Can cats be vegan?
Well no, because cats don't have the critical thinking capacity to consider the moral implications of breeding animals to eat, or indeed the subsequent use of their skin, fur and bodily by-products to produce clothing, cosmetics and other products.
What we actually mean when we ask this question is whether or not cats can eat a plant-based diet.
I've read plenty of anecdotal stories from cat owners who say their cat is living and thriving on a vegan (plant-based diet). But I'm interested in what the science says. And in this post, that's what I'm going to explore.
Cats Are Obligate Carnivores
Straight off the bat, the first thing to understand and acknowledge is that cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats are meat eaters by necessity.
The necessity is so because they cannot obtain all the nutrients they need from plants and bacteria.
Specifically, cats lack the enzyme needed to split carotene – which is usually obtained from plants – into vitamin A.
Cats therefore obtain vitamin A from the liver of their prey, or meat their owners feed them.
Another problem is the inability to synthesize essential (some) very-long-chain, highly unsaturated fatty acids that other animals can make from shorter fatty acids found in plants.
Cats are hunters. Even domestic cats retain the instinct to kill and, left to their own devices, they will generally spend their time stalking prey.
Yet, rather than accepting them as obligate carnivores and instinctual hunters, many owners attempt to ween them off hunting and change these behaviours for cuter, more “pet-like” behaviours such as purring and cuddles.
Sure, kitty will purr and cuddle on the sofa, but given the choice, kitty would rather stalk and kill a mouse. This is nature.
What is the Natural Diet of a Cat?
If left to hunt for its own food, a cat will derive the protein and fats it needs from small prey such as rodents, birds, small reptiles and amphibians.
You may see a cat eating grass or plants now and again, but biologists agree that this is done to obtain roughage that acts as a digestive aid, and there is little if any nutritional value obtained.
This natural diet of a cat is pertinent to this post; because it must be acknowledged that the standard diet fed to cats by their owners is far from natural.
A large percentage of owners feed their cats kibble, which is a dry blend of animal products made mixed with vegetable-based starches. A cat doesn't have the capacity to create kibble by itself. Nature doesn't offer this option.
And then there's canned meat, which contains the body parts of animals that cats would never hunt or eat in the wild.
In fact, most vets would agree that mainstream cat food contains low-quality meat, stacked with a high volume of diseased tissue and injected with steroid growth hormones and antibiotics.
And then there's milk and cream (dairy) that should never be fed to cats.
Veterinarians at the College of Veterinary Medicine for Cornell University confirm that cats are lactose intolerant and lack the lactase enzyme, so digestion of the lactose sugar is impossible and often results in stomach upset, bloating and diarrhea.
The fact is, the type of meat cats are fed, and the dairy given as a treat, is far from an optimal diet for our feline friends, and certainly isn't a “natural diet”. There's also the problem of cats being fed processed foods as “treats” – another health risk.
So actually, when putting forth the argument that a plant-based (vegan) diet for cats isn't natural, it can be somewhat retorted on the basis that neither is the current “standard diet” fed to the majority of cats by their owners.
But is this diet still preferable to a plant-based diet?
How Cats Cope with High Fat Diets
Now, as we all know, the reason humans are reverting to a plant-based diet is because we are waking up to the fact that physiologically we are not designed to eat meat in the quantities that we do, certainly not with every meal, or even daily.
Sure, we learnt to cook meat – to be able to eat it safely and benefit from its high calorific content and fat density (great for survival during harsh winters) – but it's not optimal for health because of the cholesterol, high fat content, IGF-1, animal proteins, etc.
Modern science shows us that plant protein is preferable because it comes without the carcinogens and negative inflammatory and vascular effects.
Moreover, per calorie, plant foods are far more nutritious, and more beneficial in fighting illness and disease.
Indeed, heart disease – the number one killer in the US, and number two killer in the UK – can be prevented and reversed with a plant-based diet.
High saturated fat and cholesterol intake are risk factors for atherosclerosis, and eventually heart disease.
These plaques cause the arteries to harden and narrow, restricting the blood flow and oxygen supply to vital organs, and increasing the risk of blood clots that could potentially block the flow of blood to the heart or brain. (National Health Service).
So what does saturated fat and cholesterol have to do with cats?
Well, cats don't have this problem.
While feeding cats a high-saturated fat mash-up of cows, pigs, sheep and other animal body parts might be unnatural, they can deal with it because whether good or bad quality meat, they are obligate carnivores and have no problem consuming animal fat and dietary cholesterol.
Science has proven this.
In this study, which sought to determine the effects of increases in dietary intake of polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids on plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations and activity of associated enzymes in healthy domestic cats, they found that:
Amount of fat, or ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids had no effect on plasma concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, and very–low-density or high-density lipoproteins or the activity of lecithin-cholesterol acyl transferase.
Low-density lipoprotein concentrations were significantly lower in cats fed a high-fat diet containing polyunsaturated fatty acids. Lipoprotein concentration and hepatic lipase activity were significantly higher in cats fed the fat-supplemented diets, and this was unrelated to whether diets were enriched with polyunsaturated or saturated fatty acids.
Conclusion: Diets containing up to 66% of energy from fat were tolerated well by healthy cats and did not affect plasma lipid concentrations. Therefore, high-fat diets probably will not contribute to hypercholesterolemia or hypertriglyceridemia in cats.
So even though the commercial pet cat diet is hardly a natural one, it is closer to their natural diet than a plant-based (vegan) diet would be – quite simply on the basis that they are meat eaters and can cope with the saturated fat.
As for the antibiotics, growth hormones and the rest of it; well, roadkill would be a far better option.
What if a Cat's Nutritional Needs Are Met Through Plants?
Let's face it, keeping an obligate carnivore in your house and letting it go in and out through a hole in the back door, and teaching it not to kill birds and mice and bring them home is hardly natural, is it?
It's not a natural environment, or a natural existence, for a cat. It's not how the cat was designed to live.
And as we know, the large majority of cats, unlike domesticated dogs, will do just fine when left to their own devices, even after having had human contact.
Cats will go stray and survive, using their predatory instincts to catch prey and feed on scraps. Over time, having not had human contact for a prolonged period, a cat may turn feral.
When considering cat health, environment is a key factor too. Studies show that both environment and diet play a big role in the cat obesity and Diabetes epidemic.
With this in mind, it would be somewhat hypocritical for a meat-feeding cat owner to argue that a plant-based feeding cat owner was forcing the cat to do something unnatural. Indeed, both could be accused of that.
But let's disregard the debate on animal ownership for now. Let's concern ourselves with diet.
Cats get certain key nutrients and fats from meat. These include taurine, arachidonic acid, vitamin A and B12. They can't get these nutrients from plants. Though, like humans, B12 can be obtained from the environment because it is produced in nature by certain bacteria, and archaea (soil, water).
Without eating these key nutrients regularly, cats can suffer from liver and heart problems, skin irritation and hearing loss.
Cailin Heinze, VMD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and assistant professor of nutrition at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, puts his view quite bluntly:
For cats, it’s really inappropriate. It goes against their physiology and isn’t something I would recommend at all.
His view on dogs is different:
For dogs, certainly vegetarian and vegan diets can be done, but they need to be done very, very carefully.
Unlike humans, dogs are truly omnivorous.
Some dogs do very well on a plant-based diet, if fed a high protein, nutrient dense kibble. I'll cover dogs in another post – because that's quite complex and is in many ways breed dependent.
The comparison does raise a key point in this debate, though: Feeding a dog (an omnivore) a plant-based (vegan) diet is not much of an experiment, and can be highly beneficial – particularly for dogs with arthritis and heart problems.
However, feeding a cat a vegan diet is experimental. It's an experiment that has the potential to go quite wrong.
Physiologically, dogs are designed to eat both plant-based foods and meat, whereas cats are pure meat eaters.
But that doesn't mean a cat can't live a healthy, long life on a plant-based diet, if it meets all the nutritional requirements.
Again, the science proves it.
A review of evidence published from four studies that have examined the nutritional adequacy of vegetarian diets for cats and dogs was studied by The Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Winchester. They reached the following conclusion:
It is entirely possible for companion animals to survive, and indeed thrive, on vegetarian diets. However, these must be nutritionally complete and reasonably balanced, and owners should regularly monitor urinary acidity and should correct for urinary alkalinisation through appropriate dietary additives, if it occurs.
Those interested in vegetarian companion animal diets should be aware of concerns about the nutritional adequacy of some such diets demonstrated by a number of studies over a significant number of years. However, to ensure a balanced view, they should also be aware that similar concerns exist about commercial meat-based diets.
They should also be aware that, although rarely conducted in accordance with the highest standards of evidence-based medicine, a significant and growing body of population studies and cases have indicated that cats and dogs maintained on vegetarian diets may be healthy—including those exercising at the highest levels—and indeed may experience a range of health benefits.
