Ever since going vegan, I’ve been incredibly conflicted about this question.
Cats don’t seem like the best pets for vegans to have.
It’s sad and painful to feed my 2 cats animal products, but at the same time, I can’t imagine feeding them lower quality food, or vegan food that might cause serious health issues.
Ask vets if cats can be vegan, and 99% or so will say that it’s not a good idea.
Research on Pets on Vegetarian Diets
I’ve been pouring through all the research on vegetarian pets that I can find (here’s a great meta-study to start with), and these are the main highlights:
- Dogs are omnivores and do quite well on vegan diets. There are several vegan dog foods made by reputable brands.
- Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that the nutrients they need can only be obtained from diets with meat (taurine, vitamin D, and vitamin A to name a few).
- Some studies have shown that cats may be able to be healthy on a vegan diet. But those have very low sample sizes and are mostly short-term.
The final point is the most important.
It very well may be possible for cats to live on a vegan diet. However, the science is not conclusive yet, and I’m not sure if it will be for quite a while (it’s not exactly a huge topic of interest unfortunately).
It’s why some vegans argue that vegans shouldn’t have carnivorous pets. But for those of us who had the pets before going vegan, giving away our pets isn’t a realistic option.
Why Can’t Cats Get Their Nutrients From Plants?
We know that cats need certain nutrients to survive, just like every other living organism.
So why does it matter if it comes from plants or animals?
Some nutrients (taurine, vitamin D, etc.) can’t be found in plants. However, we’re able to synthesize them in a laboratory, so can’t we just add them to cat foods?
In theory it does make sense.
One potential issue is that cats have short intestines, designed to process meat, not grains. So even if the nutrients are in the food they eat, will they absorb enough of them from a vegan cat food?
Again, we don’t know the answer yet. No rigorous study has been completed.
From the perspective of a cat owner, I love them more than anything, and I can’t justify putting their health at risk so that I feel better about feeding them.
If you feel differently, that’s your choice.
What About Commercial Vegan Cat Foods?
You’ll find that there are very few vegan cat foods available to purchase. Evolution, Amicat, and Benevo are the most well-known.
And while there are a decent number of good reviews of those foods, there are also some sad stories, along the lines of:
Our youngest inside cat, a year old kept throwing up and avoiding this…
My female cat got kidney stones after three months like everyone else in the comments said…
Again, there are quite a few positive stories, so that might be enough for you to give a vegan diet for your cat a try.
Keep in mind that most people leave reviews shortly after purchasing a product. Most health issues from nutritional deficiencies or other diet-related problems can take months to actually appear. Those glowing ratings often come from people who really want their cat to be vegan and haven’t even thoroughly tested the food.
I’d be sure to increase the frequency of vet visits, get blood tests before and after, and pay extra close attention to their behavior if you do.
Could Lab-Grown Meat Be an Answer?
If you share my view on the question, I’m hopeful that more cat food manufacturers will adopt lab-grown meat into their products.
And while lab-grown meat might not be completely vegan, I’m sure you and I would feel much better about feeding our cats with it than the current options.