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There are few things as ‘cute’ as catching dogs and cats stealing a bite from each other’s bowl.
Too bad, the novelty quickly wears off if it happens far too often.
You end up wondering why dogs like cat food, if there are any side effects to cats eating dog food, or just about any permanent solution that will stop dogs and cats from eating each other’s food.
These are all important points we’re going to address in this article.
We are going to start by looking at possible explanations as to why cats and dogs eat each other’s food.
Possible reasons cats and dogs eat each other’s food.
Cats usually get all the credit for being curious creatures, but dogs are curious too – and intelligent.
So, two curious animals in the same household, why won’t they try to know what’s inside the other pet’s bowl?
“…maybe it tastes better than mine?”
A pet watching another gobble down its food starts to think that maybe there’s a better meal in the other bowl. As soon as curiosity gets the best of them, they’ll definitely taste the meal in another’s bowl.
And, as soon as they confirm their suspicion, it might become a big problem. That’s because you now need to monitor them while they’re eating and that does not leave you with enough free time.
2. Payback time.
We never give animals credit for keeping malice. Unfortunately, they do!
If a dog did something ‘bad’ such as drinking from a cat’s favorite water fountain or a cat played with any of a dog’s indestructible toys, the offended party might eat the offender’s meal as punishment for their ‘crime.’
Sorry to burst your bubble if you thought only humans keep malice. However, I must warn you now. You’ll likely get the same treatment if you do something wrong, so best behave.
3. They think it’s rightfully theirs.
Pets, especially cats, tend to assume that the whole world is there for the taking. They think everything was made for them and it is your duty to bring them delicious food and clean water.
For them, there’s nothing unusual about eating food from all the containers in sight because they own everything. You are likely to see this type of behavior more often in pets that are more dominant and selfish.
A cat or dog might simply be eating from the other pet’s bowl to show it ‘who the boss is around here’. If you introduce your cat and dog properly, this behavior may never rear its head.
However, irrespective of the reason behind the behavior you have to discourage it from ever becoming a habit. Here are solid reasons you need to act NOW to stop your dog and cat from eating each other’s meals!
4 solid reasons you should discourage the behavior.
1. Potential for pet conflict.
Some cats and dogs are territorial about their stuff, especially food, sleeping spots, and toys. A fight might break out someday if your cats and dogs keep eating each other’s food.
And, trust me, cat and dog fights are never pretty.
Your pets can become seriously injured in such a clash. Besides the risk of injury, each (near-) conflict can increase stress and anxiety in your pets.
2. Your pet’s health and well-being.
If your dog and cat are eating each other’s food, then neither of them is getting the calories and nutrients they need.
This is because cat and dog food have different compositions that are meant to meet the specific nutritional needs of each species.
Cat food is often richer in nutrients than dog food. Many cat foods contain enough calories in the form of fats and proteins, whereas dog foods contain a significant amount of carbohydrates.
And although a healthy dog is unlikely to fall ill from eating a bowl of cat food or vise versa, repeated consumption will cause health issues.
3. Not a good habit.
Many dogs and cats begin to prefer the other pet’s dish to theirs after falling in love with the taste of the meal. This can cause them to reject their food and patiently wait for you to feed the other pet, which is just terrible. I mean, it’s one thing to take a slice from your sibling’s plate, but when you start looking forward to it, that’s bad.
4. A drain on your resources.
Aside from buying pet food more often than you should, imagine how mentally draining it is to deal with a cat that is constantly meowing in your ear because the dog ate her food. Or having to monitor your dog and cat to prevent them from eating each other’s food.
That’s pretty stressful if you ask me!
However, knowing the possible reasons why dogs and cats eat each other’s food and why the behavior should not be tolerated isn’t enough. How can we stop the behavior permanently?
Stop dogs and cats from eating each other’s food – permanently.
1. Start by making meal bowls less confusing.
Maybe all your pets see is a plate full of kibbles. They have no idea if that’s the bowl they’re supposed to eat from or if the bowl is off-limit. So help them out by making the food bowl distinguishable. Choose bowls that have different colors, sizes, depth, and if there are placemats beneath your pets’ food bowl, ensure they are also different.
2. Avoid free-feeding.
Most people are guilty of leaving pet food out all day, especially those dealing with poor appetite in a cat. This method is known as ‘free-feeding’, meaning that the pet can come and eat whenever they feel like.
The problem with free-feeding is that it encourages dogs and cats to eat each other’s meals. Your pets always think that the other bowl or the bowl of unfinished food contains something delicious and exciting. And, they’ll have a bite, or two, maybe three.
This is not right because the amount of food a pet gets is determined by age, health, and weight. That explains why food labels, vets, and pet dieticians try to help you make the best dietary decision for your pets.
Having bowls of food out all day creates bad eating behavior in your pets. Plus, you’ll have no idea how much your cat and dog are eating.
Follow the description on the food label to know the correct portion for your cat and dog. Split this amount into 2 or 3 parts. This way you’ll know that your pets are not walking around with empty stomachs.
3. Separate them during mealtime.
The easiest solution that can stop dogs and cats from eating each other’s food is to separate them during mealtime. This is so simple to do and it feels weird to call it a “solution”.
All you have to do is find a spot where your cat can comfortably eat and another one for your dog. This can be separate rooms, but feel free to experiment with something that will restrict their movement without making them feel isolated. Something like an ex-pen for your dog or a baby gate to keep them apart.
You can also try feeding your cat before the dog.
This is the cheapest and simplest method to get a cat and dog out of each other’s food bowl. However, simply keeping them apart during mealtime won’t work if you do not take the next two steps.
4. Monitor meals.
You need to monitor your pets at mealtime. Especially if your house doesn’t have enough real estate to keep the dog and cat in different rooms.
This can be inconvenient or outright impossible to do for pet owners that work from home or are away all day. A pet monitoring system can help you do just that.
Monitoring your cat and dog when either of them gets into the other’s meal bowl will offer you insights on what to do.
5. Pick Up Food Bowls.
This is related to point #2 above (“avoid free-feeding”). Pick up food bowls immediately after your pets finish eating and walk away from the food bowl. If there’s any leftover, make sure to put it where the dog won’t reach it and vice versa.
Remember, this only applies to food bowls and not drinking water. Access to fresh water is important, especially for keeping pets hydrated and cool during the summer and also to prevent kidney disease in cats.
If your cat’s water consumption is uncomfortably low, then you should consider getting her a quiet cat water fountain. It’ll help increase her hydration level and prevent UTIs.
Your pets’ reactions to these changes won’t be a happy one, especially if they snacked on their meal whenever they wanted. Stick with it and soon enough they’ll adjust to the new schedule.
They’ll realize that food in the bowl has to be eaten and if they don’t, it will be taken away.
6. Consider automatic pet doors.
As an extension of point #3 above (“separate them during mealtime”), you should consider an automatic pet door for your cat (and dog) to keep them out of each other’s food.
Using an automatic pet door with a microchip reader, you can restrict your dog’s access to where the cat food is and vice versa.
The benefit of this solution is that your dog and cat will eat in peace – in a room only they can access. With this solution, you can leave the bowl in the room and free-feed your pet without having to monitor them.
However, you must ensure that there’s enough water for both of them – inside and outside their private eating spot.
Though it is annoying and a pain in the rear to deal with cats and dogs that enjoy the taste of each other’s food, it is something that needs to be done nonetheless.
By controlling who eats what and when, not only are you certain of who is eating and how much they’re eating. But, you are also protecting them from a myriad of health issues months or years from now.
One way you can keep everyone happy and healthy is by making them eat all the veggies in their plate.