A vegetarian cat? No. But manufactured vegetarian cat food containing all the necessary nutrients. Yes.

This page is in two parts. The first part was written about 13 years ago. The second part was written recently and is an updating section. The page has been checked, refreshed and republished as at January 13, 2022. This is necessary because everything changes. Certainly, the market in cat foods and particularly vegan or vegetarian cat foods has changed dramatically in 13 years.

Vegetarian cat food
Vegetarian cat food. Photo: PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Earlier section

Can there be such a thing as a vegetarian cat? No, because as discussed before by countless people, including me, cats are “obligate carnivores”, they gotta have that meat (flesh to me). But wait a bit. A domestic cat’s ideal diet would be made up of protein and fats from small prey such as rodents. We all know that. And I have referred to the problems of a dry food (kibble) diet on other posts and see Homemade Cat Food.

But one emerging thought is that the manufactured cat food that is meant to replicate a natural cat food is sufficiently unnatural to allow me to argue that a vegetarian diet might be as good (or as bad?) as conventional cat food. It may even be healthier, I don’t know. After all a cat has to get used to kibble (dry cat food, which is high in carbohydrates. Even wet (canned) cat food is generally pretty poor in quality and contains stuff that a cat would not normally eat. Heavens, it contains things we don’t really want to think about too much. It is heavily processed and flavored – a sort of false or fake food really.

Provided the vegetarian cat food contains all the necessary components that a cat needs such as taurine etc, it may be healthier. Sometimes I think anything is healthier than some cat food, which can look unappetizing. A cat will have to adapt but it could be argued that the cat has already had to adapt to cat food anyway, as it is so unnatural, particularly dry cat food, which is a large part of the cat food market.

I am not suggesting that this is the right way to go. I am just arguing that vegetarian cat food with supplements might not be any worse than conventional manufactured cat food and even might be healthier. And as to adapting, the domestic cat has had to adapt in all kinds of ways to fit into the human’s life style and we never seem to disagree with that. For example, many millions of cats are full-time indoor cats. These cats never touch or smell what is natural to them. A vegetarian cat just might be the next form of development of the domestic cat, the next stage in the evolution of this once wild animal.

One manufacturer in America, Evolution Diet, claims that their vegetarian diet results in up to 30% longer life expectancy and 30% less feeding (because the food is more concentrated). These are quite bold claims. Does that work out at cheaper food or is the food more expensive to counteract eating less of it? – I don’t know. A manufacturer/seller in the UK would be VeggiePets.

Vegan cat food commercially prepared.

Update January 13, 2022

As mentioned, this page definitely needs updating because it was initially written about 13 years ago and a has changed over that time period. Especially in the field of so-called vegan or vegetarian cat food. When you use the phrase “vegan cat food” it sounds ridiculous and completely contradictory. The whole world knows that cats are obligate carnivores as mentioned. And therefore, how can they possibly live healthily off a vegan food? A lot of people think like that and you will get comments on the Internet which out-and-out decry and denigrate the concept of vegan dry kibble cat food. They think it’s animal cruelty. It isn’t.

The point is this: cats need protein and plant proteins are as good as proteins derived from flesh (euphemistically called meat). And you can add in all manner of supplements to a commercially prepared vegan cat food to turn it into a balanced diet.

Manufacturers would not be able to make the claims that they do and produce the cat foods that they manufacture unless it was of sound quality. There are regulations governing the manufacture of cat foods in all developed countries. Some vegan cat food manufacturers are very large operations. If they were hurting cats, we would know about it very quickly. They would go out of business. There would be a raft of complaints and plenty of civil litigation. But there isn’t.

Take for example Benevo vegan cat dry. This is described as nutritionally complete for adult cats. It contains 28% protein and a vegan source of taurine. It includes a prebiotic FOS to enhance digestion. It contains no meat or meat derivatives and “provides a nutritionally complete and balanced diet for your cat”. Amino acids such as taurine are provided from vegan sources. It is flavoured naturally with brewer’s yeast and seaweed, Spirulina and Yucca extract. It is of course better for the environment and there is no cruelty to animals. Their marketing states that it is “a kind way to feed your cat”.

The cat owner does not need to add supplements as it is complete, balanced and nutritious. It is fortified with vitamins and minerals and there are no artificial colours or preservatives.

I am not marketing this product for anybody. Nobody is paying me. I’m just looking at it as coldly and as objectively as I can. I’m going to buy & myself today and I’ll report back on this page.

Although I am highly sceptical of Amazon reviews, we have to rely on them sometimes and they do provide some feedback, albeit caution needs to be exercised because sometimes reviewers are paid to make the reviews.

One reviewer, Amy, I think gets it completely wrong. She said it is ridiculous to sell this kind of cat food because cats are carnivores. And she urges people not to endanger their pets. This is incorrect am afraid. I don’t want to aggravate people but this vegan dry cat food replicates in terms of its nutrients (which is the essential point) meat-based cat food. You have to drill down to the building blocks of the food and ask yourself whether they are in-place and sufficient for a domestic cat. And they are.

The only difference at the end of the day between this food and a meat-based cat food is that animals are not killed to produce it. I think that there is a misapprehension about vegetarian cat food.

Cat owners have been programmed to think that cats are carnivores and therefore they have to eat flesh. If domestic cats were living in the wild, they would not eat berries and leaves or grass. Of course not. But we’re talking about manufactured foods in a factory. All the essential ingredients are put into a pot and cooked. It’s unnatural but all cat food is unnatural particularly dry cat food. Conventional dry cat food is heavy in carbohydrates and grains. How is that more natural than a cat food made from plant-based protein?

The ethics of feeding your cat in vegan food

Clearly, it is unethical to feed your cat a genuine vegan diet. That would eventually kill your cat. But I stress again, manufactured vegan cat food is not a vegan diet in the conventional sense.

The key probably is to remember that domestic cats require specific nutrients not specific foodstuffs. In a 2006 study it was found that 34 vegetarian cats were healthy. One big issue which I’ve mentioned already is added taurine. If cats don’t have taurine in their diet it can lead to blindness and possible death unless steps are taken. Taurine is often added to commercially prepared cat food. This is because the manufacturing process destroys it. Another essential is arachidonic acid. This also is added in as a supplement and nutrient.

If there is something wrong with Benevo vegan cat food it won’t be to do with the nutrients. It would be to do with something else which makes it less palatable or which causes a cat to become sick. The point I am making is that the basic principle of vegan cat food is acceptable provided, and I stress again, it contains all the nutrients that a domestic cat requires.

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