How to Keep Dog Out of Cat Food

How to Keep Dog Out of Cat Food

Some dogs gobble up anything they sniff, hungrily eyeing every bite. Yet, there are pups that know when to say no and don’t drool over every tasty bit. Ever noticed how those keen munchers often aim for your cat’s dinner plate? We’re zooming in on that scenario right now. How can we stop a dog from diving into the cat’s meal? And what’s the deal if they sneak a bite before you catch them? All those queries and juicy details are on the menu today.

Cat Food, Really?

How to Keep Dog Out of Cat Food
Image by sweetlouise from Pixabay

You’re standing there looking at the cat food and wondering to yourself if it really is that irresistible. Well, to your dog, most things are. However, there is a scientific explanation as to why your dog is eating your cat’s food. Dogs have heightened senses compared to humans, and they can actually sniff out the higher protein and fat percentages in cat foods. So, it’s not really the taste they’re going after, but the more delicious composition in their opinion.

For pet parents of picky eaters, you’ll know what can get your pooch to eat is variety. What sounds better to you, a bowl of dry dog kibble that you have every day, or a new bowl of more delectable novelty food? It’s no surprise that your dog goes after what he sees as a bowl of treats – your cat’s food.

Can a Dog Eat Cat Food?

The big question today is how to stop your dog from eating your cat’s food, but it’s hard to monitor your pets every minute of the day. There is a great chance that your dog will get into your cat’s dinner at least a few times during the course of their lifetime. The main concern for this is whether or not your dog can eat cat food and what happens when he does.

It’s a funny sight to see your dog sneaking in a few bites before he’s discovered because we bet he knows it’s not okay to do, especially if you have scolded him a few times. But all jokes aside, what happens if he eats it? Cats don’t require as many veggies in their diet as a dog does, which explains the higher protein and fat content in their food.

Can a Dog Eat Cat Food?

A dog’s digestive system isn’t made to break down high levels of fat for long periods, which is a reason why prolonged ingesting of cat food will give your dog an upset stomach. As some dog parents would know, higher fat and protein content is generally only seen in puppy food. If you feed your grown dog puppy food for the rest of his life, he will be prone to weight gain. The same concept applies to a dog who eats cat food.

Aside from the negative effects eating cat food can do to your dog, it will also cause your cat to go hungry most of the time.

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How Can I Stop My Dog from Eating Cat Food?

How Can I Stop My Dog from Eating Cat Food?
Image from Yan Laurichesse by Unsplash

Now we are going to address the ultimate question. How do we stop a dog from eating cat food? For the lucky few owners, scolding your dog a few times could be enough. For the majority of pet parents, this will not be the case. For most dog owners, we will need to take matters into our own hands to make sure our cats eat. So how do we do that?

Keep it out of reach

The easiest method is to, of course, keep the bag of cat food or your cat’s bowl out of reach. This could mean hiding it, although we do feel that isn’t the best way because your dog can easily sniff it out. Another method is to keep it out of reach. If the cat feeding station is placed on the ground near your dog’s, then move it to a higher place.

Cats are much more limber than dogs and agile as well. Cats can scale to high places in a single swift movement, while dogs lack nimbleness. Our suggestion is to place your cat’s food or pet feeder somewhere out of reach.

Remember that larger dogs have a ton of height if they stand up, which is why simply placing your cat’s pet feeder on the counter won’t be enough. Think bigger and think higher, like placing the bowl on top of the fridge.

Another way to keep your cat’s food out of reach is by enclosing the cat feeding station with a baby gate or using a pet pen. Come feeding time, break out the baby gate and close your cat off or opt to feed your cat in a pen. You can consider making the gate or pen a permanent fixture if there is an access door large enough for only your cat.

Unfortunately, owners will small dogs will have a hard time giving access to the cat but keeping your dog out because they are relatively the same size. This method would work better if your dog is significantly larger than your feline.

Alter the feeding time

If keeping your dog from eating cat food with restrictive methods isn’t working, then you can consider adjusting the feeding time. If you currently adopt the free-feeding method, try to carve out set times for each meal. You can hardly blame your dog for wanting some of the cat food if it’s paraded in front of him.

Nip grazing in the bud and only give access to cat food or dog food at certain times. If your pets don’t finish their meals within 15 or 20 minutes, take the bowl away. By doing this, you won’t have cat food lying around inviting your dog to break the rules.

How Can I Stop My Dog from Eating Cat Food?

