Can cats eat a vegan diet?

Veganism has exploded in popularity over the past decade.

From a word barely used at the turn of the century to one you can’t escape from at the supermarket or on social media, the number of people adopting a vegan diet continues to rise at an exponential rate.

Its new found popularity means living a vegan lifestyle is now easier than ever, and this has led to some pet parents exploring the possibility of removing animal meat from their cat’s diet.

But can cats actually eat a vegan diet?

Simply put, no. Cat’s cannot eat a vegan diet and here’s why.

Why is it dangerous for a cat to eat a vegan diet?

Taurine deficiency. Amino acid taurine is regarded as essential to cats for a number of reasons: vision, digestion, heart function, and a healthy immune system. It is also considered essential because unlike with humans and dogs, cats’ bodies have a limited ability to produce their own. As taurine is found only in animal-sourced foods, such as fish, seafood, beef, poultry, and dairy products, placing your cat on a vegan diet means you are removing their source, and subsequently, putting their health at risk. 

Cats need high levels of protein. Protein is the fuel that powers our cats’ bodies. And they need a lot of it. In fact, adult cats require significantly more protein as a percentage of their diet than dogs or humans. And while they can still receive small quantities of the macronutrient from a plant-based diet, it won’t contain high enough levels to meet their dietary requirements for optimal health.

Limited vitamins and minerals. For our felines to reach their full potential they need a diet that is complete and well balanced. The more nutrients they are consuming from a greater number of sources, the better it is for them. Removing animal-based products from their mealtimes means you are limiting the amount of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D and B12 which can cause health issues further down the line. 

Too many carbohydrates can cause digestive problems. A lot of vegan diets are higher in carbohydrates than ones that include animal protein. This can pose a real problem for felines whose ability to digest and use carbohydrates is much lower when compared to other animals. Stomach woes could be the tip of the iceberg as well, with excess carbs also linked to feline obesity and diabetes. 

Your cat may become bored with mealtime. Animal meat isn’t just good for cats, they love the taste, too. Removing chicken, fish or beef from the menu could leave a feline feeling more than a little disillusioned with what’s being placed in their bowl each day. And if they’re no longer enjoying their food, it might not be long before they start shunning mealtime altogether. 

Why is meat important for a cat?

The importance of meat in a cat’s diet cannot be overstated. Cats have a long evolutionary history of feeding on animal protein, and it’s a nutritional necessity that continues today. You may have heard felines referred to as obligate carnivores. This means they not only need meat to thrive, they need it to survive. First of all, it’s an incredible source of protein, which strengthens immune systems, fuels muscles, and provides boundless energy. But more than that, it contains nutrients they’re not able to produce on their own. This includes taurine, vitamins A and B12, and arachidonic acid. Denying cats these essential vitamins and amino acids may begin to take its toll physically, eventually leading to a number of severe health conditions. 

Vegan or Vegetarian diets - Are both bad for my cat?

People choose to adopt vegan or vegetarian diets for a myriad of personal reasons. For some, it’s to try and improve their own health. For others, it’s concerns over animal welfare or the environment. It can often be a mixture of all three. 

All are perfectly justifiable and it’s understandable that any pet parent who subscribes to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle would want to apply the same principles to their pets. 

But while humans, and even dogs, are able to adapt to plant-based diets, it’s not that simple for cats and their unique metabolisms. 

The differences between veganism and vegetarianism are relatively subtle. A vegan diet excludes all meat and animal products (poultry, beef, seafood, dairy and eggs), whereas a vegetarian diet excludes just meat.

So, while vegetarianism does allow a little bit more food freedom, you are still removing that key dietary requirement meat. And as we have already explained, a feline diet without meat is far from complete and well balanced, and in fact, increases the chances of health problems. 

Despite the risks associated with vegetarian and vegan cat diets, there are a number of commercial vegetarian and vegan cat foods now readily available. If, for whatever reason, you are contemplating moving your feline over to one of these diets then consult a vet first to ensure all their nutritional needs are being met. 

The best diet for your cat

All any pet parent wants for their beloved feline is for them to be the happiest and healthiest they can possibly be. Diet plays a huge role in this, but with so many different options out there these days, choosing the one that best suits can be tricky.

At Encore, we believe a cat’s diet should include high quality meat, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, and be free from unnecessary additives. Mouth watering taste and texture won’t do any harm either. And there’s plenty of that to be found in our range of natural recipes, including these flavour-filled selections – Tuna Fillet with Whitebait Pouch, Tuna with Salmon in Jelly Tin , and Chicken Breast with Brown Rice in Broth Pouch

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