By Emily Gantt
Published: 12/30/2020, edited: 12/30/2020
Nowadays, many omnivorous people are making the switch to a vegan lifestyle. If you’re one of those people, you may be wondering if it’s safe for your pet to join in too. If you’re looking for a short answer, it’s no. Cats shouldn’t be vegan, but the reasons why they can’t might surprise you.
When done right, the vegan lifestyle is one of the healthiest human diets around. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for our feline friends, who are obligate carnivores.
Cats need essential amino acids, protein, taurine, arachidonic acid, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B12. A variety of vegetables can provide most of these essential compounds, so what’s the issue? The problem isn’t that vegetables lack what cats need, but rather felines can’t break down the necessary dietary components from them.
Vegan diets are typically high in carbohydrates, a molecule that feline intestines are not meant to process. The same can be said for low-quality kitty kibbles, which are often loaded with corn and grain fillers. Instead of vegan cat food, opt for high-quality food sourced from real meat rather than meat by-products and fillers.
The amino acid taurine, found in animal protein, is vital for normal feline bodily functions and an essential ingredient in commercial cat foods. In the wild, cats derive this amino acid from the meat of their prey. While you can get taurine supplements for felines, they aren’t vegan.
Vitamin and amino acid deficiencies from vegan diets can cause a slew of health problems for kitties. One of the less severe side effects is a dull coat. Loss of eyesight, heart failure, and mortality can also occur over time. These deficiencies are the main reason veterinarians are staunch opponents of plant-based diets for cats.
Experts caution pet parents that a diet lacking any amino acid that a cat's body can't produce naturally is a recipe for disaster. The question isn’t if a health problem will arise — it’s when. For instance, a diet lacking arginine can cause nerve cells to break down and ammonia levels to rise, which can be deadly when left untreated. On the other hand, taurine deficiencies can cause the kidneys to atrophy, as well as stunted growth and disease of the heart muscle.
Abnormal coloring of skin or gums
Eating non-food items
Unusual body movements
Unlike cats, dogs are omnivores. Which means dogs can technically be vegan. However, animal fat and proteins are a key part of the canine diet. Vegan diets can be extremely dangerous for dogs and cause severe health problems. Never put your dog on a strict vegan or vegetarian diet unless explicitly instructed to do so by a vet.
Although dogs can be vegan, your kitty cannot. Hamsters, chinchillas, and rabbits are all naturally vegan and make "furrific" companions, too. Keep the veggies for yourself and leave the meats for your catto — your furry friend will thank you!
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