Vegetarian animals also experience a range of health problems, but these problems are also prevalent in companion animals maintained on meat-based diets. Finally, pet owners should be aware that a significant body of additional studies have demonstrated health problems in domesticated animals maintained on various meat-based diets.
Regardless of dietary choice, consumers should be encouraged to check labelling claims of nutritional adequacy, and to ask manufacturers what steps they take, and what evidence they can provide, to ensure nutritional soundness and consistency of their diets.
And as with all companion animals, owners should monitor the health of their animals on a regular basis, including through regular checks of bodyweight, activity level and demeanour.
Any significant, ongoing problems should trigger a veterinary examination, which should, in any event, occur at least annually, and biannually after approximately seven years of age. Biannual examinations are also advisable during the first year on a new, vegetarian diet. Owners should consider screening blood and urine tests during such wellness checks, and in the case of illness.
As interest in vegetarian companion animal diets continues to grow, it is anticipated that further relevant studies will shed additional light on the nutritional adequacy of these diets, and on the health of companion animals maintained on them. (Source: Mdpi)
This review of the literature shows that with careful management it is possible to have a healthy cat on a plant-based diet.
However, there still is a chance that your cat won't do well on a plant-based diet. The main concern is urinary alkalinisation.
Vetinarian, Dr Armaiti May, D.V.M, C.V.A, summarises the risks as follows:
Cats on a vegan diet can develop abnormally alkaline (high pH) urine due to the more alkaline pH of plant based proteins in comparison to the acidic pH of meat-based foods which cats have evolved to eat.
When the urine pH becomes too alkaline, there is an increased risk of formation of struvite (also known as magnesium ammonium phosphate) bladder crystals and/or stones.
Calcium oxalate stones can also occur, but these do not occur if the urine is too alkaline, but rather if it is too acidic. Such stones can create irritation and infection of the urinary tract and require veterinary treatment.
In male cats who form such crystals or stones, they can suffer more severe consequences than simply irritation or infection of the urinary tract because the stones can actually cause an obstruction of the urethra so the cat cannot urinate. This is a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate veterinary care.
Vegan/vegetarian cat food has come a long way though, and there seems to be an awful lot of cats thriving on veggie diets, albeit this should be considered anecdotal evidence.
Regardless, there is no country-wide epidemic of vegan cats being rushed into vets with nutritional deficiencies.
Take Evolution foods, for example: They have been selling vegan cat food for 28 years and haven't had one recall. And judging by their reviews, there's a ton of cats doing very well on their food.
However, one study does not support this view.
This study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association showed two commercially available vegetarian cat foods (Vegecat KibbleMix and Evolution canned diet for adult cats) to be deficient in several key nutrients.
The two vegan diets were subjected to nutritional analysis and compared to Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient profiles for the maintenance of adult cats. The Evolution food was determined to be deficient in protein, methionine, taurine, arachidonic acid, vitamin A, pyroxidine, and niacin. Vegecat KibbleMix was found to be deficient in methionine, taurine, arachidonic acid, and pyroxidine.
On the face of it, this is alarming. But as with all scientific studies we should consider the reliability of the study and any limitations.
Indeed, Andrew Knight BSc, BVMS, President of Animal Consultants international, responded to the findings as follows:
The authors of the study responded to his letter, admitting the limitation of the study:
The full exchange can be read here.
What's clear is that research in this area is limited. Due to commercial interest, funding for research on vegetarian diets for cats is of course massively outweighed by research for meat-based diets. We don't have a reliable pool of research from which to conduct a meta analysis and draw statistically significant conclusions.
The limited research there has been, though, has NOT concluded that vegan/vegetarian cat diets are inherently dangerous, and the aforementioned study is limited to two samples from two sources.
For example, take the following cross-sectional study on 34 cats that were exclusively fed a commercial or homemade vegetarian diet, and 52 cats that had been fed a conventional diet for more than 1 year.
The study sought to determine the motivation and feeding practices of people who feed their cats vegetarian diets as well as the taurine and cobalamin status of cats consuming vegetarian diets.
All cats evaluated had serum cobalamin (B12) concentrations within reference range, and 14 of 17 had blood taurine concentrations within reference range.
In short, the vegetarian cats in this study were not deficient in B12 and taurine.
By design, a plant-based diet is not what nature intended for cats.
But as discussed, the same argument can be put forth for the standard meat-based cat diet, albeit one could effectively argue it is easier to meet the nutritional requirements of a cat using the latter.
What's clear is that a cat's nutritional needs can be met through plant-based, mineral and synthetic-based ingredients, but close attention should be paid to the nutritional adequacy of the food source, and owners should adhere to regular vet checkups – as advised for all pets – to ensure optimal health.
As a human (unspecified frugivore by design) who eats a plant-based diet, I have to say I'm not comfortable with going against the biology of an animal and feeding it what is essentially an unnatural diet, even if it's possible to maintain good health.
But in conducting research for this article it quickly became obvious that this is not a one-dimensional debate. There are many factors to consider.
Simply put: “cat ownership” can be detrimental to a cat's health.
The quality and type of meat, the dairy and processed snacks, the living environment, the level of exercise: all these things have the potential to be harmful to a cat's health.
To single out owners who put cats on a plant-based diet as cruel people is the pot calling the kettle black.
Millions of owners harm their cats on a daily basis by unknowingly feeding them low-quality meat, and in some cases by knowingly feeding cats dairy products and snacks high in processed carbohydrates.
The meat we feed our cats also contains synthetic substances such as growth hormones and antibiotics.
Moreover, many cat owners restrict exercise by keeping cats in doors so they can enjoy companionship, and attempt to reverse natural hunting instincts such as killing birds and rodents.
The reality is: a nutritionally balanced plant-based diet, along with the necessary access to exercise and territory to roam is likely to be healthier than a low-quality canned-meat and milk diet coupled with a sedentary lifestyle.
That said, part of me is still uncomfortable with the idea of vegan-plant-based cats; because we are essentially experimenting on an obligate carnivore until we find a version of a vegan diet that is able to keep it healthy and alive for as long as possible.
And for what? To ease our conscience? To prove a point that a cat can be vegan? To make it accessible to own an animal in a more ethical way?
Would it not be more ethical to better enable cats to hunt their own food, as they were designed to do?
Plant-based food enables vegan cat owners to avoid the moral dilemma of feeding meat to their cats, but at the same time begs the question: are we really doing this for the animals or ourselves?
But then I ask myself, could this same theory of “experimentation” not be applied to all pet ownership in one way or another?
Is it possible to make a food out of plants and bacteria that will keep a cat alive and healthy for as long as a meat-eating cat? Yes. Research has proven that.
But there really isn't enough science to tell us whether this could be applicable to all cat breeds, and no long-term, controlled, large cohort studies to identify specific problems, if any.
Extra monitoring may be required, particularly in terms of urinary alkalinisation and checking for absorption issues, particularly in those cats with pre-existing health conditions due to bad breeding and lack of proper care.
So the answer to the question “Can cats be vegan?” is… it's possible, yes.
As long as the diet meets all of the nutritional requirements specific to cats and their overall health is adequately monitored, with particular attention to urinary tract health.
Cats require the same nine essential amino acids that are needed in the diet of all mammals.
However, in addition, cats also require arginine and taurine. Taurine is found naturally in meat but can be supplied in synthetic form. Without adequate taurine, cats may go blind and may develop dilated cardiomyopathy (a type of heart disease). (Source: Veganhealth)
But if you're desperate for a pet, dogs are far better suited to a plant-based diet than cats.
Diet aside, I'd like to add that a debate should be had on whether it is ethical to keep a solitary, obligate, carnivorous hunter in a domestic environment that seeks to disrupt and curtail its natural predatory instincts.
Of course, it would be even worse to do so if you had other animals killed to facilitate the diet of that animal, wouldn't it? In this regard, both vegan and non-vegan cat owners meet on a level-playing field when it comes to defending themselves against criticism.
Omg, what a welcome post to find in our 11th hour! I wonder if you know of any domesticated cats that have transitioned to full on self sustaining hunters? And in the UK?
I’ve put out a call in some groups as follows: Hi there, I hope it’s ok for me to post here, if not then I will understand.
I hope to find help and answers with no judgements please as this topic is trivial enough and I don’t have the time or energy for anything else but your love and wisdom on natural cat diet/life.
Rascal cat (8 yrs old) came to us, as part of a temporary arrangement of 1 year in Nov 2019 while his carer went traveling. Then lockdown happened which changed things. On top of that a year after, around Nov 2020 Rascal got seriously ill with 2 bouts blocked bladder/Urethra in the space of 3 weeks with numerous vet visits and intervention leaving me with a whopping bill of £1100 which I am still paying off! In the latter part of his bouts I sought help of a natural animal therapist who advocated species appropriate feeding who advised us to take him off the commercial wet and dry fleshy and and treats he was having and put him on a raw flesh and bone diet (it did hurt our conscience a lot believe me after all we are all vegan in this household-apart from Rascal of course!).
