Should You Feed Your Cat a Vegan Diet?

It’s only natural in this new era of health and wellness that many of us are switching to meat-free diets, particularly vegetarian and vegan. Meat-free diets offer a variety of health benefits for most adherents, including lowered risk of heart disease, inflammation, and also can be a great aid in weight loss. With so many potent benefits, it’s only natural that most people would think such diets are appropriate and healthy for their feline friends. But not so fast…

Did you know that cats, as a species, are obligate carnivores? It’s literally in their DNA to eat meat in their diets. This is important because there are very specific proteins and enzymes found in meat that cats need for their health. Unfortunately, there is no alternative to this in meatless form just yet.

While it seems like swapping a meat protein for a plant protein in your cats diet would do the trick, it’s simply not that simple. Proteins aren’t made alike. They contain amino acids — also known as “building blocks” — which will change from protein to protein. The amino acids that cats require, like taurine, are inherently in animal-based proteins. Cats fed a vegan diet will also develop a deficiency. Without a taurine deficiency, a cat could suffer from a variety of ailments, including heart disease and vision maladies.

While us humans and even dogs are able to synthesize taurine, cats must get it directly from an animal source, and this is a matter of survival. Over time, with a taurine deficiency cats can develop serious, long-term issues like DCM or cardiomyopathy. These diseases are threatening to your cat’s heart and can be fatal if they’re not treated early. Other nutrients your cat requires from an animal source include Vitamin D, arachidonic acid, and Vitamin A, all essential for healthy growth and development of your cat.

Cats are also not good at digesting carbs or plant matter, and simply require a diet high in protein that simple can’t be substituted with plant products or any supplements, no matter what you might have heard from very strict vegans and pro-animal rights sources. It’s not unheard of for even some veterinarians to approve of cats being on Vegan diets, but understand in this context, veterinarian credentials and advice doesn’t necessarily match up to what’s required of a human doctor and may vary greatly.

Best advice is to simply feed your cat a diet rich in animal proteins. If you insist on maintaining a 100% vegan lifestyle and household, and expect for your pets to be a part of that, unfortunately a cat will likely not be the best pet option for you. It is not worth the risk of hurting another animal by feeding it a diet it is not naturally designed for when there are many pets that can survive just fine on a vegan diet.

By allowing cats to be carnivores as they are born, you’ll only help your feline friends live a long, happy, and healthy life.