).

The implications of these different feeding behaviors make it challenging for cats and dogs to share kibble. Because cats nibble throughout the day, the kibble needs to be available at all times. However, dogs may consume the entire bowl of kibble in one sitting, leaving none for the grazing cat. Additionally, the cat may not want to approach the kibble bowl while the dog is gorging. These incompatible feeding styles mean cats and dogs will likely need to have separate kibble bowls.

Allergies and Sensitivities

Certain ingredients in dog and cat food are more likely to cause allergic reactions. The most common allergens in pet food include:

While food allergies are relatively uncommon in pets, they can cause gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea as well as skin irritation and itchiness. Allergies tend to develop after prolonged exposure over months or years.

When a pet has a food allergy, it’s important to avoid cross-contamination between their food and allergens. Use separate food prep surfaces and utensils. Wash hands and bowls thoroughly between feedings. Check all ingredient labels carefully. Even small amounts of an allergen can trigger reactions in sensitive pets.

Flavor Preferences

Cats have a much stronger sense of taste than dogs. They have around 500 taste buds compared to a dog’s 1,700. However, their taste buds are more sensitive due to a high concentration of olfactory cells. This means cats generally prefer food with intense flavors. They are especially attracted to acidic and salty tastes.

On the other hand, dogs have a wider range of taste preferences. While they enjoy strong flavors, they are also happy with blander kibble. Dogs even tolerate spoiled or rancid food better than cats. However, enhancing palatability can make mealtimes more enjoyable for dogs.

When choosing a kibble to feed both cats and dogs, it’s important to pick a flavor they will both enjoy. Look for kibble with robust seasoning and flavoring, such as chicken, beef, fish, or liver. This will entice the cat’s strong sense of taste. Opt for recipes marketed for all life stages or ages to ensure it meets both cats’ and dogs’ nutritional needs.

Overall Health Impacts

Feeding cats and dogs the same kibble formula can have negative health consequences for both species. Dogs have different nutritional requirements than cats, so a food tailored for one species will not properly meet the needs of the other.

One of the biggest risks is obesity and weight gain. Dog kibble is lower in protein and fat than cat kibble. Cats eating dog food may not get enough protein, leading to muscle wasting and weight loss over time. On the flip side, dogs eating the higher fat, higher protein cat kibble are at risk for rapid weight gain and obesity (AKC). Obesity in dogs and cats increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and many other chronic health conditions.

Dental health can also suffer when pets eat a kibble formulated for the wrong species. Cats require kibble with a unique texture and shape to help control tartar buildup. Eating the wrong shape and texture kibble could lead to more plaque, gingivitis and dental problems down the road (MasterClass).

Relying on a single type of pet food instead of a species-appropriate diet also carries risks. Cat food lacks sufficient taurine, an essential amino acid for feline health. Dogs do not require as much taurine, but they do need adequate vitamin A – which is lacking in cat kibble. Over time, nutritional deficiencies and imbalances may develop in pets fed inappropriate diets (DogFoodAdvisor).


While dogs and cats have some overlapping nutritional needs, it’s generally not recommended to feed them the same food on a regular basis. Here are some best practices for sharing food safely:

Feed pets separately – Give each pet their own food bowl to avoid conflict over food. Supervise mealtimes to ensure the proper pet eats from their designated bowl.

Avoid prolonged sharing – Occasional nibbling of each other’s food likely won’t cause harm, but meals should not be shared day after day. The nutritional balance is different between dog and cat foods.

Choose balanced foods – If you want to occasionally feed a shared meal, look for a food labeled for “all life stages” of both cats and dogs that has passed feeding trials. Wysong makes one such product (1). This ensures balanced nutrition for health needs.

Ask your vet – For pets with allergies, weight issues or other health concerns, check with your vet before feeding a shared food. Your vet can ensure any diet changes meet your pets’ unique needs.


In summary, while cats and dogs have some overlapping nutritional requirements, there are key differences that make feeding them the same kibble unadvisable. Cats are obligate carnivores and need higher protein and fat compared to dogs. Dogs have specific amino acid needs. Cats require taurine while dogs do not. Kibble texture and size should match the pet’s jaw structure and chewing habits. Allergies, intolerances and preferences also come into play when selecting an appropriate food.

The takeaway for pet owners is that it’s best to feed cats and dogs separately, with diets tailored specifically for each species. Look for pet foods made just for cats or just for dogs, not both. Follow feeding guidelines based on your pet’s life stage, activity level and any health conditions. Monitoring your pet’s weight, energy, coat, allergy symptoms and digestive health can help determine if their diet is optimal. Consult your veterinarian for advice on choosing quality kibbles to nourish your furry friends and keep them healthy.

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