Another way is to feed your pets together. This could sound counter-intuitive since our goal is to keep the dog away from cat food and not place it within reach. What may happen if you feed your dog and cat at the same time is your canine will be so engrossed in his own food he won’t pay any attention to your cat’s food. Although, we will say that in some cases the dog will completely forget about his own food and make a beeline for your cats bowl, which brings us to our next point.

Create a distraction

You can “eliminate” the problem by keeping your dog away while your cat eats through distraction. For example, try feeding your dog out of a Kong toy to keep him occupied while your cat eats. Of course, you can also whisk your dog out of the house and take him on walks to stop your dog from eating your cat’s meal.

Training, Enticing and Rewarding

Another age-old tried and true method to keep your dog out of your cat’s food is to train him. But first, we would suggest getting to know your dog and know what training method works. Some dogs respond well to treats while others want a belly rub. Whatever it is your dog prefers, keep plenty of it at the ready. Whenever he leaves your cat’s bowl alone, you respond by encouraging him with pets and rewarding him with treats.

Our end goal is to make it more worth your dog’s while to leave your cat’s food alone because dog treats will usually taste better than cat food.

Use special cat bowls

There are protective feeders on the market just to help owners get a hold of the negative behavior and regain command during mealtimes. Instead of a cat food bowl, these cat feeders are specially designed to keep other pets out of your cat’s food. The best part about these feeders is they work with dry or wet food. Most of these cat feeders have a hole in which your cat can fit his head in to eat.

As you can imagine, this method will only work if your dog is significantly larger than your cat. Otherwise, it’s just as easy for your dog to get into and he may even think it’s fun.

Automatic feeders to the rescue

Another type of cat feeder that can help is the automatic kind. The contraption will only dispense food when it’s time to eat and responds to your cat’s microchip or special collar. The microchip scanning type of feeder is better than the automatic timed feeders because the food won’t be laying out without your cat’s presence.

Make it interesting

Brown dog licking treats on a jar that acts as automatic feeder
Image by Tamas Pap from Unsplash

If all else fails, there is one more method we can recommend, but we would suggest it as a last resort since it means conceding to your dog on some level. What you can do is make his food seem infinitely better than your cat’s food. How do we do this? By adding toppers and switching things up!

Yes, it sounds like you’re “buying” your dog’s good behavior, but if all else fails what more can you do? Try fresh food toppers, frozen food toppers, and mixers to keep things interesting for your dog. Although this will cost more money and could reinforce picky eating in some, we can almost guarantee your cat’s food will be the last thing on his mind if he is presented with a buffet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will cat food hurt a dog?

It won’t hurt a dog in the short term, but prolonged eating of cat food can give a dog an upset stomach and probably lead to obesity as well. The higher fat and protein content in cat food makes it an unideal candidate for mealtimes. Dogs that have naturally sensitive tummies will not do well on a diet of cat food. However, if your dog manages to sneak a bite here and there, there shouldn’t be detrimental effects.

How do I train my dog to ignore my cat?

Training your dog to ignore your cat is much like training him to do other things. The best way would be to use a reward system. Whenever he gives your cat attention, give him a cue word such as “no” or use a clicker for sound association and reward him with a treat. We would suggest creating an environment where dogs and cats can live in harmony, but if one is too aggressive with the other, this method is the best way for training.

Why will my dog only eat cat food?

A dog will only eat cat food for a few reasons. One of the biggest ones is the cat food is something new and novel to your dog. The smell of a higher protein and carb content in the cat food will also make it seem more delicious to your dog. If your dog will only eat the cat food, then try to examine to see if there is something wrong with your dog’s kibble. Sometimes the refusal to eat is because there is something wrong with the food or it could be health issues.


We all like a new treat here and there, such as a new ice cream flavor or new fatty yet flavorful appetizers at your favorite restaurant. The same concept goes for your dog, except his treat is cat food. Cat food isn’t toxic or hazardous to dogs in small amounts, but prolonged feeding of the cat food can cause obesity and upset tummy issues. If you notice your dog has an irresistible need to consume your cat’s food, then you have to take matters into your own hands and try to curb that behavior.

Did You Know?

If you are in a pinch or if it is an emergency, it’s okay to feed your dog cat food for the day. However, we would not recommend exceeding that for more than a few meals/

Expert Tip

The best way to curb unwanted behavior is to figure out what causes it. It’s the same logic for dogs that eat cat food. Find out why cat kibble seems so yummy to your dog and try to help the problem from there.

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