Can Cats Eat Dog Treats?

If you have feline and canine companions in your home and you’ve  ever caught your cat nibbling on your dog’s treats, you might wonder if it’s safe for them to do so. In this blog, we’ll explore whether cats can safely eat dog treats and what you should be cautious about. If you have concerns or need advice tailored to your pet, don’t hesitate to reach out to Veterinary Medical Center of St. Lucie County in Port St. Lucie, FL at (772) 337-8570! Our team is glad to answer any questions you have and put your mind at ease. 

Hand holding jerky snack for golden retriever dog, british shorthair cat next to

What’s Actually in Dog Treats?

Dog treats are formulated specifically for the nutritional needs of dogs, not cats. The primary ingredients might include meats, grains, and additives that appeal to a dog’s palate and dietary requirements. While these ingredients aren’t inherently harmful to cats, dog treats lack certain nutrients that are essential for a cat’s health.

Key Nutritional Differences Between Dog and Cat Treats

Cats have very specific dietary requirements that differ significantly from dogs. As obligate carnivores, cats need a high-protein diet that is rich in animal-based sources. Here are some essential nutrients that cats require and are typically absent or present in insufficient amounts in dog treats:

  • Taurine: This amino acid is critical for a cat’s heart health, vision, and reproductive functions. Unlike dogs, cats cannot synthesize taurine from other amino acids and must obtain it directly from their diet. Dog treats usually don’t contain enough taurine to meet a cat’s needs.
  • Vitamin A: Cats require a pre-formed version of vitamin A available only in animal tissue. While dogs can convert beta-carotene from plant sources into vitamin A, cats cannot make this conversion efficiently. Regular consumption of dog treats, which are not formulated with this in mind, could lead to a vitamin A deficiency, resulting in skin and coat problems, muscle weakness, and night blindness.
  • Arachidonic Acid: This fatty acid is another nutrient that cats need to obtain directly from their diet. It plays a crucial role in fat utilization and energy production.
  • Protein Levels: Cats need higher levels of protein in their diet compared to dogs. Dog treats, which are often filled with fillers and grains, might not provide the high-quality protein cats need to maintain their muscle mass and support a healthy immune system.
  • Carbohydrates: Cats have a limited ability to digest carbohydrates effectively. Dog treats often contain higher carbohydrate content to appeal to a dog’s dietary needs, which can lead to digestive issues and obesity in cats if fed regularly.

Can Cats Eat Dog Treats Safely?

Occasionally, a small piece of a dog treat might not harm your cat, but it shouldn’t become a regular part of their diet. Dog treats lack the necessary nutrients that cats need and could lead to nutritional imbalances or digestive issues if consumed frequently. Your cat will not likely get sick from eating a dog treat or two, but it’s best not to make it a habit!

Better Treat Alternatives for Cats

Instead of dog treats, consider providing treats made specifically for cats. These are formulated to meet their nutritional needs and are often more appealing to their taste buds. Look for cat treats that list a high-quality protein source, like chicken or fish, as the first ingredient. These treats should also be low in carbohydrates and free from artificial additives.

Encouraging Safe Treat Habits

It’s best to keep dog treats out of reach of your cat and offer them appropriate cat treats instead. Educate everyone in your household about the differences in dietary needs between cats and dogs to prevent feeding mistakes.

Also, be sure to:

  • Store dog and cat treats separately.
  • Clearly label treats if they look similar.
  • Offer cat treats as a reward or dietary supplement, ensuring they do not exceed 10% of your cat’s daily caloric intake.

For more information on feeding your cat safely or if you have any concerns about their diet, please call Veterinary Medical Center of St. Lucie County in Port St. Lucie, FL at (772) 337-8570. Our team is here to help ensure your cat stays happy and healthy with the right nutrition!