How often you can hear absolutely opposite opinion on this matter! Some pet owners claim that their cats regularly eat dog food without affecting their health or behaviour. A similar situation – dog breeders especially “enrich” the diet of dogs with more expensive cat food, considering it to be more useful. However, the verdict of veterinarians in this matter is unambiguous – the fundamentals of cat and dog nutrition are fundamentally different. This is what will be discussed today.
All living microorganisms in zoology are classified according to the type of nutrition. This systematization helps to understand what kind of food they need in order to receive the necessary vital energy. According to her, both cats and dogs belong to the order of carnivores, or carnivores. It would seem that this solves everything, but not everything is so simple.
The order of carnivores, according to the same classification, is divided into two suborders and several large families. So, representatives of felines, to which cats belong, in nature feed exclusively on meat, from which they receive all the substances necessary for life. Such a diet is due to the structure and functionality of the digestive system – the necessary enzymes are not produced, and the intestines are relatively short.
In addition, their dental formula is not adapted to the consumption of plant foods – the total number of teeth is small, the canines are more developed. Cats are 100% carnivores, which is why they are called obligate predators.
In turn, many members of the canine family belong to the species of omnivorous predators. Their diet can be the food of both animal and plant origin. The fact is that in the process of evolution, they have developed teeth that allow them to both tear (cut) and chew food. They seem to be carnivores, but not quite.
As for the dogs, in particular, such a feature simply could not help but develop in them after they have lived next to people for many thousands of years. Due to the fact that for centuries the diet of dogs consisted of not only protein but also carbohydrate food, their digestive system was “rebuilt”, the need for some substances decreased. Cats, on the other hand, were domesticated much later and so could not get rid of predatory tendencies in nutrition and behaviour.
Food for dogs and cats – what is the difference
Pet food manufacturers are familiar with these nuances. Their mission is to create products that meet the principles of healthy eating for cats and dogs. The main differences in the composition of feed can be formulated in three points:
- Animal protein. It is the main energy resource and building material for body cells. In a full-fledged diet of a cat, it is also the only source of amino acids that this animal cannot synthesize on its own (including taurine, arginine and others). Dog food typically contains 10-20% less animal protein than cat food.
- Animal fats. Another storehouse of energy, and for cats, it is also the only opportunity to get arachidonic and other unsaturated acids, as well as fat-soluble vitamins A and E.
- Herbal ingredients. They are used by manufacturers to “dilute” dog food, given their physiological ability to digest vegetable protein and fibre. However, small amounts of whole grains and vegetables are also needed for cats. They do not constitute any nutritional value, but they help to remove lumps of undigested food from the intestines.
What happens if…
Based on the above, simple conclusions can be drawn – cats and dogs should choose only specialized food, taking into account their age, conditions of detention and health status. Failure to comply with this principle can lead to unpleasant consequences. An analogy can be drawn here with different ethnic groups of people inhabiting our planet.
It is known that the body of northern peoples (for example, the Eskimos or Aleuts) has long adapted to the lack of carbohydrates. They mainly eat fatty venison and wild game meat. Feed them hearty porridge or bread – and intestinal obstruction cannot be avoided. It is quite another matter – the peoples of the Indian subcontinent, whose main menu is rice and vegetables. A sharp change in diet towards a high content of animal proteins and fats for them will mean at least acute diarrhoea. However, not everything is so critical with cats and dogs.
If you feed a healthy adult pet with the “wrong” product for a couple of days, big trouble will not happen. The maximum that can be expected is a slight intestinal dysfunction, which usually goes away with a return to the usual menu.
Prolonged inappropriate feeding is a big problem
But the long-term transfer of cats to the diet of dogs and vice versa is already dangerous. First of all, the fact that the consequences appear after months and even years. Here is not a complete list of ailments that cats can get sick if they are fed with non-specialized food for a long time:
- heart and eye diseases – due to a lack of taurine;
- ammonia poisoning – due to arginine deficiency (the amino acid neutralizes this protein breakdown product);
- problems with the health of the skin, reproductive function – due to a deficiency of arachidonic acid and fat-soluble vitamins.
But what about dogs, who often like more fatty cat food? If you do not wean them from this “delicacy”, they will have health problems:
- renal or liver failure, chronic intestinal dysfunction, eye diseases, pancreatitis – due to excess protein (they simply do not have enough enzyme activity to process it);
- obesity (hence – heart disease) – due to the high-calorie content.
What needs to be done
If cats and dogs living in the same house eat someone else’s food through no fault of yours, it is better to wean them from this bad habit. This can be done in several ways:
- offer the snatching cat a different brand of food to increase her interest in her own bowl;
- feed the animals separately (preferably in different rooms), at the same time;
- remove bowls immediately after the animals eat;
- put the cat food higher or in a special shelter house – where the dog cannot get it.
The main thing, remember, is that the responsibility for the health of pets rests entirely with their owners. Don’t let them down!