They’re Secretly Best Friends. Why Your Dog Can’t Resist the Cat’s Food

Why Is My Dog Eating the Cat’s Food?

It’s a common scenario – you walk into the kitchen and catch your dog with its face in the cat’s food bowl. While you may be frustrated with your dog’s behavior, this phenomenon is more common than you may think. In fact, up to 90% of dog owners report catching their dog eating cat food at some point.

But why does this happen? And what are the potential ramifications for your dog’s health? This article aims to get to the bottom of why dogs feel compelled to eat cat food and provide tips to curb this behavior.

Possible Causes

Dogs may eat cat food for a variety of reasons including:

Hunger or appetite – Dogs have a strong sense of smell and cat food smells appealing with its high protein and fat content. If a dog is hungry, they may eat the readily available cat food. Ensure your dog is being fed enough food for their size, age, and activity level (

Preference for taste – Some dogs simply like the taste of cat food better than dog food. Cat food tends to have stronger flavors added to it to appeal to feline tastes.

Nutritional deficiencies – If a dog’s own food is lacking certain nutrients, they may seek out cat food to fulfill those needs. Check with your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s diet is nutritionally balanced.

Curiosity – Dogs are naturally curious and may try cat food simply to see what it tastes like. This may be particularly true for puppies exploring new things.

Attention-seeking – Eating the cat’s food gets a reaction from the owner. Negative attention is still attention, so the behavior may become reinforced.

Health Concerns

There are a few potential health issues that can arise if dogs regularly eat cat food. One of the most common is obesity due to overeating. Cat food tends to be more calorie-dense and high in fat compared to most dog foods. According to the AKC, this can lead to rapid weight gain in dogs that consume cat food, especially if they eat both their food and the cat’s food (AKC). Obesity increases the risk of joint problems, diabetes, heart disease, and other health complications.

Nutritional imbalances are another concern. Cat food lacks sufficient nutrients that dogs require, like adequate protein and fatty acids. In contrast, dog food lacks sufficient vitamin A and taurine that cats need (PetMD). These imbalances can lead to deficiencies over time if a dog eats cat food regularly.

Finally, gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation can occur. The high fat content in cat food can upset some dogs’ stomachs. The different protein sources between dog and cat food may also cause digestive issues (DogFoodAdvisor). These symptoms are usually temporary but can indicate an intolerance or sensitivity.

Preventing Access

One of the easiest ways to stop your dog from eating the cat’s food is to feed them separately. Feed your dog in one room and your cat in a different room. Close the door to the room where the cat is fed so your dog can’t get in. You can also place the cat’s food bowls up high where your dog can’t reach, like on a cat tree, windowsill or counter top.
According to, elevated food bowls can help prevent your dog from stealing your cat’s food. Puzzle feeders that make your dog work to get the food out can also slow down their eating and deter them from eating the cat food.

Limit your dog’s access to areas where the cat food is kept. Keep it in a closet or cupboard your dog can’t get into. Feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals so large amounts of food aren’t sitting out. And pick up your cat’s food bowls when they are finished eating so there’s no opportunity for your dog to eat the leftovers.

Meeting Nutritional Needs

To meet your dog’s nutritional needs and reduce the temptation to eat the cat’s food, it is important to feed a high-quality dog food. Look for a dog food that contains protein as the first ingredient and has meat-based proteins like chicken, beef, or fish (Addiction Pet Foods, 2022). Try to avoid dog foods with corn, wheat, or soy as the main ingredients as these are less digestible for dogs. According to veterinarians, some good dog food brands to consider are Addiction, Nutrisource, and Cornucopia Pet Foods.

In addition to high-quality dog food, make sure to provide age-appropriate portion sizes for your dog based on their weight and activity level. Providing the right amount of food for their needs can help curb hunger between meals. You can also try adding some tasty mix-ins to make the dog food more enticing. Things like wet food, broth, carrots, green beans, or rice can make the dry kibble more appetizing. Just don’t overdo the additions or it will unbalance the diet’s nutritional profile (Addiction Pet Foods, 2022).

Providing Mental Stimulation

One way to help curb your dog’s obsession with the cat’s food is to provide more mental stimulation. When dogs are bored or understimulated, they may engage in undesirable behaviors like seeking out forbidden food sources. You can provide mental stimulation in various ways:

Food puzzles are a great option to make your dog work for their regular meals. Placing dry kibble in a puzzle toy or scattering it in the grass can simulate natural foraging behaviors and occupy your dog’s mind. Food puzzles encourage them to problem solve to access their food.