This we did and saw immediate improvement, his bladder unblocked immediately and he never suffered again.
However, since before Rascal came to us we had been planning to move from our flat in London to live and work at a veganic farm which also was delayed, no thanks to lockdown however finally we have managed to make the move only last week.
With it being a veganic certified food farm, we cannot bring animal products on the premises and so can’t bring the raw body parts for Rascal. We have been here a week and Rascal has not begged for food like he usually would, but is starting to beg now.
I would like to help him on this new leg of his journey in life to be his true cat self because I believe that he is capable of hunting his own food, but I just don’t know how long it will take him to hunt. He does eat the grasses outside and tries to catch insects etc…if you can point me towards anyone who can help guide me I would really appreciate it and I am sure so would Rascal.
I don’t want to undo all that has been achieved as in he has got used to eating in the outdoors: raw chicken body parts including the organs etc and in big pieces so he would tear at it himself like a true feline as opposed to licking actions he was used to pre-blocked bladder period.
I also don’t want to go back to the cooked or processed food of any kind for fear of the blocked bladder or worse and I do not have another £1100 to give to vets.
Please help me to honour him and help him be his true brilliant cat self out here in the fields of the farm and beyond and to maybe even be an ambassador for his fellow feline beings.
Apologies for any hurts and upsets and the long story.
Lots of love,
May 08, 2022 at 3:39 pm
It’s a moral dilemma: Do you save one animal by killing other animals to feed it and keep it alive? This is the problem with the domestication of cats and dogs, in that we have to support animal agriculture to feed our beloved pets.
I understand the farm’s position, but the cat is reliant on you (humans) for food, and to abandon that responsibility is cruel. But so is participating in the killing of other animals to feed him. That said, the animal agriculture industry isn’t going to stop because you stop feeding Rascal his meat.
At his age I very much doubt he will survive hunting his own food and, even if he did, there are the risks of injury, parasites and disease – so you’d want to have good pet insurance. He would more likely seek out other humans and befriend them for food; it is hard to get enough food from hunting alone. The colder seasons make it especially hard too.
Young cats that grow up around other feral cats will learn to hunt, but the diet is supplemented by scavenging in bin bags and from handouts or food thrown away by humans.
I don’t want to advocate for killing animals to feed other animals, so it is a difficult situation for me to offer advice on. This is why I am not a pet owner :).
The most sensible advice would be the advice from the vet. He/she knows better than I do. The vet has recommended a diet and that has worked well for him, so that makes sense. If you can’t follow that diet then you may have to give him up for adoption.
Where is the veganic farm by the way? Sounds interesting.
May 09, 2022 at 11:05 am
Guess what!! Yesterday we witnessed Rascal hunting, killing and devouring 3 voles!
It’s probably what he’s been living off the last week and a half.
Ps, I don’t go to vets for advice, they are subsidised by pharmaceuticals and after being stung by them, they did NOT advice feeding him raw. They told me to continue feeding him wet processed food, which not only is cooked with mixed animal flesh combinations and filler plus it includes meat from euthanised pet and farmed animals(!!) and told me he was going to be on muscle relaxants and painkillers and daily/weekly vet check upsfor the rest of his life…. More income for them!
He would suffer a life of painful misery and have been dead by now for sure if I listened to them.
Thanks to my quick thinking and decision making, he is now living the life many cats would dream of!
May 10, 2022 at 12:40 pm
Well that’s a very interesting outcome. Will that hunting be enough to sustain him, though? Through all seasons? Maybe you will need to subsidize his diet with treats, maybe Cat Chums (they are plant based).
I wouldn’t dismiss vets so outrightly. While they have commercial connections (like doctors and hospitals) they have extensive knowledge of animal biology and their advice can be invaluable. At the end of the day you can always get a second opinion and you don’t have to take the advice. But if Rascal gets ill you will need a vet, or if he gets fleas or mange or something. You will also need his annual check-up done.
Be aware of secondary poisoning, too. People often put poison down for rodents and if a cat consumes a poisoned mouse, for example, the cat can be poisoned too. Just something to look out for.
I would definitely recommend a pet insurance plan. If we care for an animal it’s the responsible thing to do.
I hope it all works out.
All the best!
May 10, 2022 at 12:57 pm
Thanks for the link etc. I still will not give any processed food vegan or flesh for fear of him suffering from blocked urethra and facing death again.
He is starting small and hopefully will aim for bigger creatures now he has the taste if the freshest and warm catch.
I think pet insurance is another money making scam and so will not succumb to that.
He is living with us surrounded by fields and woods so no poison here. 😊
Animals don’t need humans to thrive, they need freedom and us to stop making them sick for our desires.
Thanks either way for caring about him.
🙏🏽 🍀 💜 💙
May 10, 2022 at 7:03 pm
I agree. The problem is that we have domesticated cats and dogs to the point that they have become reliant on us for food and shelter and healthcare. it’s true that domesticated cats have retained their hunting abilities, but they are far more susceptible to disease than wild cats. “Cats who hunt can be exposed to roundworms, toxoplasmosis, and some types of tapeworms. They also are at increased risk of exposure to gastrointestinal bacterial diseases, and to dangerous systemic infections such as bubonic plague.”
Also, can you imagine if we decided to allow all cats in the UK to live out in nature and hunt for food. This would be disastrous for the ecosystem. We would be releasing millions of non-native predators that would seriously unbalance the food chain and could threaten the survival of certain species.
This is the problem with domestication. Once you start, there is no going back! You have to kill other animals to keep the domesticated ones alive, you commodify the animals as a product, with certain breeds having more desirable traits, which leads to bad breeding and subsequent health issues, you treat the animals as kids (humans) and this causes behavioral issues, you get irresponsible owners who make dogs aggressive and/or let their animals crap everywhere – which is a danger to humans, especially kids….the list goes on!
I don’t agree on pet insurance. If Rascal became seriously ill and you needed a few thousand Pounds for an operation and you weren’t insured, what would you do? You couldn’t let him suffer, or have him put down. I guess there might be a charitable organization that would help, but in the time it takes to get that help he would be suffering.
I don’t know. There are so many ethical reasons not to have a pet, IMO.
May 10, 2022 at 7:53 pm
Hi Peter, I didn’t want to have or keep animals/ pets. It was only meant to be for a year and now we still have him 2.5 years after and so he is part of the family.
I don’t like to waste time on what ifs etc as they may never happen and it is like living in fear of these what ifs… However, what if cats were allowed to live wild…. Perhaps they would eradicate each other or maybe some would thrive while others would perish… I wonder if the pet industry feeds us these fears to keep them profiting…. 🤔 Why would we not wish for total freedom for all beings to just be their own selves….. Perhaps because we ourselves are not free and constantly oppressed after all, the oppressed often oppressers others. So lets undo our own oppressions and as a result, we can stop oppressing ourselves and each other. Best of wishes for a lovely day for us all! May it be full of love and bo fear. Xx
May 11, 2022 at 9:38 am
Have a read of this if you get a moment: https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-health-food-behavior-hunting-wildlife
May 10, 2022 at 1:50 pm
Peter it seems you are against pet ownership as well. These are very tough questions with no easy answers. But the euthanization of dogs and cats (which have been domesticated for thousands of years–it certainly doesn’t happen overnight) has gone down from 20 MILLION a year to 3 million a year here in the US alone. That is substantial in a very positive way imo. I do believe that it is a symbiotic relationship for dogs & cats & humans. I am definitely an “adopt don’t shop” person.
Every pet I have ever had was a rescue and I don’t regret having any of them. One was on the streets, one was running in traffic and one was living a miserable solo existence at my neighbor across the street’s house. My two cats were rescues from Mexico. When I was down to just my three dogs I remember my friends used to tell me, “When I die I want come to back as one of your dogs!” They were my furkids for sure. 🙂
Over time my feelings about eating flesh have changed…I do believe I am heading into veganhood. But the feeding of animals with other animals is quite the conundrum.
In the end it comes down to humans–we are the ones who have screwed up this entire planet. And nature finds a way. Nature always finds a way to survive. 2004 Tsunami? Pure nature. Coronavirus? Nature finding a way. But where did it stem from? MAN eating ANIMALS. It’s our karma. Tragic of course, but nonetheless nature taking care of itself.
That the Chinese don’t make the connection with their consumption of “wet market” animals and massive condensed population contributing to several coronavirus strains is remarkable. That shit has gotta stop–just seems like common sense at this point. And now we have CV-19 affecting the meat packing industry here in the US. And we know it’s zoonotic. I am just waiting for the new cases that are going to occur from meat consumption. I know CV-19 is airborne, but still…viruses find ways to mutate.
In closing, just want to add that I truly LOVE children but am very glad I didn’t bring any into this world we are leaving them. Look what we have done to it in just a little over a century. Soldier on people!
