Can Cats and Dogs Share Treats? The Surprising Answer

The Appeal of Using Cat Treats for Dogs

Many dog owners find themselves with an open bag of cat treats in their home. Whether they have both cats and dogs, or had cats in the past, cat treats often linger in the pantry. For some owners, using cat treats for their dogs can seem like an appealing option for a couple reasons:

Convenience and Cost Savings – Having an existing bag of treats already on hand provides a convenient and potentially cost-saving option for owners looking for training treats for their dogs. Some view utilizing what they already have as an easy way to avoid an extra trip to the pet store. As one dog owner said, “I’m just looking for something cheaper/easier/healthier than all the training treats. We’re going through Pet Botanics Training Reward Treats so quickly!” (source).

Assumed Similar Flavors – There is also an assumption among some owners that since cats and dogs are both pets, they must have similar flavor preferences. The idea that “a treat is a treat” leads some to believe dogs will readily accept cat treats just as cats do. However, there are important differences between feline and canine taste preferences that owners should consider.

Nutritional Differences Between Cat and Dog Treats

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require a diet consisting primarily of meat. Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores and require a more balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Because of this key difference, cat treats and dog treats have very different nutritional makeups.

Cat treats are very high in protein and extremely low in carbohydrates. According to Dog Tricks World, cat treats typically contain at least double the amount of protein compared to dog treats, with some cat treats consisting of up to 70% protein. They are designed to mimic the natural carnivorous diet of cats.

Dog treats, in contrast, contain a more balanced mix of protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates. They are designed to provide a nutritionally complete snack that delivers key nutrients dogs need while also being lower in calories. The protein content of most dog treats ranges from 10-25%.

Feeding a dog primarily cat treats could lead to nutritional imbalances over time, as they lack some of the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that dogs require. It’s best to stick with treats specifically formulated for a dog’s omnivorous needs.

Food Allergies and Sensitivities

When it comes to ingredients, there can be some key differences between cat and dog treats. Some ingredients commonly found in cat treats may cause allergic reactions in dogs. According to research, the most frequent food allergens for dogs are beef, dairy products, chicken, wheat, eggs, corn, and soy (Mueller, 2016).

In particular, ingredients like fish and chicken that are commonly found in cat treats can provoke allergic reactions in some dogs (PetCareRx). On the other hand, cats may have different common food allergens than dogs. For cats, fish, beef, dairy products, and wheat gluten are frequent triggers (Mueller et al., 2016).

So while ingredients like fish, chicken, and wheat may be appealing to cats, they can provoke allergic reactions and sensitivities in some dogs. It’s important to be aware of these differences when considering using cat treats for dog training. Monitoring your dog carefully for any signs of allergic reaction will be important.

Differences in Flavor Preferences

There are some key differences between dogs’ and cats’ flavor preferences that are important to consider when choosing treats. Dogs tend to prefer meaty, savory flavors compared to cats.

According to research, dogs show a strong preference for beef, pork, and lamb over chicken, liver, and horsemeat. They also tend to prefer the taste of meat over cereal-based diets (Taste Preferences and their Relation to Obesity in Dogs and Cats, 1981).

On the other hand, cats exhibit more attraction to fish and liver flavors. As obligate carnivores, cats have evolved to enjoy the taste of animal-based proteins and fats. Studies show that cats prefer the flavor of fish and commercial cat foods over other meat sources like rats (Taste Preferences and their Relation to Obesity in Dogs and Cats, 1981).

The intensity of the flavor also impacts palatability, with cats preferring stronger tastes than dogs. Fish flavors tend to be more pungent and pronounced.

Keeping these different taste preferences in mind can help choose treats that will motivate each species during training.

Risk of Weight Gain

Cat treats tend to be higher in fat and calories compared to many dog treats. For example, the popular Temptations cat treats contain about 4 calories per treat, while Milk-Bone dog treats contain only 1-2 calories per treat. Feeding cat treats to a dog can quickly add extra calories to their daily intake.

It’s important to be aware of the calorie differences and adjust your dog’s regular meals accordingly if substituting cat treats. An average dog requires around 70-140 calories from treats daily, depending on their size and activity level. Going over this amount from higher calorie cat treats can easily lead to weight gain over time.

