In recent years we have all noticed an increase in people who consider themselves to be vegetarian or vegan, and many of them carry it out with total conviction and struggle. Interest has also grown significantly, as can be seen in the increase in Google searches related to these topics.
Logically, people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet ask themselves if they should and can do the same with their cats.
But before entering this tricky topic, let’s clarify some basic concepts.
What is being vegetarian or vegan
The vegetarian diet is that diet that mainly excludes the consumption of meat and fish. The vegan diet also excludes all types of food of animal origin (milk, eggs, honey …). There are several diets derived from these two large groups, but it is not the subject of the blog, so I will include them in vegetarian and vegan.
Being vegan or being vegetarian has many connotations beyond how, and usually involves moral, ethical, and conviction aspects. The majority of those who practice this diet defend that animals and plants are living beings with rights and that the industry does not guarantee these fundamental rights. Understanding as an industry the different branches in which animal exploitation occurs: food industry, fashion, leisure, etc. As far as the food industry is concerned: they reject, to a greater or lesser extent, the use of any food and/or product of animal origin. From Cats Stuff we support any cause that is for the good of the animals and in defense of their rights, but I will not enter into any value judgment about the diet that each one must follow.
That said … can a cat be vegetarian or vegan? The answer is NO; another thing is that the human with whom he lives decides to give him a vegetarian or vegan diet. But obviously, the cat will not “become” vegan or vegetarian by conviction. If you let the cat do what it would do in its natural habitat, it would hunt a mouse or some small prey. In fact, that hunting instinct is still present in many domestic cats.
But then, can a cat be fed exclusively on a vegetarian or vegan diet? Surely the answer would also be NO, but there are nuances, so I will detail some issues to consider.
The cat is a pure carnivorous animal
When cats are said to be pure carnivores or forced carnivores, it means that, in their natural state, cats are meat eaters of necessity.
And that’s because they can’t get all the necessary nutrients from plants and/or bacteria.
The cat’s body: designed to hunt and eat meat
The carnivorous morphology of the cat makes the pussycat have a predisposition to eat meat: its taste buds prefer amino acids (present in meat, fish, eggs or shellfish) and reject monosaccharides and disaccharides (mostly present in fruit, vegetables …)
The jaw of the cat is designed for hunting, with its large fangs that allow you to hold the prey and tear the meat. The premolars and molars of the cat have the perfect way to crush bones. And the jaw movement is limited, which makes it difficult for you to chew vegetables, but it helps you have more strength to devour meat.
Another characteristic of the cat’s body is its intestinal tract, proportionally shorter than that of humans or dogs (which are omnivorous animals). An animal that only eats meat does not need such a long digestive system, because the nutrients in the meat are absorbed earlier. On the contrary, vegetables are usually high in fiber and are more difficult to absorb (so longer intestines are needed).
Another of the points that make the pussy purely carnivorous is its nutritional needs. Meat usually contains carbohydrates, fibers, fats, acids, vitamins, etc. That the cat needs.
Among many other things, cats have to consume meat to get vitamins like A, B12 or D, or get the necessary taurine.
Another more physical reason that leads many people to do without meat is the consequences that the high consumption of this type of food (very present in our usual diet) has on our health. Humans are beginning to understand that physiologically we are not designed to eat meat in the amounts in which we now do. But cats can do it and, where appropriate; high meat consumption will not lead to problems such as cholesterol. Some studies, like this one at the University of Glasgow, have corroborated this statement.
Is it natural to feed a cat only with the feed?
Looking at the previous points, in which somehow it is defended that the natural state of the cat is to eat meat … it is inevitable to ask: “And is it natural for me to eat?” Who says I think says other usual types of diet. And no, it is not natural.
This is one of the reasons why there are many proponents of raw meat-based diets. The way to do it would also be a matter of debate.
But the reality we face is that most domestic cats are fed dry commercial food or feed and, at best, combining dry food and wet food.
While there is not a great deal of research comparing the standard diet of dry food and wet food versus vegan or vegetarian diets; Science advocates that this lack of nutrients from diets based mainly on plants makes it more beneficial to opt for feed or food prepared specifically to meet the needs of the cat. That is, the pussy only eats plants can be worse than if you eat a quality feed.