May 04, 2020 at 6:13 pm
Two things jump out at me:
1) There are news reports about cats dying or nearly killed by vegan/vegetarian diets. They’re not frequent, because the death of an animal is not a newsworthy topic unless it’s a Grumpy Cat or some other famous pet, but the phenomenon has definitely been noted and there have been trend articles about an increase in sick cats brought in for treatment due to inappropriate plant-based diets.
In most cases the owners are oblivious and still don’t make the connection between the vegan diet and the symptoms, because they’ve been told their cats will do just fine. When the veterinarian conducts tests and starts asking questions, that’s when it comes out.
2) Evolution vegan cat food is not legitimate. The company is run by Eric Weisman, a man with convictions for repeatedly posing as a veterinarian, a doctor and a scientist. He is none of those things. He’s been charged and convicted with killing cats under his “care” and dispensing veterinary and medical advice.
Weisman has been ordered by the courts to stop misrepresenting himself and to stop making medical claims about Evolution cat food, but he still presents himself as a scientist and doctor on various websites. He violated a 2003 injunction forbidding him from practicing medicine and veterinary medicine, and was again convicted of several counts,
Weisman has argued that he’s a doctor and a scientist because he’s a chiropractor, but he lost his chiropractor license in 1998 for, again, misrepresenting himself, performing unnecessary services and “practicing beyond the scope of his license.”
All of this public information, and it is freely available with a few Google searches, including newspaper reports about his trial and conviction, lawsuits against the Board of Chiropractic Examiners, and court records related to his criminal convictions.
I won’t even get into criticism of his vegan cat food, its unsuitability for cat health, and the absurdity of a chiropractor pretending to be a biologist, nutritionist and veterinarian, because that’s been done elsewhere in exhaustive detail by people who are more well-informed than I am about the particulars of cat physiology.
But I will say this: I would never entrust my cat’s health and well-being to Weisman and his cat food.
Oct 09, 2019 at 11:22 am
Of course there will be cases of nutritional deficiency, as there are for many pet animals on processed meat-based diets, but there is no epidemic. Bear in mind that the pet supplements market is huge – so there are very few animals eating a “wild diet”.
There certainly is an epidemic of cats and dogs in ill health due to poor breeding practices, lack of exercise and obesity.
Note that a study carried out by Nestle (who produce meat-based cat food) found that all 34 vegetarian cats in the study were healthy. It wasn’t in their interest to prove this.
All cats evaluated had serum cobalamin concentrations within reference range, and 14 of 17 had blood taurine concentrations within reference range. (https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.229.1.70 / https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/may/24/vegetarianism-pets-national-vegetarian-week-cats-dogs)
Note that commercial cat food has taurine added back into it after processing because the processing removes the taurine – so it is supplemented, as it is in vegetarian cat food. Indeed having watched a documentary on Nestle and how they make cat food I wouldn’t trust it anymore than a vegetarian brand. It was jaw-dropping: a very long way from natural, put it that way.
What the science shows – as documented in the article – is not that cats can’t be fed vegan/vegetarian food, but that owners must be careful which brand they use and ensure it has been subject to strict testing to ensure it meets nutritional guidelines (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5035952/). I think the argument can be made that there may be a higher health risk, but this may largely be down to the competence of the owner.
Please also note I don’t fall on any one side of this debate. Based on the science I can effectively argue the case for both sides.
From an ethical point of view one can argue both side as not being preferable, and the wider conversation should be around the ethics of breeding, ownership and behavioural manipulation designed to suit the modern lifestyles of humans. Is this beneficial for cats? Have we caused more harm than good? Has the culture of pet ownership had an overall positive effect on animals and the environment as a whole? Is there more harm done than good? How many animals suffer so that others can have a “good home”? How many animals end up neglected or in shelters Vs those who have a “good home”, and is the net suffering worth it?
Oct 09, 2019 at 11:56 am
I think you should dig deeper when researching. It’s clear your sources were not thoroughly read.
First, pointing out cats are obligate carnivores says absolutely nothing.
Second, the alkaline urine is due to a response to the nutritional yeast, it has nothing to do with the diet being plant-based.
Also, there’s a myth cats will go blind without taurine, but if you dig deep, you’ll discover that overtime cats *may* have decreased night vision without taurine, which could arguably be just because they’re hunting less during the night being domesticated and all.
Keep in mind a quarter of the meat industry’s income comes from pet food, so there’s a lot of lies out there to be mindful of.
Sep 22, 2019 at 11:10 pm
That is not true. Cats are in real danger of going blind on a plant-based diet, and claiming otherwise is dangerous.
Here is a first-hand account from a veterinarian who put her own cat on a vegetarian diet, noticed the cat’s pupils were dilating differently, then had her cat examined by veterinary opthomologists and neuroscientists:
As you can see clearly from the answer, they all knew — and verified — that the cat was losing its eyesight specifically because of taurine deficiency. And the solution wasn’t to feed the cat vegan kibble, it was to add animal protein to the cat’s diet.
Cats are not human beings, they aren’t subject to human morals, and they cannot consent when an “owner” puts them on an inappropriate diet.
Oct 09, 2019 at 10:48 am
I wonder, what is your thought on that blog?
“Vegan Pets: An Unscientific Dogma?”
Written by: Heather Clemenceau
https:// heatherclemenceau.wordpress. com/2014/09/16/vegan-pets- an-unscientific-dogma/
Jun 06, 2019 at 11:19 pm
It’s good. It covers pretty much all the same information and comes to the same conclusion as I have here. One thing it misses though in its summary of dogs is that the large majority of dogs are fed a dried food blend (brands like James Wellbeloved) that on analysis would be considered “unnatural” because it is entirely processed with added nutrients to meet the nutritional guidelines. Yet the evolution of this type of food, which is considered “complete” and best for health, is promoted by most vets – even over freshly cut meat from the butcher.
The diet of domesticated dogs in no way resembles the diet of a true carnivore or omnivore living in the wild. Regardless of the fact that it contains animal derivatives, in no way does the dried food resemble meat or plant foods as they would be eaten in the wild by wolves or wild dogs. It contains the wrong types of animal and is heavily processed and supplemented. And so it supports the theory that as long as the amino acid content and other nutrient and mineral requirements are met, then a plant-based dried food of the same macro and micro nutrient ratio would be as sufficient for the majority of domesticated dogs. And indeed many consume such a diet.
It goes back to the question we often debate on human health: what is a natural diet? Dogs, like humans, will eat what food they can to survive. It is only with the wonderful science we have today and the abundance of food that we are able to identify a specific number of foods that when combined provide optimal health (according to the knowledge we have).
I saw a lady in the park feeding her dog crisps and white bread sandwiches, and many owners feed such processed foods to their dogs. Surely a plant-based kibble packed with every nutrient a dog needs is preferable to such foods that lack nutritional substance and are known to cause health problems in humans? And it begs the question: is a mixed animal and plant derived kibble better than a plant derived one, if they both meet the nutritional requirements set out by veterinary standards?
Exercise is a huge factor in health too. There are so many overweight dogs being fed canned and cooked meat every day; seemingly natural but they are in awful health.
This notion that domesticated dogs must eat meat to be healthy is oversimplified and doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. Dogs are not wolves. Domesticated dogs live lives so far removed from their distant cousins that it is hypocritical to start picking and choosing what we still consider to be “natural” for them. We have bred dogs into an array of ridiculous breeds to suit our preferences. My primary concern, before I debate whether a dog can get its amino acid requirements from a plant-based kibble, is the continued exploitation and mistreatment of dogs through breeding and irresponsible ownership.
I can’t own a dog because I’m vegan and I’m not going to needlessly pay for multiple animals to be slaughtered so I can keep one alive – that’s a simple moral choice. That aside, There are many aspects of modern pet ownership I am not comfortable with. Our continued interference with nature has caused so much destruction and suffering. It’s time to stop.
Jun 07, 2019 at 7:34 am
I really appreciated this article. A concise, informative and most importantly balanced read. I wish I could say the same for most of the comments.
Dec 27, 2018 at 6:41 am
Dec 27, 2018 at 10:55 am
I thought the article was well thought out too. As a vegan, I chose to adopt rabbits rather than cats, to avoid the whole debate. But there are certainly many cats being euthanized in shelters who would fare better with any diet, including a vegan one, rather than not being adopted. I think there still is a lot of R&D left to do in order to develop better vegan cat foods, but it’s good that we’re working on it.
One thing I noticed recently was an ad for cat litter that easily tests urine pH (Pretty Litter). I would think this is a big step forward for vegan cat owners. It could make it much easier to ensure your vegan cat is staying healthy. I hope the debate and research continues to move forward so that more cats can be rescued and live healthy lives.
Apr 14, 2020 at 12:24 pm
It takes years for nutritional deficiencies to show in cats, like in many humans. So these cats ‘thriving’ on a vegan diet will not only be nutritional deficient in a few years, but many of them will probably be dead. The science is very clear that cats are biologically obligate carnivores. We know, based on studies on feral cat colonies, they hunt whatever prey is most available. Rabbits, rodents, reptiles, and sometimes small birds, and that they typically choose fattier prey that’s close to 50/50 protein/fat ratio. All my cats are raw fed, because that’s what they require nutritionally. If you want a vegan pet, don’t get a cat.
