Vegan Lifestyle Update | Should Your Cat Be Vegan?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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10 thoughts on “Vegan Lifestyle Update | Should Your Cat Be Vegan?

  1. Great post about an often confusing topic! A loooong time ago and with no research into the matter I decided to try a vegetarian cat food for my little boy. Thankfully he refused to eat it, so that was that. Now I just try to buy more “ethical” brands that don’t test on animals. Try is the key word since the vet is always recommending special formulas for health issues that are from brands tested on animals. I just want my cats to be as happy and healthy as possible and I agree that they need meat for that.

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    1. Thanks Christine! I think it’s definitely a natural thing to consider as someone who doesn’t eat meat themselves, especially cos it doesn’t seem to be widely known that cats need meat to remain healthy. I have the same issue with the vets recommending certain foods for specific ailments with our cat too! Reading up on what supermarket brand cat food is made up of grossed me out quite a lot, I’ll be looking to buy more “ethical” pet food where possible too going forward.

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  2. It’s really funny because my boyfriend and I (who are both veggies) were discussing this the other day. Nice in theory I suppose (doesn’t really bother me), but it kind of goes against nature. Also your cat is freaking adorable!

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    1. Yeah that’s it, it is nice in theory – if I knew Bella would be healthy and happy on a vegan diet then I’d do it! But it’s not worth the risk imo and yeah, makes me uncomfortable to think that it’s not what they’d naturally eat. Haha Bella is a cutie – she’s my sister’s cat technically but moved in with us a year or so ago :) xx

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  3. Great piece. I believe that if you feel uncomfortable feeding a cat meat then perhaps a cat is the wrong pet choice for you.
    As you said, they are carnivores and need meat to be healthy. If you want an animal you can feed a vegan diet then do some research into rabbits or maybe even get a dog. Dogs, like humans, are omnivores and can live healthily on a vegan diet.

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    1. Absolutely agree, Helen! I would be pretty troubled if someone following a vegan diet took in a cat and proceeded to omit meat from its diet. Seems a lot more doable with dogs, for sure. I think if anything we can try to feed them “purer” meat, as supermarket pet food brands can unfortunately be full of all sorts!

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  4. This is such an interesting post. I’ve never had cats, but at home we have a dog and my (vegan) mum still feeds him meat. The internet is a conflicting place to get information on what to feed dogs (apparently they are different to cats and can survive from a carbohydrate based diet), but she just feels more comfortable that way. You’re so right that there is no way to be 100% ethical, we can all just do the best we can for our selves, the planet and our furry companions!

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    1. I think a lot of vegans seem OK with it, which is good. It never occurred to me to stop buying meat for my cat, it was a dietary change I wanted to make, not my cat! I agree that there is a lot of conflicting information, can be hard to know what’s “right.” Totally agree, we’re all doing the best we can in a very unethical world! :)

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  5. Thank you so much for this article! I feel that when it comes to animals who are strictly built to eat certain foods, then it seems cruel to change that fact. Although if someone has a healthy cat that eats only vegan food – then they have proven me wrong! In the wild, a Lion could not survive as a vegan,so I suppose I like to think of our fellow dear cats that way :)

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    1. I totally agree! It feels cruel to essentially force my diet on my cat, when they don’t have the same reasons for wanting to be vegan as I do. I would also be really interested to hear from anyone with a healthy vegan cat!

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