Vegetarian Pet Food Gaining in Popularity in the UK

There is a bit of a health scare in the UK about cats and dogs eating vegetarian food because it is on the increase and quite substantially. Sales of vegetarian pet foods are growing at up to 25% annually in the UK.

Are you a vegetarian and do you want to feed your cat a vegetarian diet?

Vegetarian cat. An amusing picture but this is a serious matter.
Vegetarian cat. An amusing picture but this is a serious matter.
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The primary reason behind this, or perhaps the only reason behind it, is because the cat or dog owner believes that meat-eating is wrong and what they mean by that is in their eyes it is morally wrong. They are probably vegetarians themselves which is fine. However the cat owner is buying vegetarian cat food to satisfy their own desires while not fully understanding the impact that it might have upon their cat’s health. They’re not buying vegetarian cat food to improve their cat’s health. They are ignoring this aspect of the purchase and it could, in the worst case scenario, lead to the death of their cat.

The increase in vegetarian cat and dog food initially prompts the question as to whether it is possible to feed a cat or a dog vegetarian foods.

Vegetarian cat
Vegetarian cat

The vice president of the British Veterinary Association, Gudrum Ravetz said:

“In the case of dogs if someone is determined to do it, it’s theoretically possible but it is much easier to get it wrong than to get it right and owners would need to take expert advice.”

As for cats, he said:

“You can’t realistically feed cats a vegetarian diet because it is so difficult to deliver what they need without meat that the risk is too high.”

Daniel Chan, Prof of emergency and critical care medicine and clinical nutrition at the Royal Veterinary College said it was possible to feed dogs and cats a vegetarian diet but as regulation of this sector of the manufacturing industry was not sufficiently robust it is dangerous to do so.

We all know that the domestic cat is a strict carnivore (“an obligate carnivore”). On that basis, common sense dictates that a cat should eat meat-based products but of course when cat food is commercially manufactured it is highly artificial and therefore I suppose the argument is that a good manufacturer is able to sufficiently substitute the lack of meat with other ingredients such that the diet does not harm the cat.

One vegetarian pet food manufacturer states that their customers are very critical and they come from all walks of life. They say that if there was a problem with their cat’s health they would have heard about it in complaints from their customers and they haven’t.

Mintel, the market research company state that three times as many pet foods claiming to be vegetarian have been launched in the past year as in the preceding three years.

A major chain of pet stores, Pets at Home, said that sales of its vegetarian pet foods increased by 15% last year.

Perhaps the problem is that the manner in which manufactured cat food affects a cat’s health has been muddied up by the fact that meat-based cat food is often almost without any meat at all and as mentioned is so artificial as to be unrecognisable from the genuine meat-based diet such as a mouse caught outside. Manufacturers formulate artificial products which are meant to mimic the prey of the domestic cat. If they can do that they’ll argue that they can create a vegetarian based cat food diet which is effective by adding in certain ingredients. But are they competent and are their products being scientifically evaluated? I don’t think they are. Therefore this is a dangerous development.

Personally, I don’t support the idea of either feeding a cat or dog a vegetarian diet. Certainly, like all other cat lovers, I strive to feed my cat a diet which is as near as possible as what would be his natural prey if caught and consumed in the wild.

It is concerning that cat owners in the UK are either confused about the ingredients in cat food or ignoring the possible health detriments from feeding their cat vegetarian foods.

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