Dec 12, 2018 at 6:59 pm
Cats are indeed obligate carnivores, but as long as their nutritional needs are met through the correct macro and micro nutrient ratios then theoretically they will be healthy. A lady posted below who has vegan cats from kittens, 18, 18, 19 and 21 years old. There are vegan cat food brands fed to thousands of cats, so the notion that these cats are all dying of disease is not true. There is no epidemic or studies to support this assertion. And in one study (linked in the article) vegetarian cats were NOT found to be deficient in B12 and taurine.
However, as I noted in the article, there is a study that shows two brands of vegan cat food were deficient in certain nutrients, but equally there are studies that show the health problems that low-quality meat and meat-based kibble can cause. There is also a cat diabetes epidemic (linked in the article), which is linked to diet and exercise issues.
So I think what the science shows is that neither diet is optimal for a cat; not standard canned cat food or veggie-based or meat based-kibble. And in terms of health, exercise also plays a big role, as does environment in general.
As you note, cats would naturally prey on small animals and eat raw, organic meat, not factory farmed processed meat full of steroids, antibiotics and hormones. This type of meat is nothing like the meat they would eat naturally, nor from the species they’d feed from.
I find that with this debate it can be argued effectively from both sides, because there are considerable flaws in both viewpoints. I personally take issue on both sides.
Dec 12, 2018 at 9:47 pm
Trudy Pachon says
This is a conversation that is really needed for many of us who are concerned with animal rights. Many people don’t have “pets” but try to save lives of companion animals who are brought into the world “by mistake” and then left to die or fend for themselves. They are also left to breed more unwanted animals. So the challenge for those of us doing the rescue work who are ethical vegans is : What to do about the stray cats?
Should I rescue and then feed them other animals, or let them be killed, or starve, or reproduce?
It’s a real dilemma that needs reasonable discussions to help us to make the best choices about where to put our scant resources.
Thanks so much for posting this and helping us a little further along the path.
Dec 03, 2018 at 1:33 am
Absolutely Trudy. That’s why I wanted to open up the debate here and hear from different people. Thanks for your input.
Dec 03, 2018 at 4:10 pm
This is my dilemma. I am a ethical Vegan who rescued a ferrel Siamese young cat. Had her fixed as she has had at least 3 litters the last of which was in my garage.. I was able to domesticate the kittens and find them good homes through a local licensed wild animal rescue lady. I have been feeding her raw freeze dried food and caned. Should I purchase meat from a farm? I am totally aware of the atrocity of animal abuse around the world and do cry a lot. I have been searching for the best possible food to feed her or should I let her outside to hunt. She may run away although she had been hanging around off and on for about 3 years time before I brought her indoors. Cats do not survive here very long outdoors. She had been killing songbirds that visited my bird feeders. I know she needs to eat but cats kill for sport and not for food. She has been indoors not for almost 9 months. Now one from her former litter of a few years ago when I first saw her is starting to hang around.. My heart is torn from not knowing what to do. I do want my rescue to be healthy cat.. Need some wisdom.
Jun 11, 2020 at 7:51 pm
This is an edit for the above comment I made: “I know she needs to eat but cats kill for sport and not for food.” I left out the last word…”sometimes”. Should read: I know she needs to eat but cats kill for sport and not for food sometimes.
Jun 11, 2020 at 7:57 pm
I have 4, now elderly cats (18,18, 19, 21) which I have had from kittens.
All fed on a vegan diet and all in perfect health.
Nov 19, 2018 at 11:05 pm
That’s really interesting to hear. What brand of food do you use? It might be useful for others to know.
Nov 20, 2018 at 10:56 am
Trudy Pachon says
This is great! Can you please let me know which brands or what you feed your cats? Are they all female? We struggled with this so much. We are at the point where we think we can only do dogs and herbivores rescues due to the ethical issues we have with the food.
Dec 03, 2018 at 1:24 am
IHi Patricia -I would love to have my 17 yr old best friend cat be veg…i only give her salmon & ocean fish pate with pumpkin puree and shakes of psyllium powder husk with green wheat grass powder…what do you feed your cats?
Apr 17, 2020 at 4:21 am
Elsje Parsons Massyn says
Everyone here made valid points that cats are mostly carnivore.
But the point is not here whether we must feed the cats vegan cat food or animal flesh>
The point here is. CAN CATS BE VEGAN?
The answer is: YES THEY CAN AND THERE IS ENOUGH PROOF THAT SOME OWNERS FEED THEIR CATS VEGAN FOOD AND THE CATS THRIVE ON WHAT THEYRE GIVEN.
But we do understand this issue is a difficult one especially for ethical vegans. We love our cats and do our best to balance our vegan lifestyle with our cat-child’s needs.
Each person must do what works for their cat. If someones cat have no problem with Vegan cat food and they thrive on it, by all means that is the ideal for every vegan family.
But if the cat struggles, the best one can do is to meet the cat-child half way.
And I think this answers the question.
Oct 17, 2018 at 9:58 am
“Cat-child”? A cat is just a cat. Let it be a cat I just don’t understand why anyone would subject a cat or any animal to arbitrary human ethical inventions. If we want to do ethics that’s fine, we know what we’re doing. But to impose our whims and fancies on an animal which doesn’t understand what’s happening, doesn’t have the capacity to comprehend anything about ethics and has no choice in the matter seems like blatant animal abuse to me. All the cat knows is that its most basic food needs are going unmet. All it will experience is malnutrition. Far out, how stubborn and arrogant are we thinking we can just overcome tens of millions of years of evolution in pursuit of our 21st century ideology. It’s fundamentally unethical. The cat’s health comes first, not our ideological preferences.
Oct 17, 2018 at 2:04 pm
The cat’s health is important, but so is the health of all the other animals involved. Again, if the diet is covering the basic nutritional requirements, then it isn’t missing out. A carefully designed vegan diet with appropriate supplementation can do that. It isn’t an ideological preference, it is a fact that many animals will have to be slaughtered by humans if a cat is fed meat. A properly cared for and loved cat in a vegan home will be happy and healthy. Humans should not kill animals for food, ours or for pets.
Oct 18, 2018 at 5:51 am
Rebecca a Swenson says
I don’t think it’s wise to give cat’s a vegan diet, the point this post made was that it’s very difficult. Also isn’t buying some mish-mash plant kibble just as bad as buying canned meat cat food? You have no idea where parts of the meal were sourced from, just because something is plant-based doesn’t mean it’s environmentally or economically ethical. Cats are carnivores, they enjoy eating prey and have a dietary need for it, being squeamish yourself and not eating meat isn’t their problem, you should be doing what’s best for them and ultimately give them what they need.
Dec 05, 2018 at 6:01 pm
Laura Ross says
I foster tiny kittens for an animal shelter who are too young to be adopted. I’m a vegan. I make this choice for myself and only myself. The kittens are most definitely not vegan.
Oct 16, 2018 at 7:36 pm
Well, I’m so pleased that you eat plant based food. And you are right, it is your choice. And regardless of what you feed the kittens, they are controlled by the choices you make for them, so their food is your choice as well. Unfortunately, you are making the assumption that the kittens you foster are the only animals impacted by that choice. And the animals that are slaughtered so that the kittens you foster can eat meat do not have a choice as to whether they wish to be food for another animal. I don’t believe any animal should be slaughtered by humans for food. As there is evidence that an appropriate vegan diet with the right micro and macro nutrients can be designed for cats, I would choose that option.
Oct 16, 2018 at 10:39 pm
Elsje Parsons Massyn says
Thank you Michael.
I agree totally with you.
Oct 18, 2018 at 9:26 am
I am growing to be quite confused on this opinion, since that simply is not how ethics work. Ethics seem to be about choices made by humans. Plants don’t have the choice to die either, neither do I, yet I will eventually anyway, does that mean life is not ethically correct? Exactly, humans aren’t capable of judging non human things as if they would have the humanoid train of thought. An animal like a cat is proven to be a carnivore. If you do not wish to involve in the killing of animals to give your pet all the food they need, please do not get a pet. It’s that simple. No one is forcing you to get a pet, yet you’d force your pet to eat what it eats since you’re it’s only supplier of food. Everything and everyone is infected by any choice ever made eventually, or yet that isn’t proven false untill now. All the choices you make affect and have concequences. If you want to be ethically correct about this, then you don’t do anything, since that choice would be neutral. Then don’t interfere with the kittens life, so you don’t have anything to do with what it needs to eat to get all the vitamins and minerals it needs.
Dec 21, 2018 at 7:10 pm
Laura Ross says
I’d like to see you come up with a vegan kitten formula for the neonates that I take care of. It’s impossible to buy because kittens, like other baby mammals, need feline milk ideally, or if that is not available, they need a formula that is scientifically developed to approximate feline milk.
