Ever caught your dog greedily munching on your cat’s food? You’re not alone in this as a pet parent! Managing the diverse feeding logistics of cats and dogs under one roof can indeed be confusing.
But keeping cat food away from dogs really boils down to understanding and influencing inherent behaviors and nutritional needs of your pets, utilizing physical barriers, or using specialized cat feeding stations.
So in this comprehensive guide, we detail the above strategies on how to keep dogs out of the cat food, highlight practices to avoid, and go into the curious reasons behind your dog’s attraction to the cat food bowl. You’ll also gain insight into why cat food isn’t suitable for your canine companion.
Ways to Keep Dogs Out of Cat Food
Below are practical, effective strategies to help keep dogs away from cat food.
1. Have Recognizable Bowls
Start with something simple: make your pets’ food bowls distinguishable. Use different colors or patterns to help your dog understand which bowl is theirs. Consistency is key. Stick to the same design to avoid confusion.
2. Strict and Staggered Mealtimes
Feeding your pets at set times each day can go a long way. Strict mealtimes ensure your pets knows that there are only certain windows to eat, and they should be more focused on eating their food to worry about others.
This also ensure there is no free-fed cat food sitting around waiting to be devoured.
Staggering mealtimes can also work! Feed your cat first and your dog afterward, or vice versa. Be sure to feed them in different locations or have your dog trained to eat their food and only their food.
3. Eat At the Same Time
We mentioned this in #2. Keep cat food away from dogs is about minimizing opportunities for it to happen. So engineer your pets’ hunger so they eat together.
This means they have separate meals at the same time. It’s a clever way to divert your dog’s attention from the cat’s food as they would be busy with their own meal.
4. Train Your Dog
Training your dog to obey the “No” or Leave it” command is very helpful and may be all it takes. When they approach the cat’s food, a firm command should make them back off. Consistent training with positive reinforcement like treats and praise is effective.
However, note that this method only works if you are physically present.
5. Using Vertical Spaces or an Elevated Cat Feeder
Take advantage of vertical spaces as cats are agile climbers. Put your cat’s food bowl on elevated places, like the top of clean table or even on top of the refrigerator, where dogs cannot reach. Some people install platforms into their walls and place cat food there.
I prefer a less permanent route and recommend the clever K&H Pet Products EZ Mount Up and Away Kitty Diner. It’s a simple, super strong suction cup plus frame that holds a hygienic stainless bowl. Just secure it to a window and you have your dining table!
6. Feed in Different Rooms
Another easy way to keep dogs away from cat food is to simply feed your pets in different rooms.
But be aware that cats are creatures of habit and a sudden change in their food location can cause distress and confusion. I recommend keeping their old fooding location, and simply adding another bowl at new location.
As long as the location you pick is quiet and calm, kitty will find it eventually and choose to eat there instead of where a greedy dog is eating her food It may take a couple of days, but you can encourage and show her the new place and let her investigate.
7. Physical Barriers or Dog Latch
Install a baby gate or pet barrier in your house among the rooms. A physical barrier like this may be the best way to keep a puppy out of cat food, because puppies fit anywhere a cat may.
This can section off an area for your cat, ensuring they can eat in peace. A dog latch works like any other latch, and only allows a door to be open a slight amount to restrict access to off-limits areas.
8. Cat Doors (Traditional or Microchip)
The next option is to install a cat door in an existing door in your home. These have a small entrance allowing your cat to access areas your dog’s larger body cannot.
A more technologically advanced solution is a microchip cat flap that only opens for Fluffy and no one else! A microchip cat door or flap is the one of the best solutions to keep small dogs out of a cat’s room, because they can easily get through a normal cat door.
9. Microchip Cat Feeders
You can try automatic microchip cat feeders that are programmed to only open for your cat with a microchip or RFID collar. The best ones work with wet or dry food, and is airtight to keep food fresh.
10. Puzzle Feeders
Cat puzzle feeders also offer a solution. They engage your cats mind and stimulates their prey-seeking drive in the form of little games with their paws or tongue, with the reward being food. These puzzles naturally keeps most dogs out of food.
11. Cat Feeding Station or Dog Proof Cat Feeder
Consider a specialized cat feeding station or protective dog proof cat feeders. These products are designed to provide a safe and comfortable dining space for your cat, often in the form of a cat food enclosure they can go into, or bowls with hoods only cats can stick their heads into to eat.