Rotate new toys frequently to keep your dog engaged and curious. Look for interactive toys that dispense treats or make noise to hold your dog’s interest. Having a variety of textures and shapes appeals to their senses.

Ensure your dog gets more dedicated play time during the day to burn mental energy. Play fetching games, take them on sniff walks, or do training sessions. Physical and mental exercise helps prevent boredom.

Obedience training is very mentally stimulating as your dog has to focus and problem solve. Work on commands that make your dog think. Training also strengthens your bond and reinforces listening to you.

Addressing Underlying Causes

If your dog keeps eating the cat’s food despite your best efforts, it’s important to address any underlying causes behind this behavior.

Take your dog to the vet for a check-up. The vet can check for any nutritional deficiencies or health issues leading to abnormal food drive. Conditions like diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or thyroid problems may cause excessive hunger. The vet can run tests and recommend supplements if needed.

Stress and boredom can also trigger pica and compulsive eating. Make sure your dog gets adequate exercise and enrichment through walks, games, and toys. Providing a predictable routine and minimizing stressful events like loud noises can help calm anxious dogs.

In severe cases, medication may be recommended. Drugs like fluoxetine and clomipramine can reduce compulsive behaviors when combined with behavior modification training. Work closely with your vet to determine if medication could help your dog.

Getting to the root of the behavior is key to curbing your dog’s cat food obsession. Veterinary care, lifestyle changes, and training will help set your dog up for success.

Being Consistent

One of the most important things you can do to stop your dog from eating the cat’s food is to be consistent. This means sticking to a regular feeding schedule for both your dog and cat, as well as consistently reinforcing training cues like “leave it.”

Feed your pets at the same times every day. Dogs and cats thrive on routine and knowing when to expect their next meal. Feeding at consistent times will help satisfy your dog’s hunger at appropriate times, making the cat’s food less tempting. Feed your pets in separate rooms with the door closed, and pick up uneaten food right after mealtimes.

Consistently use the “leave it” command when you catch your dog going for the cat food. Say the command firmly, and if your dog obeys, reward with praise and a treat. The more often you reinforce this training, the better your dog will become at ignoring the cat food when commanded to do so. With time and consistency, your dog will learn to avoid the cat food area during mealtimes.

Being consistent takes diligence, but it prevents confusion and teaches your dog fixed mealtime rules. Feed, train, and reinforce on a schedule to curb cat food thievery.

When to Seek Help

In most cases, your dog eating cat food will just result in an upset stomach or diarrhea that will resolve on its own. However, there are certain symptoms that indicate a more serious health issue and warrant contacting your veterinarian:

Weight loss/gain – Sudden weight changes in your dog can signal an underlying illness. Getting your dog checked by a vet can help determine if the weight fluctuations are due to your dog eating cat food or another medical problem. According to, weight gain or loss are potential side effects from dogs eating cat food.

Lethargy – If your dog seems more tired and low energy than usual, it may indicate a more significant issue caused by eating cat food. Lethargy after eating cat food is often a sign that your dog has a stomachache or doesn’t feel well. Monitoring your dog’s energy level can help determine if a vet visit is needed.

Vomiting – Frequent vomiting or continued vomiting after eating cat food warrants a call to your vet. It can be a sign of food intolerance, pancreatitis or other internal issues. According to the AKC, pancreatitis requires immediate veterinary care and can cause vomiting.

Diarrhea – Loose stools and diarrhea after your dog eats cat food is common. But if it persists for more than a day or contains blood, contact your vet right away. Bloody diarrhea indicates irritation or inflammation in the GI tract.


To summarize, there are a few key reasons why dogs may eat cat food, including boredom, nutritional deficiencies in their own food, or simply liking the taste of cat food better. Eating cat food long-term can potentially cause health issues in dogs like nutritional imbalances, so it’s important to take steps to prevent access to the cat food.

Focus on meeting your dog’s needs through proper nutrition, mental stimulation, exercise, and training. Make sure your dog can’t access the cat food by keeping it up high or in a secure container. Feed pets separately, supervise mealtimes, and stick to schedules to discourage food stealing.

If your dog keeps eating the cat food despite your best efforts, consult your veterinarian to address any potential underlying medical or behavioral causes. With patience and consistency, you can break the cat food habit while keeping both pets happy and healthy.

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