Dec 27, 2018 at 6:58 pm
Then adopt a cat who has already had kittens, and she can relactate, and nurse them.
Or make up a plant-based formula yourself based on their nutritional needs. The commercial ones are made from processed cows’ milk anyway! Which is no more suitable for their needs than it is for human babies. It might keep them from starving, but it’s never going to approximate cat (or human) milk in the wider sense.
Or let them die, because humans spread and bred cats in the first place. Better one kitten dies than thousands of other animals are killed over its lifetime to feed it (and the knock-on environmental effects of that on all beings), when it was never even meant to be wherever you live (which I assume is not Egypt).
But you apparently think cats are more valuable than those other animals, which is speciesist, and not compatible with a declaration of veganism.
Aug 27, 2019 at 10:51 pm
Laura Ross says
Who are we to dictate what other animals eat? We as humans are responsible only for what we ourselves eat.
How dare you.
Aug 29, 2019 at 6:28 am
But you do dictate it already, regardless of the details. And those cats only exist because of human choices in the first place.
In order not to dictate what they eat, you would have to let them starve, and you don’t seem to like that idea, even though not doing so means you (and it is you, not the cats) are choosing to kill many other beings.
Aug 29, 2019 at 12:13 pm
Sorry, if you guys are feeding cats a vegan diet and “manipulating” their geniology for the sake of your own hubris and belief that because human beings are “clever”, they should work against another spicies’ natural instincts, is by definition, animal abuse. You probably aren’t bad people and I’m positive you are positive that you are doing the right thing, but you are contributing to a form of animal abuse by disrespecting the nature of your pet. You are making an ethical choice, congratulating yourself for that choice and forcing an animal under your care with no agency to make the same choice. There’s no argument to be made that will make that right. That animal’s spirit does not belong to you.
Oct 07, 2018 at 9:33 pm
I don’t NOT disagree with you, necessarily, but I’m still seeking answers to many of the questions raised in the article. The thing is, the standard domestic cat diet could also be considered animal abuse.
I quote, again:
But what if that meat is very low quality, full of toxins and carcinogens, and from animals that a cat would never be capable of hunting in the wild – arguably making it biologically incompatible. What if an alternative plant-based kibble was deemed superior for health by veterinary nutritional scientists?
Moreover, there are a high percentage of cat owners feeding their cats processed foods and other dangerous foods such as dairy.
Oct 08, 2018 at 11:46 am
Organic and raw cat food also exists. I don’t doubt there could be very natural cat diets existing in the world fed to cats by humans that are with least human interference, yet you aren’t calling out that option. Why not?
Dec 21, 2018 at 7:20 pm
I am sure there is a human somewhere feeding a cat a diet close to their optimal diet, but I am yet to see an example. This behaviour doesn’t correlate with ownership either. Cats eating a natural diet wouldn’t require an owner to feed them; they’d be feral. Perhaps there are humans who catch mice and birds and then invite feral cats to feed on them, who knows. This is a good point you raise though, and highlights the point that this issue is with humans: when we interfere with animals, be it their diet, reproductive cycle or environment, we create problems. It is never for the benefit of the species.
Dec 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Thanks for suggesting that someone mightn’t be a bad person despite the fact they don’t wish to kill another animal. If someone provides a loving home for a cat and provides a nutritious diet with all the micronutrient and macronutrients required from plant sources, they are not being cruel. You think that this would be less nutritious than the low quality cat foods derived from animal scrapes available in supermarkets? And manipulating geniology??? I don’t even know what that means. Cats are living in a house and being provided food regardless of whether it is plant based or not, so both diets are stopping the cat from hunting, so removing the need for their natural hunting instinct. You’re argument may be valid against the keeping of cats as pets, not for the food choice people make for them. Cats who eat vegan food probably catch mice and insects as other cats do, so I think their natural instinct isn’t impacted by what they are fed. I repeat that with careful manipulation, cats can be fed healthy and appropriate plant based diets that meet all there nutritional needs. Most cats I have seen in loving homes vegan or otherwise usually seem happy and content, unlike the rabbits, pigs, cows, fish, kangaroo or other animals that have been hunted or raised for slaughter by humans – not cats – to be used as food. That is not protecting the natural instinct of cats, instead abusing other animals that have equal desire for a happy life as pets. And I don’t congratulate myself for an ethical choice, I think it’s the least that should be expected.
Oct 09, 2018 at 8:29 am
I don’t buy that at all. There is a categorical difference between offering a cat shelter (which my cat anyway is free to leave if he should ever decide he doesn’t like it) and providing certified nutritious meat based food on the one hand and experimenting on the cat’s biome by trying to turn an obligate carnivore into a vegan on the other. It’s just a whole different level of right and wrong. Seriously if you want a vegan pet that is also very smart, personable and affectionate why not just get some rats? As omnivores like us they easily take to a vegan diet as long as they have a quality source of protein from somewhere. I keep rats too and they are adorable pets. They happily thrive on a vegan diet. When I have occassionally offered them animal protein they turn it down. Leave the poor cat out of it. I’m not against vegan pets. I’m against vegan obligate carnivores because by definition it doesn’t work. It’s hubris to think we are so so smart that we have the cat’s nutritional needs down to every last micronutrient all figured out just as evolution adapted it. We don’t. The science hasn’t been done. We barely understand the human gut biome let alone the cat’s. Anecdotal observations of happy vegan cats are not science. Making cats vegan is asking for trouble.
Oct 17, 2018 at 2:27 pm
Michael, you are not animal lover, your are cat-abuser. You can’t understand that some animals, like cats, need to eat meat. Cats CAN’T devour plant-based protein, there is a high risk of urile problems, complications with eyes, fur. Your human-vegan ethical problems with killing the animals are not the problems of cats. Within the Nature, many animals kill and eat each other, and we, as humans, do not try to eliminate all the hunters from the eco-system. Pets are not humans, and they do not come under the human-based ethics. For example, there is no such thing like war in the human sense (struggle for power, exploitation of other for benefits, gaining resources etc.) within the “animal kingdom.” Life of majority of animals is limited to simple biological reproduction, with very few social interactions. We, as a specie, were very similar to other animals before the “invention of work” (working is the process of human’s interaction with Nature and the Nature’s changing). But cats do not work and do not change their lives like we do.
Vegan/Vegetarian ideology says that vege-diets are healthy. For humans, there is only B12-needs for supplementation. But for cats? B12, taurine, A, and many more. Needs for high levels of meat-based protein, not from soya or corn. The researches about “vegan cat food” did not fully answer all the questions, and if the cat is biologically a meat-eater, so it has to eat it! As a vegan, you probably want to eat healthy, non-processed good for your food, so why do you support such a unnaturally modified diet for cats when all its meals will be based on this food-manipulations? It is an absurd. Moreover, you do not take into account that cat on the plant-diet would suffered even it would life! Yeah, I know this obscurantist “argument” about “cats kill other animals, and we have to do something with it.” No, we have not if we are truly animal-lovers. And if you are a cat-hater (not so rare within vegans…), as I see reading about the question of whether the cats should be wiped out of human society, than you are a hypocrite.
And, no, the anecdote “argument” based on “my friend has a plant-diet cat” is irrelevant as we do not know how cat is felling on such a non-natural for it diet.
It is a paradox that humanitarian idea of vegan food degenerated into cat-abuse paranoia. What next? Lions, foxes, or lovely home birds-the insects eaters?
May 23, 2019 at 1:33 am
Elsje Parsons Massyn says
I love your website – thanks for all the information.
Have you heard of the vegetarian lion that lived 9 years in captivity. The lion’s veterinarian said she was in complete health, until her owners started travelling her around and making her to appear on TV shows in the 1950’s and then due to all the changes in weather and exposure to bacteria and germs she contracted pneumonia and died in her sleep. Then there is also a story of a cat who lived in Britain who also refused to eat meat. So maybe tagging cats as natural carnivores are most probably not ALWAYS as true as everyone would love to think.
Have you read the book:
“I love on fruit” by Essie Honiball
In the in the 1950’s this lady ate herself out of chronic diseases. She was apposed by almost every friend, family member, colleague, doctor, scientist in South Africa because of her chosen plant based lifestyle. Remember in those days humans were believed to be natural omnivores and that you would DIE a certain death if you only ate fruit and plants. She was supposed to die in her late 30’s but because of her new lifestyle she lived up and into her 80’s ONLY ON FRUIT – she did NOT take Vitamin B12 supplements or anything like that.
So I personally think, B12 is far over rated, “cats cant live on a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle” is unfounded and not true EVEN THOUGH THE SO CALLED SCIENTISTS (who have taken all of us for a ride for a hundred years with false information) – thanks be to Drs. McDougall, Dr. Barnard & Dr. Gregor (nutritionfacts) the opposite is now true.
So why not for cats also!!
