Feeding Cats a Vegetarian Diet: A Recipe for good Feline Health?

When it comes to feline dietary requirements, cats are obligate (strict) carnivores, and require meat protein in their food in order to maintain tip-top robust health. Thanks to the internet most of us are aware of this by now. Unfortunately however, there are a few pet food manufactures that are producing vegetarian diets who claim that their products are perfectly appropriate for kitties. Since cats do require meat protein to stay fit, I got to wondering how these vegetarian pet food manufactures are able to profess that their diets are both healthy and safe for felines.

Feline veggy diet or not?
Photo credit: Flickr User: appaloosa
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One such manufacturer, Vegepet touts excellent health benefits from their products, advertising

“From 1986 cats the world over have gone vegetarian with vet approved unique Vegecat supplement diet.”

However, in order to feed cats a species appropriate diet, the majority of veterinarians agree that vegetarian diets for cats should be avoided.

In fact, when responding to a question about whether feeding pets a vegetarian diet is safe and appropriate, Dr. Marty Becker of Vetstreet advised:

“If your pets are rabbits or other herbivores, no problem. If you have dogs, it’s possible, but I really can’t advise it. If you have a cat, however, it’s my view that you’ll be putting your pet’s health in jeopardy. Knowing how your cat’s nutritional needs differ from your own may help put her very distinctive dietary requirements in perspective: Cats must have meat.”

All felines require a hefty amount of taurine; an amino acid that is only found in meat. Without this crucial amino acid, cats who are only fed a vegetarian diet may be prone to develop serious visual problems and heart and liver diseases.  In fact, Healthy Daily Diet, an online magazine devoted to maintaining a human healthy life style, published an article on the site warning about the dangers of feeding cats a vegetarian diet.

In addition to the importance for taurine, cats also require Vitamin B-12; a vitamin which is also only found in meat. Felines cannot utilize the Vitamin A from plants, so if animal products are withheld, cats ultimately will develop a Vitamin A deficiency. A Vitamin A deficiency can lead to hearing loss and a decrease in the functioning of a cat’s vital organs. Since cats are unable to synthesize critical fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid that meat provides as its only source, a vegetarian diet will create many dietary problems for kitties.

Unfortunately the information touted as by manufacturers of feline vegie diets as being safe and nutritious is truly bogus, but it may be appealing to some guardians who themselves are vegetarians. Sadly, as a result these guardians will end up putting the health of their kitties at high risk for medical problems.

Since cats are strictly carnivorous they have little nutritionally in common with dogs or humans. With a thoroughly balanced vegetarian/vegan diet, humans who chose these diets can thrive. Although dogs are carnivores, their digestive system allows them to be able to survive on a vegetarian diet.
Some kitties may enjoy an occasional treat of vegetables or fruit that are safe for cats, however, cats should never be fed a strictly vegetarian diet; meat is what they crave.

Have you ever considered feeding your cat a vegetarian diet? Share your thoughts with a comment.

12 thoughts on “Feeding Cats a Vegetarian Diet: A Recipe for good Feline Health?”

  1. Keeping a pet is a responsibility to provide for ITS needs not your own personal agenda. Your cat is a meat eater. If you can’t handle that it isn’t the right pet for you.

  2. Bottom line, is that if I want my cats healthy and happy, they must have a meat based diet, even if I puke preparing their feeders every morning. I do that often.

    There are meats that I could never feed my cats because the thought, also, makes me want to puke; They include little lambs, bunnies, leaf eating deer, and duckies.

    That limits me to the cow, pig, and poultry range. None are really settling with me, but I have to do it.

    Happily, I’ve never seen a pig/ham based cat food. I presume that the fat content is too high. So, I pretty much stick to poultry since the 100+ cats that I feed won’t eat any beef based food at all.

  3. The creator/evil genius of PETA (people evilly torturing animals),
    Ingrid Newkirk ACTIVELY advocates converting cats to VEGAN diets.

  4. Thanks Jo.
    I can’t imagine feeding a strictly veggie diet to a cat although I am a pescetarian myself.
    It makes me crazy to see high end shelf products that have added peas or beets to their foods. Both of those veggies have little or no nutritional value. I see the cranberry added forms and agree that they are cranberries are exceptional antioxidants. But, if my cats won’t eat the product, what good is it?

    • So true, Dee.

      I have just switched Sir Hubble Pinkerton from an Rx food that he deeply loved- and getting him to eat has been a real issue until recently. Now that he is feeling better he won’t touch the Rx food which makes me very happy because he is eating a limited ingredient (only one protein in the food) Lamb or turkey but it has peas in it. I take every pea out of the can before I feed it to him. He doesn’t need vegetable protein. He loves these foods and we are all happy campers now!

  5. Good article Jo. I doesn’t surprise me that manufacturers make veggy cat food because they are selling it to people (the target is a person not a cat) and the veggy cat food will appeal to a segment of their client database who my dislike the idea of a meat based product.

      • I don’t get it either. If one cannot stomach feeding a cat species-appropriate diet, why not just get a rabbit? Rabbits are cute and need homes too.

        • Exactly, Kitty! I used to say, “Get a goldfish,” but then I found out that even GOLDFISH are carnivorous! 😉

          A recent study showed that most vegetarian diets for dogs and cats are deficient in at least one nutrient. The few vegan cats I’ve seen in veterinary practice were thin and sickly. Just don’t do it! Honor your cat’s spirit and feed what she needs!


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