How to Stop a Dog from Stealing Cat Food From the Bowl

How to Stop a Dog from Stealing Cat Food

Our cat and dog get on relatively well, with exception to one aspect, and that’s their meals. Our dog is Frenchie, and like most mutts he has an insatiable appetite, stealing snacks at any opportunity… and that includes our cat’s food.

From a young age our dog made a habit of stealing our cat’s food whenever he got the chance to. We managed to stop him stealing the cat’s food with a few hacks and I will explain how below.

How to stop dog stealing cat food in 5 steps

Food stealing is a common occurrence in multi-pet households. Cats are generally grazers – they eat a little bit of food off and on all day.

Dogs, on the other hand, have been domesticated to eat all of their food at once. And most dogs take full advantage of any food that’s left out, even if it’s meant for the cat. This is especially true if he now has a taste for it, if given cat food in an emergency… like I had to do.

1. Put the cat’s food higher up

One of the simplest ways to stop your dog stealing the cat’s food is to elevate the cat’s bowl. Just put it in a place that your dog can’t reach. You can see how we did this at home in the photo below.

dog steals cat food
By placing our cat’s food up high we could stop the dog from stealing it.

Cats love climbing things and they will have no trouble going up their cat tree or up a shelf during mealtimes.

Any elevated place in your home can be a potential cat feeding station. (Although feeding your cat on your kitchen or dining table isn’t recommended.)

This method keeps cat food away from your dog and makes your cat work for their food, too – they like to do that.

Just be mindful of your cat’s abilities when picking their food perch. Some cats have trouble jumping too high when they’re of an advanced age.

In fact, my cat is now 14 and starting to have trouble jumping high like she used to, so we’ve also implemented the following strategies.

Handy Hint: With taller dogs this might work as larger breeds can be excellent at counter surfing as I explain in this additional guide.

2. Schedule feeding times

Free feeding (just leaving food out for your cat to nibble throughout the day) is a common method used by cat owners, but there are advantages to setting strict feeding times for cats.

You can control portions and lower the risk of obesity through scheduled feeding.

You can set your dog and cat feeding times separately and supervise both to make sure that they stick to their own food.

There’s also the option of scheduling your dog’s daily exercise to coincide with your cat’s mealtime. There’s no risk of food theft when you keep your pet’s activities fully separate.

By the time you get back from your walk, your dog will be so excited to eat his own food that he wouldn’t even be thinking stealing from your cat’s bowl.

3.  Use physical barriers

There are several ways to keep your dog physically separate from your cat’s food to reduce the chances of them stealing it.

Protective cat bowl

Dog-proof cat dishes (view on Amazon) come with plastic shrouds that have openings that will only accommodate small-headed creatures (like your cat). Your dog will not be able to reach the bowl no matter how hard he tries.

Of course, this will not work if you have a dog with a small or skinny head.

Designated feeding room

Move your cat’s food bowl to an entirely different room. Then you can use a door strap or doorstop to keep the door open just enough for your cat to get in and keep the dog out.

Make sure the door is fully dog-proof and he can’t figure out a clever way to get through!

Pet or baby gate

You can also keep your dog away from stealing cat food by installing a pet gate. This way, your dog’s movement around the house will be limited, and your cat will be able to eat in peace.

If you don’t want to keep the gate up 24/7, you can combine this method with scheduled feeding. This way, you only use the gate when it’s time for the cat to eat.

4. Use an automatic pet feeder

If you want to go beyond simple physical barriers and go full high-tech, you can get an automatic pet feeder (view on Amazon).

This feeder keeps food under lock and key until the pet with the assigned microchip/RFID tag approaches it.

Only then will the neoprene-sealed lid lift and the food will be available to eat. There are separate bowls for wet and dry food, as well as space for your pet’s medication.

This is the perfect solution to households experiencing food theft among their pets.

5. Teach your dog commands

You can instill discipline in your dog by teaching him the “leave it” command if he looks like he’s just about to steal the cat’s food. You can train him to keep away from not just cat food, but anything that can be dangerous to his health.

It will take a lot of time and effort, but with patience and consistent training, you’ll have a very obedient dog that you won’t have to worry about getting into things that he shouldn’t.

When training, make sure to never yell or punish your dog when he doesn’t pick up commands as quickly as you’d like. You can keep your voice firm but never, ever shout.

Most importantly, make sure you dole out treats and over-the-top praise when he does something right. Positive reinforcement is far and away the most effective method when trying to change your dog’s behavior.

Your dog should never be afraid to do something wrong but instead do their very best to do something right.

Handy Hint: You can also use some or a mix of these tips to stop your dog stealing food from other dogs.

Why you shouldn’t let your dog eat cat food

Cat food has been designed to smell extra savory and it contains high levels of fat and protein. It’s the perfect combination for a dog to claim as an extra delicious treat.

While there’s nothing wrong with a dog eating cat food every once in a while, there are several reasons why we should make sure that it doesn’t become a habit:

Health concerns

Cats and dogs don’t have the same nutritional needs, so while their food may look and smell similar, their components are very different. Cats are obligate carnivores so their food has more fat and protein.

Dog food has a higher concentration of fiber and carbohydrates. Short-term effects of eating the wrong kind of food can be digestive problems such as gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. Long-term effects can be chronic conditions stemming from the lack of necessary nutrients.

Handy Hint: As a cat and dog owner I know too well the problems you can encounter, such as the cat peeing in the dog bed and having to stop it.

Weight gain

The extra fat in cat food will lead to unhealthy weight gain if your dog eats it on a regular basis. Obesity in dogs leads to other conditions such as joint disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and liver disease.

Maintaining your pet at a healthy weight is crucial to lifelong wellness.

Bad behavior

Indulging your dog’s bad habits may lead to more bad behavior over time. It’s worth the effort to train them out of these behaviors or at least find ways to prevent them from doing it.

Fighting between pets

Some pets are more possessive than others, and fights over food can lead to injuries as well as stress whenever they’re around each other.

Keeping your dog and your cat to their own food bowls means harmony in your home.

Conclusion

Eating cat food isn’t great for your dog, and you shouldn’t let your cat go undernourished either.

Thankfully, there are several ways to keep your dog from stealing cat food which I’ve described above.

If you have any other tips to stop your dog stealing from your cat’s bowl, please do share them with us on social media!

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Image in header licensed from Storyblocks.com.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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