Can Cats Be Vegan?

Can cats be vegan? The answer is complicated, as feeding cats a vegetarian or vegan diet can be somewhat problematic.  

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from eating food made from animals or animal by-products (such as eggs and dairy). It is a lifestyle dedicated to sustainability and nonviolence toward animals. For us omnivorous humans, who can survive and thrive on both meat and veggies, going vegan is entirely possible and even admirable. But while going vegan might be the right choice for you, it might not be the right choice for your cat.

Forcing a cat to maintain a strict vegan diet, if not done correctly and responsibly, can be dangerous to its health and happiness. There have been cases where cats have nearly died after being fed a vegan diet. According to the Herald Sun, a kitten fed a strict vegan diet of potatoes, rice milk and pasta nearly died of malnutrition. Thankfully the owners brought the wee kit to the vet in time. It made a full recovery after getting some much-needed meat. This type of vegan diet is dangerous for cats, and owners need to be careful and thorough in research if deciding to change their cats to a vegan diet.

So … Do cats really need meat? The long and short of it is: yes. Cats are what’s called obligate carnivores, meaning they need meat to survive and thrive. That’s right: They needz that cheeseburger.

“Hold the bunz and veggie and chees tho, pls.”

Cats’ evolutionary adaptation as carnivorous hunters is reflected in their physiological and biochemical makeup. As obligate carnivores, there are several nutrients cats can only attain through eating animal tissue. Namely, cats cannot naturally produce taurine or arginine, two essential amino acids necessary for proper feline health. In fact, even one meal without the appropriate levels of arginine can to lead to a buildup of ammonia in your cat’s body and result in some troubling health issues. Taurine, the amino acid imperative to eye, heart and reproductive health in cats is not found in plant tissue and is absent in a natural vegan diet, unless synthetic taurine is added.


While it is true that cats can survive on plants and veggies in the wild, they only do so out of absolute necessity to avoid starvation. And if you’ve seen your kitties at home nibbling on some sweet, succulent cat grass, chances are they’ll soon be making a beeline for the nearest carpet or bedspread to let fly the kitty chunks. Simply put, cats eat grass as a digestive aid. They lack the necessary enzymes to properly digest most plant matter, and eating grass basically helps them toss their cookies (or hairballs).

Creative Commons / Wikimedia

There are commercial vegetarian and vegan cat foods available. However, some Vegan-only cat food companies, like VeganCats, have amended their official recommendations that not all cats benefit from a vegan diet, namely male cats who are prone to urinary tract issues, and recommend supplementing their vegan kibble with non-vegetarian canned meat in some instances.

Creative Commons / Flickr: amenohi

Veterinarians also recommend that when switching a cat companion to a vegan diet, they should be closely monitored. One to two weeks after switching to a vegan food, cats should have their urine pH level tested by a vet, and then once a month for several months after to ensure their levels are stable and no urinary tract problems develop. While this can seem tedious, it is necessary to ensure that your cat is getting all the nutrients it needs.

Ultimately, it’s your decision what to feed your cat. But be sure to do the research and know you’re making the safest, healthiest choice for your beloved pet!

Creative Commons / Flickr: Brownpau


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