Whatever type of diet we offer our cats, our obligation is to ensure that all of your nutritional and health needs are covered.
Can vegetarian or vegan cats survive?
The above points seem to point out that a cat can not be vegetarian or vegan, but instead there are many people who advocate carrying out this practice with their cats, and that they are healthy and happy animals.
There are not enough studies to show that applying this type of diet has resulted in a greater number of deaths and/or illnesses. On the contrary, there is some research like this study from the University of Pennsylvania, in which they compared 34 cats fed a homemade or commercial vegetarian diet versus 52 cats fed a conventional diet. In this study, there were no notable differences in elements such as cobalamin and taurine blood concentration.
These investigations and the testimonies of those who defend the great health of their vegetarian cats suggest that vegetarian or vegan diets for cats are not dangerous as such, although they always recommend extra careful control. Therefore, everything indicates that it is possible to do it, but you have to take extreme care and thorough monitoring of the pussycat.
Why do I want my cat to be vegetarian or vegan?
The answers can be multiple. Now, there is an interesting point that the University of Pennsylvania highlights in its study, and it is that strong ethical issue associated with this decision.
After the conversations with humans whose cats participated as a show, they realized that all those who opted for a vegetarian diet for their pussy did so for ethical, moral, conviction, etc. As much for the commented thing of protesting against the industry and not to participate in its processes as far as animal exploitation is concerned, as for the fact of considering that the current market feed is not healthy for its cats. These issues are very subjective and can lead to a great debate, so I leave it in your mind in case you want to go for a walk.
The conviction must also be such as to “experiment” with the cat, which is an animal designed to be a pure carnivore. So you have to take the extra effort involved in choosing this type of food, and thus ensure the welfare of the pussycat.
How to carry out a vegetarian or vegan diet for cats
Given all of the above, if you finally decide to offer a vegan or vegetarian diet to your cats, it is important that you consult feline nutrition experts and/or your trusted veterinarian.
In fact, it would be very interesting that you contemplate looking for a veterinarian who knew about this topic so that he is able to recommend supplements or similar so that your cat has everything necessary for good health.
There are also various forums and pages to share experiences, but the supervision of a professional is essential.
From having all the information, you can choose to offer a homemade diet, which is quite complex or gets vegan or vegetarian feed.
I think vegan vegan
This type of feed is specifically made with free ingredients of animal origin, covering all the nutritional needs of the pussycat.
In the market, there are some brands that have been commercialized for years, in the United States, the brands Vegecat KibbleMix and Evolution are known. And, in fact, in the Washington Veterinary Department, they studied these vegetarian products not leaving them in a very good place.
The CEO of Evolution refuted some of these arguments, indicating that the research in this area is scarce and that they have thousands of satisfactory cases among their clients. The reality is that a balanced plant-based diet, along with a well-exercised cat, is healthier than a cheap diet of poor quality and a sedentary lifestyle (made much more common than we think).
In Spain, these types of products are also marketed; for example, at Amazon, they sell this Ami Dog brand.
Regular professional control
Before starting the vegetarian or vegan diet, when consulting with the veterinarian and/or feline nutritional expert, it is important that you also determine the regularity with which you will take your cat.
Surely it is necessary to carry it more frequently, measure some values to see that they are not affected, etc. Especially at the beginning of a said diet, and always following the advice of the professional in question.
To summarize all of the above, the cat’s natural state is to eat meat, and in fact, he needs it to cover his nutritional needs. But it is also true that some cats fed with conventional diets do not see these needs met, and if we also add that their habits are not completely healthy (for example, having a very sedentary life), the result is worse.
However, there is not enough information or studies to determine whether the vegetarian or vegan diet is the direct cause of poor health or even death of many cats. On the contrary, there are many testimonies of people who have carried out these types of diets with their cats and enjoy healthy and strong cats.
So everything indicates that it is possible for your cat to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, ideally with products designed for this purpose, so that they already contemplate covering the needs of the cat. But this will surely be a major effort for you, and you should always have the supervision and guidance of professionals (veterinarians, feline nutritionists, etc.),