Why is My Dog Crazy for Cat Food?


Does your dog come running every time you open a can or bag of cat food? It’s a common sight to see dogs drooling over their feline housemate’s food. As pet owners wonder “why does my dog love cat food so much?,” the truth is that the reasons behind this phenomenon are multifaceted.

On the surface, our canine companions seem obsessed with stealing cat food. However, their cravings are driven by much more than a simple desire to eat food meant for a different species. Understanding the science behind dogs’ appetite for cat food can provide crucial insights for pet owners.

Nutritional Differences

There are some key differences between dog food and cat food when it comes to the nutritional composition. According to Cat Food vs Dog Food: How They’re Different and Why You Shouldn’t Swap, dog food tends to have higher amounts of protein, around 18-24%, compared to cat food which has around 26-40% protein. Cats need more protein in their diet than dogs.

Dog food also tends to have more fat, around 5-15%, while cat food fat content ranges from 9-15%. The higher fat content provides more energy for cats. When it comes to carbohydrates, dog food has more at around 30-60%, with cat food having much lower amounts around 3-20%.

These nutritional differences are due to the varying dietary requirements between dogs and cats. It’s important to choose the pet food designed specifically for your pet’s nutritional needs. Feeding cat food to dogs can lead to obesity and other health issues due to the higher fat and protein content.

Taste Preferences

One of the main reasons dogs love cat food is simply because they find the taste very appealing. Cat food tends to be higher in meat-based protein and fat compared to many dog foods. The strong smell and flavor from the high amounts of meat and fat make cat food very enticing to some dogs 1.

Dogs have about 1,700 taste buds compared to a human’s 9,000, but they have up to 40 times more scent receptors than humans do. This means smell plays a big role in how foods taste to dogs. The rich meaty smell of cat food can make it more irresistible than dog food to some dogs. Dogs also have a preference for salty foods, and cat food tends to be higher in sodium than dog food.

The texture of cat food, which is often small, smooth bites, may also be more appealing to some dogs. Cat food contains more meat than dog food, giving it a texture dogs find very palatable. Additionally, the smaller kibble size of cat food allows dogs to eat it more quickly. This can tap into a dog’s natural drive to gorge as much food as fast as possible.

Smell and Texture

Cat food tends to have a stronger smell and different texture compared to dog food. As described by Appetizer Blog, “Odor, color, texture, shape, taste… at each step of the meal, different food attributes stimulate different pets’ organs and senses.” Cats typically prefer food with a very pungent aroma and smooth, fine texture. Dogs have a great sense of smell, so the potent odor of cat food can be very enticing to them.

Additionally, the soft, smooth pâté style texture of many wet cat foods contrasts with the crunchy kibble texture of much dog food. The rich, meaty morsels in cat food likely provide a different mouthfeel that intrigues dogs. So the unique smell and finely-textured composition of cat food appeals strongly to a dog’s keen sense of smell and taste preferences.


Forbidden Fruit

The concept of “forbidden fruit” is very real for dogs when it comes to food. Just like humans, the idea of not being allowed to have something can make dogs desire it even more (Source). Many pet owners have experienced their dogs trying to steal food off counters or get into the trash to eat. This is likely because these human foods are “forbidden” to the dog.

There are certain human foods that are toxic for dogs, so they must be avoided. However, even safe human foods can become more enticing to dogs if they are off-limits (Source). The dog may associate the forbidden food with getting in trouble, which oddly makes them want it more. It triggers their natural scavenging instincts.

To avoid this, it’s recommended to not make too big a deal about scolding dogs for counter surfing. Also, be sure to give dogs plenty of their own treats and toys so they don’t feel deprived. Satisfying a dog’s basic needs is key to curbing the lure of forbidden fruit.


Dogs can easily get bored when left alone or not provided enough mental stimulation. Cat food puzzles and toys provide dogs an outlet to channel their energy and satisfy their curiosity. As dogs evolved as hunters, foraging for food mimics their natural behaviors and instincts. The challenge of getting kibble out of a puzzle feeder provides mental exercise. This allows dogs to use their problem-solving skills and stave off boredom.

