With dogs, you’re certain that they’ll eat anything in front of them—miss a cat with that. Cats are super selective. Even if a cat is starving, she still won’t eat just about anything she sees.
Your cat might have taken dog treats before, but is dog treats safe for cats? Cats may seem to enjoy dog treats but their meals aren’t made of the same ingredients; not entirely. But even at that, your cat can have dog treats with no threatening side effects. But a high level of protein is necessary to keep cats healthy and dog food treats don’t always come with enough protein.
That said, you should know the differences between dog and cat treats, the vital nutrients that should be in the dog treats you’re giving your cat, and the stages where it’s important that they only eat cat food.
Questions about cats’ and dogs’ treats are answered in this article. And at the end, there are treat tips for a healthy cat. Can cats have dog treats? They can, but it’s not advisable due to differences in dog and cat treats.
What are the Differences Between Cat and Dog Food?
There are several disparities between the dog and cat food you see in stores, but only a few are differences are significant. Cat treats are often meat-centric, while dog treats include vegetables, grains, fruits, and peanut butter.
Cats have little tolerance for a lot of the ingredients used in dog treats, which is they could easily reject them. Dogs will jump at meat-centric treats. Dogs are omnivorous, cats are not, and taste also plays a key role in the differences.
Cats don’t taste like dogs. Unlike dogs, your feline buddy cannot sense sweetness. Also, cats’ number of taste receptors is very different from dogs’ taste receptors. Cats have about 470 taste buds, while doggies have 1700.
Cat meals are particularly made to be highly palatable to entice their selective taste and make them eat. Cats often ignore dog treats because they are unappetizing to them. But dogs easily go for cat food because they are even more delicious than theirs’—they are also richer in protein.
Cats are stricter carnivorous by nature, so they need treats containing much higher protein than dog food does. Occasional types and brands of dog food contain higher protein levels, but they generally don’t reach the level of protein necessary to keep cats healthy.
Most dog foods contain an “As-Fed” protein level between 18% to 26%. But you should aim for nothing less than an “As-Fed” protein level of 30% – 34%, as well as an optional supplement of canned cat food with protein between 40% to 50%.
Arachidonic acid is in the category of fatty acid that cats cannot create either; they must ingest it. Your feline buddy has to get this acid from their meals or it becomes a problem for them with time.
Cats deprived of arachidonic acid for a long time will suffer from an illness like occasionally heightened skin problems, abnormal kidney/liver values. Doggies can create their own arachidonic acid, so it is rarely added to their foods.
Vitamin A is another key dietary that our feline companions cannot synthesize on their own and will have to ingest through their diet. Although dog treats often include vitamin A, they don’t contain enough levels for a healthy cat.
Sadly, a cat lacking in vitamin A will experience muscle weakness and deterioration, possible night blindness, and poor-quality coats.
It’s crucial for a cat’s meal to contain niacin since cats’ bodies cannot create their own. Animal tissue is the most common source of niacin used in cat meals, and plants have very low levels of niacin.
That explains why cat foods are meat-centric. Foods containing higher levels of plant tissue and lower levels of animal tissue may not provide cats with the essential levels of niacin their body needs.
Cats, just like us, are among a handful of mammals that lack the ability to make taurine. So, they have to get this vital element from their meals. Dogs can make their own taurine, so it’s not an essential element in their meals. That’s one of the major reasons why feeding your cat dog treats is risky.
If your cat lacks taurine in her meals, it can lead to loss of vision, weakened heart, and digestion problems. While all commercially distributed cat food contains taurine, it’s seldom included in dog treats.
That said, you also have to be cautious of your cat’s life stage before offering her dog treats. Some stages are more tolerant than others, while some are critical to have them eating anything but their food and treats.
What are Cat Life Stages and Why are they Important?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is responsible for regulating and closely monitoring the pet food industry in the country.
Cat treats and foods that are in line with the AAFCO accepted nutritional levels will come with a label with the text “… formulated to meet the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profile for… (life stage).”
Cat life stages are grouped into three in the pet industry, and they include:
- All-life stages
Cats do not only have specific overall vitamin, protein, and nutritional needs, but the requirements vary throughout their three life stages too.
Kittens, being in their growth and playful stage, need more energy sources and nutrients, while the older cats need more protein to maintain their muscles as they advance in age.
So, since dog treats have lower levels of proteins as well as other nutrients, they cannot safely sustain cats in any of their life stages for a long time. But it is less risky to feed them dog treats at their maintenance stage (older stage) than it is at their growth stage (when they are kittens).
Can Cats Eat Bones?
Dogs aren’t the only animals who fancy a tasty-looking bone. Cats are super selective carnivores but will devour their prey, including their bones. But a spoilt cat will most likely ignore a bone.
