Well, can you blame him? Some dogs love cat food because cat food has higher levels of fat and protein than dog food. Cat food is also designed to smell savory...which is just another irresistible draw for dogs in search of a treat! Unfortunately, if your dog makes a habit of eating cat food, that extra fat and protein can quickly lead to weight gain.
It will take some adjustments to your usual feeding routine, but it’s absolutely possible to resolve the issue, either by training your dog to ignore the cat’s meals or by removing the opportunity entirely.
How to Train Your Dog to Stop Eating Cat Food
- Start by making bowls of food distinguishable. To be fair to your dog, it may be hard to tell the difference between a bowl full of kibble that he’s supposed to eat, and a bowl full of kibble that’s off limits. Help your dog out by making the bowls of kibble look very different from each other. Try different bowl sizes and colors, and if you have a placemat under your pets’ bowls, make sure they’re different too.
- Teach your dog the “Leave It” command. (The AKC has a great tutorial here!) Once your dog knows “Leave It”, introduce cat food and repeat until he can successfully ignore the food. It can take daily practice for a few weeks, but stay consistent with your training and you’ll get it together!
Remove the Opportunity for Your Dog to Eat Cat Food
The best way to keep your dog from eating cat food is to separate your pets when food is out. Start by moving your cat’s bowl to another room — one your dog can’t get to. If your dog never has access to the cat’s food, he’ll never get the opportunity to steal it! Here are some options:
- If you have a small dog, set up a sturdy baby gate that only your cat can jump over. Stacked baby gates work great in case you have a great jumper like a terrier! (However, stacked baby gates are not safe for human children.)
- If you have a large dog, install a small cat-flap in the door or set up a tall baby gate in the doorway with a small opening for your cat. That way your cat has free access to her food, but your dog doesn’t.
- Put your dog in his crate until your cat is finished eating. Put away any uneaten food when she’s finished.
- Move your cat’s food to a room with a door that shuts, and keep the door shut until she’s finished eating.
- If you don’t have a separate room for your cat’s food, put the cat’s bowl on a high surface like a counter, dresser, washing machine, cat tree, or a bookshelf. Most cats have no trouble jumping to high places that a dog can’t reach. (My aunt’s cat used to eat her meals on top of the refrigerator!)
The bottom line: Don’t leave cat food out when your dog has plenty of opportunities to sneak over and grab a few bites. If you’re used to leaving food out throughout the day, it may take a while to get your pets used to eating their meals in full on a schedule. However, the benefits of a feeding schedule and removing any food that isn't eaten in 10-20 minutes is definitely worth it.
It’ll take some gentle, consistent guidance and a change in routine, but we have all the confidence in the world that you’ll be able to help your dog stop eating cat food. It’s also important to remember that no matter his vice, make sure the foundation of your dog’s diet is a complete and balanced blend of food that’s tailored for his nutritional needs and preferences like Just Right by Purina.