Aug 14, 2018 at 9:41 am
I would be very, very suspicious of anything presented as fact by Creation Ministries International. They have a long history of making stuff up and twisting stories to suit their ideology (that God made the universe in 6 24-hour-days)
Oct 17, 2018 at 2:31 pm
Elsje Parsons Massyn says
Hi Daniel – I get your point I am not a fan of them either.
But they stole the story about Little Tyke the vegetarian Lion from Little Tyke’s historical website. So contrary to what you might think the story of Little Tyke is true.
Its just interesting that no-one so far on this page has been able to answer me straight on the two links I provided about the vegetarian Lion and vegetarian cat.
Its as if everyone is avoiding the issue and talk around the facts.
I hear everyone’s point that to be species specific cats are carnivores – but that doesnt mean that the two links with testimonies otherwise are true.
Dec 22, 2018 at 9:40 am
Elsje Parsons Massyn says
Correction: It doesnt mean that the two stories in the links provided are not true. There is no reason to believe that they are a forgery.
Dec 22, 2018 at 9:41 am
I just want to comment that not all cats would go feral if left without human contact. Cats like people and other animals are all very different and have different personalities. I rescue so likely have a larger group to judge from watching these personalities.
I have the consummate hunters who would likely go feral if left to their own devices.
I have one who was a semi feral but starving tiny little baby when brought to me. She’s scared by lots of things but she craves human attention now, but if she was suddenly left on her own I suspect fearful/shy or not she could also revert.
My friend has one who positively insists on going out everyday and she does kill and bring her finds home to share. But she also positively insists on being let back in the house and her world would not be right if she wasn’t getting a bedtime cuddle.
Then there’s my Gus Gus and his Brother Kirk. They seem to have absolutely no prey drive whatsoever. The other cats going nutty over a moth? They sit snoring in the cat condo. Misha chasing the random lizard that got in the house? Gus Gus ran AWAY from it. Kirk made friends with a baby bird that sat in the window for a few weeks. Gus Gus demands to be scooped up and cuddled like a baby at least once a day. Not a behavior he was taught but one he enjoys as soon as he gets his “uppies” he’s purring and falls asleep. Gus Gus is not the type of cat who would go feral he would seek humans if he didn’t get hit by a car or picked off by something else he’d starve.
So like with most debates this is not a one size fits all solution. Is it really right to chuck animals out to starve if you know that’s going to be the result? Not something I could do. But then that’s probably why my fur kids are provided for in my will should anything happen to me.
Jul 21, 2018 at 8:20 am
thank you for sharing your insight Ambrosia. I wouldn’t suggest to anyone that they chuck their domesticated animals out to starve. If we make a commitment to look after an animal then we should honour that commitment.
Not all cats will go feral having had human contact. Some will, over time, as their contact with humans diminishes completely and they spend longer periods of time on their own. Others will just live as strays/alley cats.
In terms of food, most will do quite well; certainly wouldn’t live as long.
Jul 24, 2018 at 5:33 pm
Elsje Parsons Massyn says
Ambrosia I fully agree with you cats have different personalities and instincts.
Some are more placid than others.
We cannot fit them into a box, like most humans love to do with animals – humans who demand this species specific inside the box type of thinking.
Thanks for your post – I have observed the same with my cats. 4 Cats each with their own personality and characteristics.
Dec 28, 2018 at 5:08 pm
I’m not sure why you include dairy. Yes, it’s an old wives’ tale that cats like milk, but the majority of cat owners don’t give their cats milk. I would suspect all of the type of owners who put effort into their cats nutrition (as opposed to the ones who own a pet, but see them as disposable) know that cats are lactose intolerant. I would also suspect that the majority of owners who see their cat as disposable aren’t going to go out of their way to “treat” their cat to milk. The point I’m trying to make is that few cats are being fed milk or cream.
Mar 28, 2018 at 12:28 am
Laura Ross says
When you are bottle feeding rescue kittens every two hours 24/7, the formula you give them is based on dairy–it’s not as good as mama cat’s milk but when you can’t find an emergency cat nurser, you do what you can to save these little ones so they can hopefully grow up to be somebody’s animals companion and live a happy life (and bottle fed kittens are definitely human-oriented). That’s just the way it is.
The sad thing is that people find nests of kittens, think they are lost, and take them to the animal shelter without waiting to see if the mom is somewhere around and those of us who do rescue get calls to come save the kittens or they’ll be put down. Kitten season is met with dread by foster workers.
I also don’t like the tone of this article. Feral cats cause extensive damage to wildlife and do not live happy lives. Domestic cats should never be feral.
Oct 16, 2018 at 7:43 pm
Cat Lover says
I just feel that it is more ethical to feed your cats meat. See, in the wild, a feral cat will kill of hundreds of odd birds and rodents a year. And they will waste most of it. But a cat in a house who gets fed cat food gets around 50 birds a year if they eat a chicken diet. I don’t know about other sources. It comes down to, “Do we let nature happen and have a cat needlessly kill lots of animals, but give them a chance,” or “Do we give the chickens slaughtered no chance at life, but many left are living.” Or, “Do we take a chance and kill no animals at any time ever for our animal at the risk at losing our beloved pet?” I’d say number 2 is the best answer. Cats are much more intelligent than a chicken. But the loss of life is unnecessary when we set our cats free.
Feb 27, 2018 at 2:02 pm
You make a valid moral point here, but this dilemma is something we have brought upon ourselves.
I think it’s preferable to not try and domesticate animals for the purpose of companionship, because as we’ve seen it inevitably leads to selective breeding, which causes health problems for the animals; and the need to then raise other animals unnaturally in order to meet the dietary needs of the pet.
Whichever way I look at animal domestication and pet ownership, there is always a negative price to pay, usually for the pet, the environment or another animal species.
I think the broader message in terms of animal welfare and environmental welfare is to stop interfering with nature.
The primary thinking is one of “how do humans benefit, and within the framework of those benefits how can we give the animal the best life possible?”
But would a better approach not be to consider the species first, and how any interference will affect its natural environment and breeding cycle?
Re your last point on intelligence: what is the benchmark for intelligence and who gets to decide. Indeed, even in humans, intelligence is subjective and can be analysed against numerous criteria.
I understand what you mean, but then why not keep pigs and slaughter dogs? Since pigs are proven to be more intelligent in terms of social interaction.
Moreover, if we slaughter based on intelligence, should we then rid our population of mentally challenged people in order to reduce the population, increase workforce efficiency and improve the gene pool of our species?
Feb 27, 2018 at 2:21 pm
I agree with what you say about selective breeding, some of what we’ve done with dogs is just animal cruelty, but cats once again are a bit special. The science suggests that to the extent cats are really domesticated, which isn’t much apparently, cats have mostly domesticated themselves, not we them. In fact it’s only the last few hundred years that we’ve actively encouraged them as companions, before that they were mostly tolerated as pest controllers. There’s not a lot of selective breeding when it comes to cats although that is sadly starting to change. Companion animals can offer big health benefits. I consider my cat a best buddy. His presence has got me through some very dark times.
Jul 24, 2018 at 8:32 pm
Great article! I think anyone uncomfortable with feeding cats a non-vegan diet would be better off with a pet who fares better on a vegan diet. I do recommend anyone who loves cats and has the means to donate to a local rescue/shelter definitely should, though!
Feb 24, 2018 at 6:25 pm
Maybe, but probably not. My cat is desexed, microchipped and his identity is registered with the local council. If anything happens to me I have made arrangements for him to be looked after. You could call it responsible pet ownership but I just want him to be ok.
Jan 26, 2018 at 6:59 am
I’m in southern Australia. I’m not a big fan of meat personally, but my cat is an obligate carnivore so he gets fed meat. He is fed raw kangaroo meat complemented with AAFCO compliant commercial food. I never feed him kibble. He has access to the outdoors whenever he wants to. For this, he is up to date with all vaccinations. In 10 years he’s brought home a few mice (introduced pests) and a minah bird (also an introduced pest) – he does not ravage the native wildlife. He’s never had any health issues apart from a cold and a broken toe. I would never ever consider feeding a vegan diet to an obligate carnivore. I would consider it animal cruelty.
Jan 25, 2018 at 2:51 pm
Thanks for sharing your story, Daniel. I think the majority of people would agree with you, but therein lies the next debate regarding pet ownership and feeding animals other animals so that we can enjoy their company. As you’ve seen with your cat, he still has the hunting instinct, and if you stopped feeding him he would most likely live as a stray and survive with those instincts.
Jan 26, 2018 at 5:39 am
Michael Torriero says
As nature intended??? Are domesticated cats a natural predator in the Australian outback, or an introduced species that doesn’t at all fit in to the natural environment. And no one is suggesting to not feed the cats, just to provide a suitable alternative that doesn’t require killing other animals.
Jul 31, 2018 at 9:28 am
I take issue with the domestication of animals for human gain; it never ends well and is always to the detriment of the species. We see this in the numerous health problems of different dog breeds, sheep, and cats too.