Clean and unused litter box enclosures can also be used for exactly this! The small entrances and roomy interior are perfect as a hideaway to eat away from dogs.
One caveat is that they may not be 100% effective to keep small dogs out of cat food, as they have size on their side.
12. Enrichment for Dogs
Lastly, enrichment activities for your dog can help. They just might be bored, especially puppies! Engage them in games or provide chew toys before or during your cats feeding time. This can distract them, keeping the puppy away from cat food.
More play time also expends energy and can tire a dog out so they’re not bouncing off the walls and ready to pounce on any opportunities for novelty.
What Not To Do When Keeping Dogs Away From Cat Food
Perhaps one of the most important points to note is to never use irritants or deterrents like chili pepper or potent odors to keep your dog away from the cat’s food. These substances can cause discomfort, distress, and even physical harm to your pets.
Dogs have a sensitive sense of smell, and using strong odors can be overwhelming and stressful for them. Chili pepper and other irritants can lead to gastrointestinal issues if ingested, and respiratory discomfort or allergic reactions if inhaled.
They can also cause eye irritation if accidentally rubbed into the eyes.
Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?
As a cat parent, you might have wondered if it’s okay for your dog to nibble on your cat’s food. After all, they seem to find it quite appetizing! The short answer is yes they can. In small amounts, it isn’t harmful, but they can but definitely should not make a regular thing out of it.
Why Are Dogs So Attracted to Cat Food?
What exactly is it that draws dogs to cat food like, well, dogs to cat food? Let’s look at possible reasons.
Higher Protein and Fat Content
Dogs, like humans, have a natural inclination towards high calorie foods. Cat food, being rich in proteins and fats, is naturally more appealing to dogs than their own food. These high levels of fats and proteins make cat food incredibly tasty for dogs, and that’s likely why they can’t seem to resist it.
For dogs, anything new or different can be intriguing, and this includes your cat’s food. If your dog or puppy has been eating the same food every day, the smell, texture, and taste of the cat’s food can be an enticing change. It’s the novelty factor that piques their interest.
Your dog’s hunting instincts might also be at play. In the wild, canines go for easy, available meals. If your dog sees the cat eating, it might trigger their predatory instincts, and they may think of the cat’s food as a ‘prey’ to be captured.
Why Cat Food is Bad for Dogs
Just like how you should not feed dog food even to stray cats, cat food can be bad for dog as well. Here’s why.
High Protein and Fat Content
Cat food, designed for obligate carnivores, is rich in proteins and fats. While dogs do need these nutrients, the levels present in cat food can be excessive for a dog’s diet.
Regular intake of cat food could cause your dog to become overweight or obese. Additionally, high amounts of protein can put extra strain on a dog’s kidneys and liver.
Cats need certain nutrients that dogs don’t require in the same quantities, such as taurine, vitamin A, and arachidonic acid. Cat food is supplemented with these nutrients.
If dogs consistently consume cat food, they can ingest these nutrients in quantities that are too high for their systems, potentially leading to health issues.
Feeding your dog cat food can lead to an imbalanced diet. Dog food is specifically formulated to provide a balanced mix of nutrients necessary for a dog’s health, including proteins, carbohydrates, and fibers.
Replacing this balanced diet with cat food can lead to nutrient deficiencies or excesses.
Problems Caused By Eating Cat Food
Weight Gain and Obesity
The high protein and fat content in cat food can lead to excess calorie intake in dogs. This can cause weight gain and, over time, obesity. Obesity in dogs can result in numerous health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and joint issues.
Kidney and Liver Strain
Cats require a diet high in protein, so cat food tends to be protein-dense. Dogs, however, don’t need as much protein in their diet.
Overconsumption of protein can put extra strain on your dog’s kidneys and liver as these organs work to metabolize the excess protein and eliminate waste.
Consistent consumption of cat food can lead to an imbalance in your dog’s diet. Dogs require a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fibers that dog food is specifically formulated to provide.
Cat food does not offer this balanced nutrition, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies or excesses in dogs.
The high fat content in cat food can upset a dog’s digestive system, leading to issues like diarrhea and vomiting. More seriously, it can also result in pancreatitis, a painful condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed.
Cat food contains higher amounts of certain vitamins (like Vitamin A) that can build up to toxic levels in a dog’s body if consumed regularly.
Many cat foods are softer and can stick to a dog’s teeth, potentially increasing the risk of dental issues like plaque buildup, gum disease, and tooth decay.
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.