To avoid overfeeding, check the calorie counts on any cat treats and reduce your dog’s regular food intake to account for the extra calories. Stick to the recommended daily treat allowance for your dog’s size and activity level. This will help prevent obesity and related health issues.

Dental Health Concerns

Cat dental treats are often less effective for controlling tartar buildup compared to dog dental treats. As per Dr. Petra Catzzle, cat treats are typically smaller and softer than dog treats, which means they do not provide the same abrasive cleaning for a cat’s teeth [1]. Dog treats are designed to be larger and tougher in order to clean the teeth and freshen dog breath as dogs chew [2].

The ingredients in many dog dental treats like Greenies are specifically formulated to control tartar and plaque. Cat treats do not always contain the same active dental health ingredients. While some cat treats may help reduce tartar to a degree, they often are not as effective as treats designed for dogs. Therefore, using cat treats instead of dog treats may lead to increased risk of dental issues in dogs.

Training and Behavior Differences

Cat treats are not designed to be broken up into small pieces to use as rewards during training. Dog treats are made for this purpose, as you want to be able to reward your dog with tiny pieces of treats frequently during a training session. Using cat treats whole would provide too large of a reward at one time.

The size and texture of cat treats also make them difficult to break up on the spot. Dog treats come in handy small sizes or in large treats that can easily be broken into little bites. Cat treats do not have this same ability.

In addition, dog treats are often made to be more enticing and motivating for dogs than cat treats. The flavors, aromas, and textures of dog treats are tailored to a dog’s preferences. This helps make them more exciting rewards to dogs during training.

Since cat treats are not designed for dog training purposes, they will likely be less effective for rewarding and reinforcing behaviors. Sticking with properly sized and appealing dog treats will make the training process more successful.

Safety Considerations

There are some risks involved with feeding cat treats to dogs that pet owners should be aware of. One of the main concerns is that cats cannot digest large amounts of carbohydrates. Cat treats tend to be higher in carbs than dog treats. Consuming too many carbohydrates can lead to gastrointestinal upset in cats, but dogs are better able to handle carbohydrates in their diet.

When giving your dog cat treats, it’s important to monitor for any signs of digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, or gas. Limit the number of treats to just a few per day. Discontinue feeding cat treats if you notice any GI problems.

When It Can Work

There are some cases when feeding your dog small amounts of cat treats can be okay, as long as it is done in moderation:

Occasional Small Amounts as a Supplement or Reward: Using cat treats sparingly as a supplement to your dog’s regular diet or as an occasional reward should not cause any issues. Giving your dog a few cat treats here and there is unlikely to harm them, as long as it does not replace balanced dog food meals.[1]

Dogs Without Food Allergies or Sensitivities: For dogs without any known food allergies, sensitivities or dietary issues, an occasional cat treat may be fine. However, it’s still best to verify with your veterinarian before introducing any new treats or foods.[2]

Overall, cat treats should comprise no more than 10% of your dog’s caloric intake. While the occasional cat treat likely won’t hurt, they lack some nutrients needed for a dog’s health. Dog treats and food should still make up the bulk of their diet.



In summary, there are a few key considerations when deciding whether to use cat treats for dog training:

– Cat and dog treats have different nutritional profiles that are tailored to each species’ needs. Cat treats may be lacking in nutrients dogs require.

– There is a risk of triggering food allergies or sensitivities in dogs if cat treats contain ingredients they cannot tolerate.

– Dogs’ taste preferences differ from cats, and they may find cat treats less appealing in terms of flavor.

– The high fat and calorie content in some cat treats could lead to weight gain in dogs.

– Cat treats are not designed with dental health in mind and may not promote good oral hygiene in dogs.

– The different training and behavior needs of cats means cat treats are not optimized as training rewards for dogs.

– Certain ingredients like xylitol could be toxic for dogs if consumed in larger amounts.

– Using cat treats sparingly, supervised, for dogs that tolerate them well may be fine.

Overall, it is best to use treats specifically formulated for dogs when training them. However, cat treats could serve as an occasional training reward if a dog enjoys them and consumes them safely in moderation. Consult your veterinarian if unsure.

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