I am also against the exploitation and slaughter of livestock to feed domesticated animals.
As best as possible I have presented the two sides of the debate: there is both research that supports a plant-based diet for cats and research that doesn’t. But the fact remains: this is an obligate carnivore.
Aug 23, 2018 at 9:04 am
Michael Torriero says
But it’s not animal cruelty to kill a kangaroo so your cat can be fed??? Why do you consider it cruel for a healthy and much loved cat to be fed vegan food when it is shown that it can be healthy for the cat with careful nutritional manipulation. If every cat owner in Australia fed wild kangaroo meat, our kangaroo population would be decimated quickly. All animals deserve love and life, not just our pets.
May 17, 2018 at 11:59 am
It’s natural for animals to kill other animals. That’s how nature works. Whatever we humans think about the predator/prey relationship is irrelevant. It’s how life has evolved over millions of years. If I didn’t feed my cat, he’d be hunting and killing for himself. Either way, when it comes to obligate carnivores, animals have to die. I choose mainly kangaroo because they are not mass farmed, factory farming of animals being a practice I do wholly disagree with. Most domestic cats in Australia in fact do consume kangaroo meat and there are still plenty of kangaroos around. As for a vegan diet being healthy for cats, I disagree. The science I have read about it simply doesn’t back it up.
Jul 24, 2018 at 8:14 pm
Anything we ever do for and to our domesticated companion animals is unnatural. In fact, domesticated animals aren’t even natural. That is to say, they have no natural place outside of the care of the humans that domesticated them. This is demonstrated by the fact that set free to roam, they have caused the extinction of at least 33 species of animals worldwide that would have otherwise been hunted by their own natural predators in reasonable numbers. If there is a possibility that a cat can thrive on a nutritionally complete vegan diet, I think it should be done. Or else you are causing the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of equally sentient, equally morally valuable animals just so you can keep your preferred one alive. If you are against animal cruelty, how do you justify doing it to multiple other animals in preference to yours? Why is your cat’s life more valuable that the life of the kangaroos you feed it?
Jul 30, 2018 at 3:03 am
Michael Torriero says
Your point is mute when you consider your cat isn’t out there contributing to the “circle of life” but is instead housed and protected in human habitat while humans with guns shoot the animal. I don’t think your cat would be very successful if it took on the kangaroos you are feeding it. And by careful dietary manipulation, I refer to a protein and fat based diet supplemented with the necessary nutrients from plant based sources. We’re a clever species, we can provide a healthy protein based diet without shooting it. You feel that feeding a cat a suitable vegan diet is cruel but killing kangaroos to feed it isn’t ?
Jul 31, 2018 at 9:12 am
It is cruel b/c you are pushing your shitty beliefs on an animal that evolved eating meat, and b/c you ‘feel bad’ about eating meat you think you can change genetics. I hope you don’t have kids either.
Aug 23, 2018 at 7:10 am
The information in the link you posted is covered in my article. But this isn’t the complete story. The opposing argument is that the average cat is fed a diet that is far removed from what its diet should be. Cat food is generally comprised of low quality meat containing numerous growth hormones, steroids and a huge list of carcinogens.
Moreover, this meat is from animals that a cat would never be able to pray on in the wild. Regardless of whether this is meat or not, this diet causes cats health problems. The argument is that a plant-based kibble, which contains all the macro and micronutrients, including all the amino acids required, is no worse and probably better than the food people are feeding their cats.
Consider that many people for processed foods too, which are equally as damaging to their health.
If you read the research by The Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Winchester (detailed in the post) they say:
“It is entirely possible for companion animals to survive, and indeed thrive, on vegetarian diets.”
There go on to say:
“Those interested in vegetarian companion animal diets should be aware of concerns about the nutritional adequacy of some such diets demonstrated by a number of studies over a significant number of years. However, to ensure a balanced view, they should also be aware that similar concerns exist about commercial meat-based diets.”
Personally, I don’t necessarily support one side or the other, and I can easily provide opposition on both sides. But we must take all the science and research into account and not let any cultural or ideological bias come into play.
Lastly, your comment contained two personal insults. For that reason I am going to have to give you a strike, as per the rules of the website. Any further insults will result in you being banned from the comments section.This is a place for debate, not for insults. I appreciate your cooperation.
Aug 23, 2018 at 9:24 am
Aaron Low says
Quite simply put: if you are feeding your cat anything but meat, you are a navel gazing moron. If you are a vegan, and you don’t want to feed meat to your pet, go get a rabbit.
Oct 05, 2018 at 7:10 am
But what if that meat is very low quality, full of toxins and carcinogens, and from animals that a cat would never feed from in the wild – arguably making it biologically incompatible (as discussed in the article)? What if an alternative plant based kibble was deemed superior for health by veterinary nutritional scientists?
Oct 05, 2018 at 10:35 am
Zachary Bower says
But such a thing hasn’t been deemed superior. Hence the accusation of “navel gazing.” Instead of worrying about if it’s hypothetically feasible under some such condition, just don’t get a carnivore. Plus, cats are basically bred to murder anything that gets into the house anyway, even if they have no intention of eating it. They’re probably not the best pet for someone who doesn’t want to indirectly cause the death of other animals.
I don’t know what the point about low-quality meat food is supposed to prove. While it wouldn’t be surprising if cat food manufacturers cut corners for profit, you didn’t give a citation in the article for the claim that most vets agree that mainstream food is of poor quality. The only place you have a source talking about it says that cats handle it just fine. Besides, so what if Tom, Dick, & Harry aren’t using good cat food, 2 wrongs & all that, why doesn’t everyone just go to the vet & use the cat food they recommend?
And while I’m here, quoting the CEO of a vegan cat food company isn’t a very scientific source. He’s not obligated to tell the truth, & of course he’s going to tell you that a bunch of of people are satisfied with the product he’s trying to sell you. Which isn’t even the question, its nutrient content is the same regardless of who left a 5-star Yelp review on it.
Nov 06, 2018 at 8:42 am
I’m not arguing it proves anything, thus why I also included the results of plant-based kibble testing for a balanced overview. I can debate this from both sides. However, the fact remains that there simply isn’t a problem with plant-based cats dying of deficiencies due to their diet. If there were, the food companies wouldn’t be in operation. Does this mean I’d own a cat and feed it a plant-based diet? No, I wouldn’t own a cat.
There is, however, evidence that cats in general are not receiving the nutrition they require. Dried foods, meat or plant-based, are linked to kidney and urinary problems.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1244595/Is-food-youre-feeding-pet-killing–making-vet-rich.html (I can’t find the original study. Here’s more info on dried food from a vet: https://catinfo.org/feline-urinary-tract-diseases/)
We also know that most “commercial pet food protein is derived not from human-grade meats, but from crude, rendered or non-meat sources. The digestibility and absorbability of low grade protein sources is questionable at best.” (https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/04/07/largest-study-confirms-what-pet-cats-really-want-to-eat.aspx)
Many cat owners feed their cats processed foods and give them carbohydrate rich snacks, which is said to be detrimental to their health. Therefore, a commercial and processed food-based diet may not be preferable to a plant based kibble that meets all the macronutrient requirements. Processed foods are detrimental to humans, so why would we deem them suitable to other species?
The perfect diet for a cat would be raw meat derived from animals (which live naturally/organically) which it would naturally hunt in the wild. But how many cat owners do you know who feed their cat in this way? Are there any?
You mention asking the vet for recommendations. But most vets recommend dried food, which is said to be problematic for health.
But wait: this overview of the research does not support the theory about dried food and states: “Current published evidence does not support a direct role for diet in general, or carbohydrates in particular, on disease risk in domestic cats. Available evidence does suggest that environmental and developmental factors may play a larger role in the development of chronic disease in cats than previously appreciated” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2387258/
So it may actually be the domestication of cats that is holistically problematic, and not just the diet in isolation.
When we explore this topic we begin to see how problematic pet ownership can become. When we begin to interfere with a species through selective breeding and forced behavioural changes, problems inevitably occur.
My over arching point is not to prove that cats can be plant-based (I am not a vegan cat advocate), but to demonstrate that the debate is hypocritical and problematic on both sides. I think this is a debate that needs to be had and I’m glad people are sharing their opinions and experiences, and I welcome any further research people can find to add substance to the debate.
Nov 06, 2018 at 11:03 am
Elsje Parsons Massyn says
Thank you for taking the time to provide fantastic reply to so many questions. I have made a note of all the pro’s and con’s in your message and have found it very helpful.
Nov 14, 2018 at 11:05 am
Trudy Pachon says
Thanks Peter. Excellent points!
Dec 03, 2018 at 1:34 am
Elsje Parsons Massyn says
Michael Torriero – I agree with you 100%.
Aug 24, 2018 at 1:29 pm
Thanks Elsje. I agree with you to
Oct 09, 2018 at 10:24 am