As a vegan, my life is about avoiding unnecessary cruelty to animals and harm to the environment through eating a plant-based diet, being conscious in my consumption and setting a positive example for others to learn from. The pain and suffering which befalls animals in the meat industry breaks my heart and, while I’m far from being perfect at it, I try to do everything I can to make a difference.
I’ve made several adjustments since going vegan, such as eliminating wool from my wardrobe, switching over to cruelty-free cosmetics and learning to bake without using dairy or eggs. One area I haven’t considered making any changes to, however, is what I feed my cat.
Whether or not you make your pet adopt a vegan diet is, ultimately, your own decision. If you feel better feeding your beloved fluffballs plant-based food, hopefully after having done a lot of research, then that’s great. However, when it comes to cats, I am of the opinion that it is unnecessary and irresponsible to enforce on them a vegan diet, and in this post I will go into why I feel this way.
| Cats are obligate carnivores
Have you ever rolled your eyes when someone has made a sweeping statement proclaiming that humans require animal products to maintain their health? Well, this is wholly true for cats; they are obligate carnivores, meaning that their diets – developed over thousands of years of evolution – need to include meat. Cats need to eat food that is high in protein and they are unable to derive vital vitamins from plant-based foods in the same way as humans can.
Furthermore, in domesticating cats, I feel we should respect their needs and dietary traditions. Stray and wild cats cannot survive by eating plants and vegetation – they wouldn’t even try to. As innocent and adorable as your little munchkin might appear to be, cats are instinctive hunters who kill for fun. You know how your cat will scratch at their toy with their back paws? They’re pretending to gut the thing. I find it hard to believe they’re imagining their toy as a turnip on these occasions.
| Cats can’t say no
You might be thinking, how is this different to raising a child on a vegan diet? True enough, an infant is not going to be able to protest if you decide to feed them plant-based food. However, once they’re old enough to form opinions and speak for themselves, a child has the ability to reject veganism should they wish to. Financial dependency notwithstanding, they are not wholly dependent on their parents to be fed past a certain age.
Cats, on the other hand, cannot simply sneak out to the chicken shop or go for a cheeky Nando’s. Their options are limited to what you decide to feed them. In my opinion, it is ethically wrong to enforce a vegan diet on an animal who does not have the ability to vocalise their opinion past a few yowls of protest. A cat will not be able to tell you if their new food is making them feel sick, though with time you will likely see the ill-effects for yourself.
| It doesn’t make you a better vegan
We need to let go of this all or nothing approach to veganism. It is frankly impossible to live a fully ethical life, imprisoned by capitalism as we are. There will always be blind spots or slippage. It is not hypocritical or evil or lazy to continue feeding your pet meat. It does not make you a worse vegan, or compromise your right to call yourself a vegan. All it means is that you are respecting the dietary needs of an animal who is dependent on you for their food, and who does not have the voice to say no.
Supermarket pet food brands like Whiskas and the like are trash, we know. If you’re concerned about the contents of what your pet is eating, and would like to feed them something more natural, organic and ethically sourced, then there are lots of options. They will be pricier, but most pet owners will know that having an animal is worth the expense. The Ethical Consumer website lists some popular brands that are relatively easy to get hold of, in the UK at least.
Of course, I am open to opposing opinions here – if you have a perfectly healthy cat (or other pet) who is thriving on a vegan diet, please feel free to share your story in the comments section below.