A white cat stares disdainfully at a plate of cucumber slices.

Can Cats Be Vegan?

Are Felines Able to Adapt to Different Dietary Lifestyles Like Humans?

It’s no secret that cat lovers want to share everything with their favorite felines, so why not share in the choices they make in the way that they live their lives as well? On top of that, you just want the best for your cats, and if you’re a vegan, you know how the benefits of veganism are positive to your life, won’t they be just as positive for your cat as well? If you’re wondering if cats can be vegan, we’ll explore that and more in this article.

People choose to be vegan for many reasons. Some decide to make the change with ethical motives of protecting the earth and the animals that inhabit it, others make the switch to improve their health. The results for humans are clear, but for cats — the short answer is that they can’t handle it.

The key thing that you need to know is that cats are obligate carnivores. This means that they physically need meat in their diets to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, cats are unable to sustain a vegan diet because they lose several of the important nutrients that they receive from eating animal products. Feeding a cat a vegan diet is basically like feeding a cow a carnivore diet. Cats have evolved over centuries to specifically digest meat, so their digestive systems aren’t able to manage a vegan diet.

The Dietary Requirements for Felines Helps Determine if Cats Can Be Vegan

There are also several vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that cats need from animal products, that they aren’t able to receive in sufficient quantities from plant-based foods. Let’s dive into what they are.

This is the big one. Taurine is an amino acid that is essential for healthy cats. It occurs naturally in animal products such as meat and milk. Humans and dogs are able to create it naturally within their bodies, but cats aren’t, so they have to get it from an outside source. Without taurine, cats can become taurine-deficient, which can cause dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and blindness. DCM is the more serious of the two because if it’s not caught early it has a high mortality rate.

Vitamins A, B12, and D
Each of these vitamins are found in animal products and are required to keep your cat healthy. Cats aren’t able to create any of these within their body, so it’s essential that they exist in their diet. Without them, they can also cause a slew of health issues if your cat becomes deficient.

While this is one that a lot of vegans argue is easy to find in their diets anyway, cats need a diet that’s heavy and rich in protein, and they’re unable to get enough from plants.

There are supplements available that you can add to your cat’s vegan diet, but they make it easier for your cat to receive too much, and toxicity in one of these nutrients is just as bad as being deficient. The easiest way for a cat to hit the balance of what they need for a healthy lifestyle is to eat what they were designed to eat — meat.

The other big problem with feeding your cat a vegan diet is that typically the vegan diet is rich in carbohydrates. This is bad for cats because their bodies literally aren’t equipped to digest them. As cats evolved their bodies cut out for the need for carbohydrates, and today’s housecat requires calorie-dense options rather than carbs to receive energy.

On top of all the science behind what your cat should and shouldn’t eat, there’s also the fact that many cats won’t be keen on eating a vegan diet. Cats are finicky creatures, and the last thing any cat owner wants is for their cat to simply refuse to eat altogether.

What Can Vegans Do?

If you’re a vegan, unfortunately including your cat in your dietary lifestyle probably isn’t the best idea. It can be done, but cats that eat a vegan diet need to be regularly monitored by their vet to make sure they aren’t falling susceptible to any health issues or other complications. Not only is this time consuming, but it’s also expensive to have tests constantly performed.

If you’re not willing to do those things, you’re putting your cat at serious risk. So what can vegans do? It’s understandable that you wouldn’t be comfortable feeding your cat meat or animal products, but it’s important to remember that this is your personal decision, not your cat’s. What you can do is purchase cat foods that are locally-sourced, or look for companies that are doing their part to care about the environment and the food that they put out, they do exist! Care for all animals includes making sure they live their best lives, and for cats, that’s a diet that’s rich in animal products.