Summary: There appears to be an increased number of pet owners who want to feed their companions animals a vegan diet and some are already doing so. There is a response from the pet food manufacturers. More research is needed and a nutritionally balanced diet must be carefully considered with added supplements.
Research, based on 3,673 dog and cat owners from various countries, published on the PLoS One website, indicates that dog owners are more likely nowadays to consider feeding their cat and dog a vegan diet. There are several reasons.
One reason is that people are more concerned about the environment and believe that a vegan diet will help improve it. Another reason is that some cat and dog owners want to make a political statement about modern farming methods which many animal advocates consider to be inhumane.
A further reason is that many pet owners believe that a vegan diet is healthier. And some high profile celebrities are directly or indirectly promoting a vegan diet.
“Results found that pet owners were more likely to be vegetarian (6.2%; 229/3,673) or vegan (5.8%; 212/3,673) than previously reported for members of the general population.” – Plant-based (vegan) diets for pets: A survey of pet owner attitudes and feeding practices by Sarah A. S. Dodd, Nick J. Cave, Jennifer L. Adolphe, Anna K. Shoveller, Adronie Verbrugghe
Some Surprising Numbers
The research concluded that 35% of pet owners consider putting their cat or dog on a vegan diet. No doubt this will have a significant impact upon commercial pet food manufacturers and there are the beginnings of a change in attitude from them as one in six suppliers are branching out into vegetarian and vegan diets for companion animals.
On my calculation, 1.6% of the study participants were vegans who are already feeding their cats and dogs a vegan diet. This is a serious matter because you can’t simply convert your companion animal to a vegan diet without carefully considering how to ensure that it is balanced which must mean that you supplements. We don’t know whether these people are adding supplements and if not they are possibly, inadvertently harming their pets’ health.
Fortunately, about half of the participants thinking about converting to a vegan diet for their pets require approval from their veterinarian that the diet would meet their companion animals’ nutritional needs.
0.7% of the 1,545 cats in the study are already being fed a strict vegan diet. 3.3% of the cats were sometimes fed a plant-based diet. Vegans and vegetarians have a tendency to provide their cats and dogs with similar diets. This is obviously misguided unless it is done in consultation with their veterinarian.
RSPCA and PETA
The RSPCA in the UK is against vegan diets for pets and there is a need for further research. PETA favour vegetarian cats and dogs for obvious reasons. They are very much against supermarket pet foods based on components which are unfit for human consumption such as dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals. Many have died of infections or other diseases. They argue that most pet foods contain pesticides, antibiotics and hormones and of course they fight against the cruelty of the media industry.
They provide a lot of advice on how to convert your cat and dog to a vegan diet on their website. The point is that they endorse commercially prepared vegan cat food but they make it clear that supplements containing essential nutrients must be added to ensure that the diet is balanced and meets the cat’s needs.
I know that some visitors to this website are strongly against vegan diets for cats because if they are prepared incorrectly they are dangerous. This is correct. My argument is that provided they are prepared correctly they are satisfactory.
If you’re thinking about doing this you really must see a veterinarian first and I hope that he or she is enlightened enough to discuss the matter with you. Do your research online as well. The adjustment should be gradual and it may take a while for the animal to adapt. At all times cat should be monitored carefully to watch for health issues such as gastrointestinal and skin problems.
PETA say that most cats and dogs’ health improves on a vegan diet but for some animals it is unsuitable.