How cats and dogs differ in terms of how they eat

How cats and dogs differ in terms of how they eat

Food & Nutrition

Pet food for both cats and dogs is very different now to how it was in the UK back when most of us were children, and there is of course now a much wider range of products on the market to choose between. Thanks to advances in our understanding of pet nutrition and also, government regulation of pet food ingredients, food across the board from the bottom end of the market to premium products are like for like better quality and more nutritious than they were a couple of decades ago.

Additionally, we have a better understanding not only of what domestic dogs and cats need to eat in order to remain healthy and fit, but also how they eat, and the ways in which their wild ancestries impact upon this today. While many of us feed our dogs and cats in much the same way as each other-put food in the bowl, top up the water and leave them to it-dogs and cats are actually rather different in terms of their ideal feeding environment, and when and how they eat.

In this article we will look at this in more detail, and examine the various ways in which dogs and cats differ in terms of how they eat. Read on to learn more.

Free feeding and self-control

One of the main differences between cats and dogs as a whole is that cats are very good at regulating their food intake-they eat when they are hungry, and when they are full, they stop. Dogs on the other hand will often eat well beyond the point of satiation if there is food available, and so their food needs to be measured into the appropriate amount for the day rather than simply being shaken out into their bowl, and replenishing the food when they have eaten it all.

Variations for hunting cats

If your cat who is normally a keen eater spends a day without eating much at all and seems totally uninterested in food, this might be cause for alarm-after all, going off one’s food is often a precursor to illness. While this is likely to be the case if your dog stops eating for the day, if your cat is a keen hunter, it is possible that they have simply eaten their day’s quota of food on-the-go, as it were, and are simply already full!

Grazing or set portions

Cats eat little and often out of choice, generally returning to their bowl every couple of hours for a couple of bites, but not eating a whole portion of food in one go. Dogs, on the other hand need a routine when it comes to their mealtimes, and this means they should be fed at least twice (and possibly three times) a day in set portions at set times that your dog can rely upon.

Avoiding unsuitable foods

Poisoning due to eating something dangerous or unsuitable is much more common in dogs than it is in cats, because cats will rarely eat something that is poisonous or toxic to them. While it is true that cats may get the taste for foods that are not very nutritious or are unsuitable due to high fat or salt content-such as certain types of human foods like Marmite, cheese, crisps and certain treats-they will rarely eat anything that is outright toxic.

Dogs, on the other hand, generally have a much poorer sense of self-preservation, and will sometimes eat all sorts of horrible things including rotting meat, chocolate, and other toxins like grapes. Certain breeds of dog also have a well-deserved reputation for being walking dustbins-the Labrador retriever being among the worst as a general rule!

Water location and condition

In a similar vein, cats are very finicky about what they drink, and will usually reject dirty, stale or otherwise tainted water. Dogs tend to be much less picky, as you will be all too aware of if you have caught your dog drinking from a muddy puddle or the toilet bowl!

Additionally, cats in the wild tend to eat away from their water sources, because decaying food that falls or seeps into the water will of course taint it-while dogs tend not to care at all.

Amount of water required

Because cats originate from arid desert regions and evolved to cope with this, they actually need to drink less water like-for-like by size than dogs do. This causes many first-time cat owners concern that their cats are not drinking enough water and may be sick-when the chances are that your cat is simply drinking the normal amount for them!

Environmental factors

A whole host of things can potentially put a cat off eating, such as if they are being watched, have another animal eating nearby, don’t like the location of their food bowls, or anything else! If a cat is not comfortable when they dine they will tend to avoid eating until the situation changes.

While dogs will generally also prefer their eating conditions to be ideal, if they are no, dogs are less likely to avoid eating than they are to eat as fast as possible, often keeping one eye out at the same time in case they need to defend their bowl!

Wet and dry mixes

If you feed a mixture of wet and dry food to your dog, the chances are that you mix it up-because dogs are perfectly fine with this and also, it ensures that they eat both types of food instead of prioritising the wet food and neglecting the dry!

Cats, on the other hand, tend to dislike having wet and dry food mixed, and they enjoy a range of textures in their diet including things that crunch! Mixing your cat’s wet food with their dry biscuit is not a good idea for this reason-and also, because cats tend to leave food and graze throughout the day, wet food left out will often spoil if there is too much of it, or it is bulked up with dry food.

Newsletter icon
Get free tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox.


Pets for StudWanted Pets

Accessories & services


Knowledge Hub


Support & Safety Portal
All Pets for Sale