People often ask me if I feed my cats vegan diet since I am vegan myself. Unfortunately, my cats are NOT vegan. Before you start calling me a devil, a hypocrite or a bad vegan, please, read why I do not believe that cats should be vegan.
I have been working in the holistic pet nutrition field for 7 years now and all my research, personal experience and a common sense point to the fact that cat are carnivores. They need meat in their diet. I love my cats and I do not want to experiment with their health or well-being. I am not going to force my personal beliefs onto my carnivorous cats. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect vegan world. Veganism is a journey and it is not about perfection in every aspect of our lives. We just have to do our best. Veganism is about loving animals, all species. But the animals I love the most and the animals that are the closest to my heart, are my own companion animals. I care about their health, happiness and well-being. I chose to adopt carnivorous animals and that choice came with a dilemma. Should I be an abolitionist vegan and feed them unnatural diets hight in grains and other carbs, or should I feed them animal protein that is essential for their wellbeing?
I believe that humans are omnivores, in a way herbivores, and that we can easily thrive and survive on plant-based diet. There is a lot science behind these beliefs. And there is even more science behind the fact that cats are obligate carnivores. For example, cats do not have enzymes to begin the breakdown of carbohydrates in their mouths. Humans do. Cats do not have mastication (chewing) bones, they gnaw (on raw meat and bones). Humans chew their food before swallowing it. Cat's digestive system is much closer to a tiger's digestive system, everything from the stomach pH levels, length of intestine, to time needed for digesting food, indicates that cats are carnivores. They need animal protein to survive and thrive.
Since cats are obligate carnivores, they don’t need carbohydrates in their diet. Those carbohydrates include corn, wheat, soy, rice, barley and other grains. Carbohydrates can cause unneeded fermentation in cat’s bowel, which can lead to digestive disorders such as food intolerance, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease. Some cats can also become diabetic or obese on high carbohydrate diets.
The problem with most commercial vegan and vegetarian cat foods is the high content of grains and other things that they have hard time digesting. Taurine is an essential amino-acid that cats need, and unlike other mammals, cats cannot synthesize their own taurine from other building block amino acids. Diets deficient in taurine can easily result in blindness and heart condition, even a heart failure. If you choose to feed your cat vegetarian or vegan diet, please, at least make sure you supplement the diet with taurine. I do like supplements as a help sometimes, but I am a firm believer in the importance of diet as the main thing.When my cat Bear was eating food with grains (rice and barley), he experienced a very scary bout of IBS. He had a bloody diarrhea for days and was miserable, he was also throwing up tons. The medicine was not helping very much and his problems got worse. He lost a lot of weight and looked horrible. I decided to put him on strictly raw meat diet with some pumpkin and his stool got firm the very next day. He started feeling better and he loved his food. That was the last time I gave him any grain. That was a few years ago and he has not had any diarrhea or belly issues ever since.
As meat eaters, cats need the proper fuel to promote urinary tract function. Calories come from 3 places: protein, fat and carbohydrates. In meat, there is protein and fat, but there are little if any carbohydrates. Therefore, while a cat needs protein and fat, they do not need carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not metabolically necessary. These carbohydrates can impact the pH level of a cat’s urine, thereby creating an environment in which crystals can form.
It is not just important to fuel cats with any protein, cats must eat species appropriate protein, such as animal flesh. Inferior proteins, including by-products and proteins that come from plants, such as corn gluten, wheat gluten and potato protein, may negatively impact urinary pH levels, such.
Proper pH may also help prevent crystal formation. Acids dissolve things. In the case of urinary crystals, along with proper hydration, the acid in the urine will help the components that form those crystals from combining to form crystals.
Most commercial cat foods are full of by-products and additives such as artificial colorings and chemical preservatives that can lead to allergies or other health problems. These foods may smell and look tasty, and your cat may even enjoy them, but they don’t offer much in the way of good nutrition. They often contribute to problems such diabetes, kidney disease, dental and digestive issues, skin allergies, hairballs and obesity. Poor quality cat foods may cost less at the register, but more in veterinary care in the long run.The best options for your cats are low carbohydrate, grain-free diets. Because cats were originally desert animals, they tend not to drink as much water as dogs. These desert animals obtained their fluid through eating their prey. This lack of need for drinking water has been carried forward and maintained by our domestic cats. Cats who are fed primarily dry food can get dehydrated. This dehydration can lead to kidney problems. To prevent these problems and insure that your cat gets enough liquid through the day, you should supplement her dry food with either canned or raw food.
Some cats can be sensitive or even allergic to fish. Fish sensitivity often causes vomiting and/or diarrhea. Some cats can even develop urinary disease, including cystitis, crystals and stones.
Cats can be finicky eaters. Think variety when feeding your cat. Rotate brands and protein sources (cats can get bored with eating the same food every day).I feed my Abbey and Bear all-natural, human grade ingredients (no by-product or other funky meat parts), which are also preserved naturally. I feed them foods that are high in antioxidants, probiotics, chelated minerals and skin and coat conditioners, but low in ash and magnesium. I see the great benefits of feeding premium meat-based and grain-free foods, such as less hairballs (rather lack of hairballs, which is a miracle in two long-haired cats), lower stool and urinary odor, and less poop (less litter box scooping). Their coats and beautiful and shiny.