Eating bones can be great for your cat’s teeth. Also, bines are rich in calcium, so it’ll help avoid calcium deficiency in your cat. Bone marrow also contains a ton of iron as well as other minerals that are great for a healthy cat.
However, the problem is in feeding your cat cooked bones which can easily splinter and lead to digestive problems. That’s the reason why raw bones are best as long as they are from fresh meat to prevent bacteria contamination. Another issue is that bones for dogs often come with preservatives.
Dog bone-shaped treats can also lead to allergens for felines including cheese-flavored dog treats and peanut butter-laden dog bones.
Can Cats Eat Beef Jerky?
Since we know that cats are more carnivorous than dogs, then they should be able to eat beef jerky – right? Chicken or beef jerky are meat-centric, but also laden with preservatives and salt. Cats don’t have the same tolerance for salt and preservatives as dogs.
Although, it may not hurt to allow your cat to have a treat of the beef jerky dogs love so much. But it’s not safe to turn it into a habit for your cat pet. It’s also not safe for dogs to take too many jerkies—it doesn’t make a healthy pup.
But since cats can still have some dog treats occasionally, can they eventually get used to it? Can you replace their treats with dog treats? After all, dog treats are way cheaper.
Can You Replace Cat Treats with Dog Treats?
If you give your cat treats a couple of times a week, giving her dog treats once in a while won’t hurt her. Yes, this can save you some money on cat treats over time while still being able to treat your pet like you usually do.
Even feeding your cat dog treats once a day shouldn’t lead to any health problems for your feline friend. However, remember to check with your vet before offering your cat dog meals daily.
Also, keep in mind that there are some particular minerals and vitamins that cats’ bodies require more than dogs’ bodies, which includes taurine. Dog treats and food rarely contain as much taurine and other essential minerals as cat treats and food do.
So, making dog treats a daily dose of your cat’s diet, without your vet’s recommendation, could potentially lead to health deficiencies. If you often give your cat treats multiple times a day, then it should be taken as part of your cat’s overall diet. Therefore, you have to stick with cat treats unless your vet approves the dog treats you want to give your cat.
What Types of Dog Treats Can You Feed Your Cat?
There is a wide range of dog treats available out there. So, if you’ve been wondering which ones are okay for your cat; the first thing to keep in mind is that semi-moist dog treats and foods often come with propylene glycol. If your feline pet takes too much of this ingredient for a long time, it could lead to some health issues that you’ll have to handle in the future.
However, smaller dry crunchy dog foods and treats are an excellent choice because they can easily scrape plaque off cats’ teeth. They are made in a variety of flavors that both cats and dogs love, and they are safe for cats.
They are also very easy to store, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad in after some time. all you need to do is put them in a resealable plastic container after opening the packaging.
Treat Tips for a Healthy Cat
1. Moderation is key
Like humans, cats can quickly develop a taste for treats, and they can also decide to ignore their regular food in favor of treats they love. That is why you shouldn’t offer your cat treats too often. Susan G. Wynn, DVM, CVA, a veterinary nutritionist in Georgia, suggests that two or three times a week is okay for cat treats.
2. Slow down with human food
Foods and treats made for cats specifically contain vitamins, amino acids, and minerals as they are required for a healthy cat. So, you should rarely offer your cat human food in her diet. But to mix things up occasionally, you can try small bits of cooked tuna or cheese, fish, chicken, or liver. You can as well offer your cat a tablespoon of milk once in a while. But for cats that are intolerant to lactose, it could lead to diarrhea, Wynn says.
3. Avoid toxic foods and treats
Treats that contain raisins, onions, grapes, alcohol, tea, salt are toxic to cats. While we may love them, they can be super toxic to our feline buddies. If you’re not certain that a cat treat is safe, consult your vet before offering it to your cat.
4. Stop begging
If you want to give your kitty a treat, try not to do so at the dinner table or at the kitty’s insistence. Avoid rewarding begging. If not, it becomes a normal behavior that won’t stop.
5. Overweight cats need care
Cat treats add more calories to your cat’s regular diet. But simply shutting out treats isn’t going to help an overweight cat. It is best to have your kitty evaluated by a vet, to develop a safe diet plan for your cat to lose weight slowly. If your cat is overweight and you’re aiming for rapid weight loss, it could result in hepatic lipidosis, a severe liver disease.
High-quality cat treats remain the best option for a happy, confident, and healthy kitty.
Even though some dog treats, like the crunchy ones, are especially safe for our cats, they are not made for cats. Cat food is more expensive than dog treats for a reason – they contain more ingredients and nutrients than dog treats.
As mentioned in this article, your cat needs specific nutrients to lead a healthy life, dog treats aren’t the best for them.