There are several reasons why cats can’t be vegetarian. The first is philosophical. A study tells us that 100% of cat owners who feed their cat a vegetarian diet are vegetarians themselves. They are imposing their wishes onto their cat. Of course, the cat cannot give consent. The cat would not willingly become a vegetarian for obvious reasons. Therefore philosophically it is probably immoral to feed your cat a vegetarian diet which is one reason why cats can’t be vegetarians.
There is a philosophical counterargument to the above. It could be argued that using livestock and other animals, which have died through disease and not slaughtered, as cat food ingredients is both a hazard to the health of cats and immoral. In addition it is a fact that euthanized rescue cats are rendered down to be used in pet food. Once again this is arguably immoral.
I have mentioned that some vegetarian cat owners have imposed a vegetarian diet on their cats. On one veterinarian website, a vegetarian, Amy Short, from Brooklyn New York said that she has fed her two cats a vegan diet for eight years and they are healthy and happy. I don’t know what she is feeding her cats. She does not fully explain herself.
She must be adding supplements to their vegan diet. It would be essential to do so. The reason she gave for her decision was “Because I am a vegan, I strive to live my life as compassionately as possible… I had real dissonance with the idea of buying animal-based food for my pet animals”.
‘Benevo’ is a balanced cat vegetarian diet manufactured in the UK. They have developed and pioneered meat-free pet food nutrition. The ingredients are posted below this article. This cat food goes against the grain of the arguments on this page as to why cats are not vegetarians. The food is probably satisfactory but not ideal. For instance the protein content is 28%. The ideal natural diet for the cat, the mouse, is 40% protein. It should be at least 26% protein so this vegetarian cat food meets the minimum standard.
Animal Welfare Laws
Another reason why cats can’t be vegetarian is because if you try and do it and fail you may have committed a criminal act under animal welfare laws depending on the circumstances. Clearly feeding Benevo would not be illegal. However, cats are carnivores and cannot survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet unless carefully supplemented and manufactured. A diet without meat will make them ill and they’ll die a painful death. If you find it unconscionable to feed your cat a meat diet then the argument is that you should adopt a rabbit or another pet who could thrive on a vegetarian diet.
There are three essential nutritional reasons, key facts, as to why cats can’t be vegetarian. Firstly cats need an amino acid called taurine. This prevents them from going blind. Without it their retinas deteriorate. Cats cannot manufacture taurine in their bodies while some animals can. Cats can only obtain it by eating animal proteins. Without a meat diet the cat would lose its sight. Returning to Amy Short from Brooklyn, she must supplement her cats’ vegan diet with taurine and other essential ingredients.
Cats need animal fat in their diets because they cannot manufacture essential fatty acids without them. Cats don’t have the ability to convert vegetable oils into fatty acids. Cats need animal fats in order to achieve new cell production, blood clotting and reproduction.
Thirdly, cats are unable to obtain vitamin A from plants. They rely on obtain vitamin A from animal foods such as liver, fish oils or kidneys.
Also, cats cannot make vitamin D in their skin so it has to be in their diet. Vitamin D needs to be D3 which is from animal sources.
There will also be issues with respect to L-carnitine and with respect to minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iron which cats should ideally obtain from meat and animal products.
In short, the cat’s diet is very specific and we all know that they are strictly carnivore. Substituting that diet with a vegan or vegetarian diet is potentially dangerous and it might, depending on circumstances, be deemed to be a criminal act because it could be cat cruelty as defined under animal welfare laws.
Composition: Soya, Wheat, Maize Gluten Meal, Maize, Rice, Sunflower Oil, Beet Pulp, Vitamins & Minerals, Brewers Yeast, Yeast Based Palatant, Linseed, Seaweed, Fructo-oliogosaccharides (0.09%), Spirulina, Yucca Schidigera Extract (0.01%.
Analytical Constituents: Protein 28%, Fat Content 13%, Crude Fibre 3.0%, Ash 5.0%, Moisture 7%.
Additives per Kg: Nutritional Additives: Vitamins; Vitamin A (as retinyl acetate) 26,000 IU, Vitamin D2 (as ergocalciferol) 2,200 IU, Vitamin E 220 IU. Trace Elements: Iron (as Ferrous Sulphate Monohydrate) 240 mg, Zinc (as Zinc Sulphate Monohydrate) 267 mg, Manganese (as Manganous Sulphate Monohydrate) 90 mg, Copper (as Cupric Sulphate Pentahydrate) 30 mg, Selenium (as Sodium Selenite) 0.64 mg, Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) 6.79%, Linolenic Acid (Omega 3) 0.26%. Amino Acids: Taurine, 910 mg