Have you caught your cat having a bite (or three) of your dog’s kibble? Or perhaps you’ve been tempted to slip your cat a bit of your dog’s pain medication or flea preventive to save money or time. Many pet owners who share their homes with both cats and dogs have probably found themselves wondering what, if any, products their pets can share.

However, giving dog products to cats is trickier than most pet owners realize, and not usually recommended for the reasons that follow.

Can I Give Dog Products to Cats?

For the most part, the answer to this question is no.

Dog and cat products are marketed separately for a reason. Oftentimes, giving dog products to cats can be unhealthy or even dangerous. A cat’s internal systems are different in structure than a dog’s, and many foods or medications that benefit a dog can make a cat ill or can even be fatal.

Never give dog medication, parasite preventives, or food to your cat without first consulting your veterinarian.

Parasite Preventives Are Species-Specific

A large percentage of feline toxicities reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center involve the use of topical flea prevention products meant for dogs. There are two reasons why your dog’s topical or oral flea control product may be harmful for your cat:

  • Dosage – The dosage of any parasite preventive is calculated out exactly for the size and species that it’s intended for. A cat can easily overdose on even a small amount of dog flea control product.
  • Ingredients – Some topical flea and tick products marketed to dogs, as well as certain household insecticides, contain permethrins, a class of chemicals that is extremely toxic to cats.

Signs of permethrin poisoning include:

  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Salivation
  • Incoordination
  • Fever
  • Dilated pupils

Permethrin poisoning in cats is life-threatening. If your cat is showing signs of permethrin poisoning, he or she needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Pain Medications

Cats cannot tolerate the pain relief medications commonly given to dogs and people, including Tylenol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs):

  • NSAIDs – Aspirin and ibuprofen for people, or carprofen, etodolac, and deracoxib for dogs, are examples of NSAIDs you may have in your home. Cats are much more sensitive to the effects of these medications than either dogs or people, and should only use them under the close guidance of a veterinarian.
  • Tylenol – A cat’s liver and kidneys cannot effectively break down acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, making it extremely dangerous. Tylenol should never be given to a cat, as even a small amount can be fatal.

Treating pain in cats is a notoriously challenging task, and a multi-faceted approach is often used. Your veterinarian will work with you to come up with the right combination of medication, diet, and other forms of therapy as needed to help your cat cope with pain.


A bite of dog kibble here and there probably isn’t going to hurt your cat, but because cats have very different nutritional needs than dogs, they should never be fed dog food exclusively. Commercial cat foods meet a cat’s unique needs in the following ways:

  • High quality commercial cat foods provide extra amounts of essential nutrients, including the amino acid taurine, vitamin A, and arachidonic acid, all of which cats cannot produce on their own (unlike dogs).
  • Cats require a much higher percentage of protein than dogs, and even “high protein” dog foods don’t contain enough to meet a cat’s needs.

Without adequate nutrition, a cat may experience hair loss, tooth decay, blindness, and a debilitating heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Please contact the team at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the health and safety of your pets.