Is Vegan Cat Food Safe for Your Pet?
Having Your Cat Eat the Same Diet as You Might Not Be as Good as You Think
Many cat owners who have chosen to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet wonder if feeding their cats the vegan cat food is a safe choice. It’s completely understandable that you’d want to share your values with your pet — you think of them as part of your family! It might also be uncomfortable for someone who follows veganism or vegetarianism to purchase animal products for their cats. However, it’s important to be fully educated about the feline diet and what your cat needs to be healthy before you choose to make such a dramatic shift in their diet.
Here’s something you’ll want to think about. Is a cat able to eat a vegan diet in the first place? Unfortunately, many vets say no. Cats are genetically designed to be carnivores or meat-eaters. While dogs might not have as difficult a time adjusting to a different style of diet, cats are obligate carnivores. Which means that they literally need meat in their diet to receive the nutrients and vitamins required to keep their bodies functioning the way they’re supposed to.
So, if you want to feed your cat vegan cat food — is it safe? Let’s take a look at the differences between food options and the essential nutrients that your cat needs.
Does Vegan Cat Food Have Everything Cats Need to Be Healthy?
Everyone has heard of cats who bring their owners dead animals like birds or mice. You might have even had it happen to you! This isn’t just our cats trying to mess with us, it’s part of a cat’s natural instincts to hunt, kill, and eat animals. Cats are skilled hunters. However, in the event that a cat is unable to eat meat, they are able to adjust to a plant-based diet. The catch is that it’s not meant to be long term.
If you have an outdoor cat, you’ve probably noticed these hunting skills. Think about the things that she’s gone after. There’s a key reason why your cat isn’t going after vegetables and grains. You may have noticed that your cat enjoyed munching on grass or other plants, but this is more for a form of dietary aid than a sufficient meal.
Cats meet their nutritional needs by getting specific key nutrients — namely vitamin A, D, B12, taurine, and arachidonic acid — from meat. Each of these nutrients, even if they are included in a vegan cat food option, are sufficiently supplied to keep your cat healthy.
So what happens if your cat doesn’t receive these key nutrients? Essentially their body is put at serious risk. Your cat can become deficient in important vitamins and minerals and if it’s continued for a long time, these deficiencies turn into serious health risks. Taurine specifically causes the most common problems. Without it, a cat could develop cardiomyopathy, which is a condition where an enlarged heart leads to markedly reduced contractions.
The main problem with vegetarian or vegan cat food is that it’s typically missing amino acids and has too many carbohydrates. Why are carbohydrates bad for cats? Their bodies have evolved over time to not need them, which means that they’re unable to digest them.
No matter what diet you eat, everyone wants the very best for their cats. It can be difficult for a vegan or vegetarian to feed their cat meat, but it’s important to remember that the choice you’re making is for yourself, not your cat. Your cat is unable to understand the ethical or health values that drove you to change your diet, and it’s not worth putting your cat at serious risk.
That being said, the cat foods like dry kibble or wet food that you commonly find at the store aren’t often made from factory-farmed animals. For vegans and vegetarians wanting to make a compassionate choice for their pet, consider looking for locally-sourced options where you can find humanely-raised meats to feed your cat. There are also refrigerated foods that mention “free-range” or “pasture-raised” to help you recognize an option that’s better for the environment. It’s also a good idea to talk to your vet to get their opinion on good options as well.
The true focus of being a vegan or even a vegetarian is that you want to cause as little suffering to animals as possible. While it’s not recommended that you feed your cat vegan cat food, there are still options that allow you to feel like you’re still making a positive impact on the planet and keeping your cat healthy at the same time.