There is quite a bit of emphasis in the pet market on natural, healthy, grain free diets, and a significant push for raw meat diets for dogs and cats, but there is even a push by some within the industry to go to a completely vegan based diet with no animal protein at all.
There is a difference between vegetable and animal protein, in fact there are many different types of proteins. Each animal specie has an evolved physiology to accept specific proteins that contain nutrients vital for their health and growth. Cats are obligate carnivores. Obligate means “by necessity.” The dictionary definition is: 1. Restricted to one particularly characteristic mode of life. 2. Biologically essential for survival. Combining obligate with carnivore is pretty clear. Cats must eat meat, it is a biological necessity.
Because eating a meat-only diet provides some vitamins and fatty acids in their pre-formed state, cats and many other obligate carnivores have lost the ability to make these amino acids and vitamins in their own bodies the way herbivores or omnivores do. They don’t need to since the animals they are eating have already done it for them. For example, cats require vitamin A in its pre-formed state, they can’t make it from beta-carotene the way humans or dogs or rabbits can. They have little ability to form niacin from tryptophan. They have a high requirement for taurine, which is found almost exclusively in animal flesh. Arginine, also found in animal flesh, is so critical to the cat that a meal without it can lead to death. Fortunately, all meat sources have plenty. Simply put, cats must eat meat to live. Source
There is virtually no argument about this within the scientific community or from any veterinarian including holistic vets who typically support alternative health programs. The vocal support of a vegan diet for cats comes strictly from the vegan community itself.
One such zealot ignoring science and biology is Jed Gillen who has written a book called Obligate Carnivore, who apparently does not understand the meaning of the word. He states the following:
“The [relationship between predator and prey] cannot be said to exist between the cats and dogs that live in our homes and the barely recognizable animals that have been turned into pellets or packed in cans that magically appear in the their bowls twice a day…. The animals we feed to our cats and dogs have been genetically manipulated, pumped full of hormones, confined, beaten, and murdered without ever having had a chance at a normal life. When they eat meat, it is not because they are following some immutable instinct that has developed over millions of years; it is simply because we have chosen to put some in their dish and they have learned to recognize it as food.”
“But to make a choice as complex as which food to buy, an issue which carries ethical concerns that they couldn’t possibly begin to understand, is one of our jobs. Not only is this kind of thing not contradictory to good parenting, it is an inherent part of it!”
“[C]ats are perfectly capable of thoroughly enjoying meals that aren’t [meat].”
“It is similarly unwise to assume that cow or chicken meat is automatically going to be a better substitute for mouse or insect meat than a well-formulated vegetable based meal.”
I asked Dr Lori Huston, “What sort of symptoms would an adult cat show that has been on a vegan diet for a long term?”
She answered, ” Heart problems, vision disturbances, skin and coat disorders, weakening of the immune system, death – all of these are potential symptoms that can be seen with vegan diets in cats.”
I then told her. “I presume in the case of a young kitten on a vegan diet as described on the attached article, the affects of a vegan diet would be much more life threatening in a shorter period of time. Is that correct?”
Her response: “Yes, that’s correct. Kittens have higher nutrient needs than adult cats because of their growth requirements.”
Not yet convinced? Here is a recent news article about a kitten on the brink of death:
Gillen maintains he has found a small percentage of male vegan cats have a problem with “struvite crystals” and says it is a good idea to bring your male cat to the vet and have their urine pH checked within a couple weeks of putting them on a vegan diet.
Would you put your cat on a vegan diet? Is this animal cruelty?