Can You Eat Cat Food? Surprising Truth About Dry Kibble’s Nutritional Value for Humans


In today’s economy, many people are looking for ways to stretch their grocery budgets. Some wonder if pet food could be a very cheap source of nutrition for humans. Specifically, they ask – is dry cat food actually healthy for people to eat?

This article examines the nutritional profile, ingredients, and health risks of humans eating dry cat food. While cat food is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of felines, it does not contain the right balance of nutrients for human health and wellbeing. Consuming cat food could lead to malnutrition and other health issues over time.

Read on to learn about the pros and cons of humans eating dry cat food and whether it could be part of a healthy diet.

Nutritional Profile of Cat Food

Most dry cat foods contain moderate amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to meet the nutritional needs of cats. According to Popular Cat Food Calorie Content, dry cat foods contain 25-45% protein, 10-35% fat, and 15-50% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis.

Cats require higher levels of protein than humans to support muscle growth and maintenance. The Association of American Feed Control Officials recommends adult cats receive at least 25% of calories from protein in complete foods. Human protein needs are lower at 10-35% of calories.

Dry cat foods are formulated with added vitamins and minerals like taurine, vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium to meet feline nutritional requirements. While ingredients are similar to human foods, the nutrient balance tailored for cats means dry cat food does not provide complete nutrition for humans.

Meat Content

The primary ingredient in most dry cat foods is meat. This usually comes in the form of fresh or rendered meats from animals like chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, venison, bison, or fish.

According to the Truth About Dry Cat Food from Fetch Pet Care (source), meat alone does not contain all of the amino acids and nutrients cats need. Manufacturers supplement it with synthetic vitamins and minerals. Rendered meats like meat meal go through a cooking process that eliminates bacteria and pathogens.

High-quality brands like Open Farm (source) use ethically-sourced meats from humanely raised animals. They follow safety standards and regulations for processing. Lower quality brands may use meat by-products instead of prime cuts.

When choosing a dry food, look for specific animal protein as the first ingredient instead of just “meat” or by-products. This indicates better quality meat content.

Other Ingredients

In addition to meat, cat food contains other ingredients like grains, fillers, preservatives, and artificial colors/flavors. Many of these are controversial in cat food:

Grains like corn, wheat, and soy are common fillers in dry cat food. They are cheap sources of carbohydrates, but cats have no nutritional need for carbohydrates in their diet. Fillers like these simply provide calories and bulk up the food. Some cats may also have sensitivities to gluten in grains.2

Artificial preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin help extend the shelf life of dry cat food but have been associated with health concerns like cancer and organ damage in animals. Natural preservatives like vitamin E are safer alternatives.2

Artificial colors and flavors are also unnecessary additions aimed at making the food more appealing to human owners. However, cats do not benefit from these ingredients.3

When selecting a cat food, it’s best to choose products with minimal fillers, grains, and artificial additives. Look for foods featuring more natural whole food ingredients.


Pet food palatability is defined as the “intrinsic properties of a food that elicit taste, aroma, and texture responses” in cats and dogs.[1] Pet food manufacturers aim to create highly palatable foods by optimizing the aroma, taste, and texture to appeal to cats’ preferences.

Many cat foods contain high amounts of fat, salt, and artificial flavors to increase palatability. Manufacturers often enhance palatability by coating dry food in fats and other palatant ingredients.[2] Palatants like animal digests and hydrolyzed proteins can stimulate cats’ appetites and make the food more enticing.

While appealing to a cat’s sense of taste and smell can encourage eating, highly palatable foods may promote overeating and obesity in cats. Pet owners should be mindful of choosing balanced cat foods that offer good nutrition as well as taste and aroma cats crave.

Food Safety

Most commercial dry cat foods available in the U.S. must comply with standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). According to the FDA, “Pet food manufacturing facilities are subject to FDA inspection, and pet foods must meet the same quality and safety standards as human foods” (FDA). To receive an AAFCO statement on their product label, manufacturers must follow federal and state requirements.

While most commercial pet foods are safe, there is some risk of contamination with bacteria like Salmonella or chemicals. The CDC states “Feeding your pet a contaminated pet food or treat could make you and your family sick” (CDC). Proper food handling, storage and preparation is important. The FDA recommends storing dry food in a cool, dry place and discarding uneaten wet food after 30 minutes.

Ethical Concerns

Pet food is not designed or intended for human consumption, so eating pet food raises ethical concerns. According to “The ethics of what we choose to feed our pets” from Alice Animal Welfare, pet food contains animal by-products not meant for human consumption. Consuming pet food could promote further production of low-welfare meat. As discussed in “Is Feeding ‘People’ Food to Pets Ethical?” on Vetstreet, some view feeding human-grade meat to pets as unethical when people go hungry. So eating pet food raises complex ethical issues about use of animal products and food security.

Health Risks

Eating cat food may pose certain health risks for humans due to nutritional imbalances and potential foodborne illnesses. Cat food is formulated to meet the specific nutritional needs of cats, which differ significantly from human nutritional requirements. Consuming cat food could lead to vitamin or mineral deficiencies over time.

For example, cat food is very high in protein but lower in carbohydrates compared to a typical human diet. It also contains higher levels of fat and lower levels of fiber than recommended for human health. The high protein and fat content could put strain on the human liver and kidneys if consumed regularly.

Additionally, cat food may contain bacteria like Salmonella or Listeria that can cause food poisoning. Pet food is held to lower safety standards than human food in some countries. Handling cat food could spread germs, and undercooking contaminated meat in the cat food poses a risk. People with weaker immune systems like young children, the elderly, or pregnant women face higher risk of foodborne illness from cat food.

Overall, the nutritional imbalances and potential for foodborne illness make cat food a risky choice for human consumption. While occasionally eating a small amount may not cause harm, regular consumption could jeopardize a person’s health.


Some people claim there are benefits to eating cat food as a human. However, these supposed benefits are questionable.

Some note that cat food can be more affordable than human food. While cat food may be cheaper per ounce than some human foods, it does not provide complete or balanced nutrition for humans. The potential savings do not outweigh the risks.

Others cite convenience as a benefit, as cat food requires no preparation. However, nutritious human foods that require little prep, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt, and sandwiches are readily available.

In terms of taste, some cat foods contain large amounts of fat, salt, and artificial flavors which may appeal to human taste buds. However, these unhealthy attributes do not make cat food an advisable part of a human diet.

Overall, while cat food may seem affordable, convenient, and tasty to some, these do not constitute real health benefits. A diet of cat food lacks nutrition vital to human health.


In summary, while cat food does contain protein, fats, and other nutrients that are necessary in the human diet, it is ultimately an unhealthy choice for people. Cat food is specially formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of cats, which have different dietary needs than humans. The high protein and fat content can lead to issues like weight gain, kidney problems, and vitamin deficiencies in humans if eaten regularly. Additionally, dry cat food poses safety risks due to bacteria growth.

Ethically, cat food should be reserved for feline consumption. With so many affordable and nutritious options readily available for humans, there is no need to take food away from cats who truly rely on it. For those looking to add more protein to their diets on a budget, there are healthier alternatives like eggs, dairy, beans, and canned tuna. While eating cat food in small amounts may not cause immediate harm, it is not recommended as a staple food for humans. The possible long-term health implications make it an unwise choice.

In conclusion, cat food is specially formulated for the nutritional needs of cats and does not offer adequate or balanced nutrition for humans. While it may be safe in small amounts, it is generally not recommended for regular human consumption. For optimal health, people should stick to nutritious whole foods meant for human diets.

Scroll to Top