Cat food puzzles are specifically designed to make cats work for their food, releasing small amounts of kibble at a time. These provide more of a challenge than a regular dog food bowl, requiring dogs to roll, slide, flip or otherwise manipulate the puzzles to get the food out. The unfamiliar yet rewarding puzzles capture dogs’ attention and curiosity. Having to problem solve and work for the cat food gives dogs’ minds a workout.

Additionally, the unique tastes and smells of cat food are novel and exciting to dogs when they are used to the same dog kibble every day. The sensory experience combats boredom by providing mental stimulation. Cat food puzzles give dogs an outlet for their energy and natural scavenging abilities. The physical and mental exertion helps relieve restlessness and boredom when dogs are left alone.

As recommended by Cat Food Puzzle, providing dogs with interactive puzzles and toys filled with cat food can help stimulate their minds and alleviate boredom.

Individual Factors

It’s important to note that preference for cat food versus dog food can vary drastically between individual dogs.[1] Some dogs simply enjoy the taste of cat food more than dog food, while other dogs show little interest. Genetics likely play a role, with some dogs inherently more driven to seek out protein and fat. Upbringing and prior experience may also impact preferences. For example, a dog that was fed cat food as a puppy may continue to prefer it into adulthood. Additionally, inactive or older dogs may be more inclined toward the higher calories in cat food. On the other hand, high-energy dogs with a playful temperament often do well sticking with dog food. Knowing your individual dog’s personality and needs is key when monitoring their interest in cat food.

Health Concerns

There are several potential health risks for dogs who regularly eat cat food that pet owners should be aware of. According to https://zypi.info/can-dog-eat-cat-food/, one of the biggest concerns is pancreatitis, which is an inflammatory condition in the pancreas. Cat food tends to be much higher in fat than dog food, and high amounts of fat can trigger pancreatitis in dogs. Some of the symptoms of pancreatitis include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and lethargy.

Another issue with dogs eating cat food long-term is nutritional deficiencies. Cat and dog foods are formulated to meet the specific nutritional needs of each species. Cat food does not have the right balance of protein, fat, carbs, vitamins and minerals that dogs require. Deficiencies in certain nutrients can cause health problems over time.

Additionally, cat food poses a risk due to higher protein and phosphorous levels. Too much protein and phosphorus in a dog’s diet can put strain on their kidneys and potentially lead to kidney disease. It’s important to feed dogs a diet tailored to their nutritional requirements to avoid these issues.


There are some constructive ways to handle a dog’s desire for cat food:

  • Feed your dog more frequently with smaller meals, as cats are fed smaller amounts more often (Purina). This can help satisfy your dog’s appetite.
  • Try adding warm water, broth, or gravy to your dog’s kibble to increase palatability (AKC). This can make it more enticing.
  • Exercise your dog regularly to curb boredom eating. Try interactive toys and games (DogFoodAdvisor). Mental stimulation is important.
  • Keep cat food out of reach, such as in a closed pantry. Use puzzle feeders for cats to slow access (Purina). Make it challenging to get.
  • Talk to your vet about your dog’s diet. They may suggest diet changes or supplements if needed (AKC). Get professional advice.

With patience and by making dog food more appealing, you can likely redirect your dog’s interest away from cat food. Ensure their nutritional needs are met through proper dog food. Discourage cat food access without scolding. Meeting exercise needs is also key. If issues persist, consult your veterinarian.


In this article, we explored several reasons why dogs seem to love cat food so much, despite it not being formulated specifically for their nutritional needs. We looked at the differences in ingredients, flavors, textures, and psychological appeal that make cat food enticing to our canine companions. While an occasional nibble likely won’t harm them, it’s best to stick to feeding our dogs quality dog food intended for their digestive systems and overall health. We also covered some concerns around dogs overeating cat food and signs of illness to look out for. Though it may remain a mystery exactly why your dog goes crazy for the cat’s dinner, hopefully this article gave you some helpful insights. The takeaway is that while the temptation is understandable, a balanced diet made for dogs is the way to go in caring for your beloved pet.

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