Does vegan food for cats have any health benefit?

Does vegan food for cats have any health benefit?

Unlike dogs, cats are unequivocally carnivorous animals. This makes the topic of vegan food for cats a controversial one.

Here we discuss the health benefits and risks of a vegan diet for cats but if you’re already keen to transition your cat onto a vegan diet, see our page on vegan cat food reviews.

The carnivorous nature of cats signifies that they naturally thrive on a diet based on animal products. If not properly monitored, a cat’s health may be impaired as a result of an improper vegan diet. However, there are options for vegan cats, which are not only nutritionally sufficient but may even be more health promoting than typical cat foods.

There are strong recommendations to research the ingredients of cat food you provide for your cats, regardless of whether it happens to be vegan or not, in order to ensure it is nutritionally adequate in all sectors.

Potential health benefits of vegan food for cats

As with humans, cats can experience a variety of benefits from transitioning from a typical meat-based diet to a diet centered on plant foods. These benefits range from a healthy change in body weight, especially in the cases of obesity, prevention of diabetes and healthier skin and coats.

Many of the benefits that humans stand to gain from a vegan diet are also available for cats to enjoy as well, given that the diet is nutritionally adequate. This includes:

  • lowering body weight to healthy levels,
  • reducing risk of diabetes and obesity,
  • helping to combat the development of cancer, and
  • a general longevity boost.

Gray kitten with vegan cat food

Furthermore, whilst there is currently limited documented research comparing vegan cats to carnivorous cats, Dr. Andrew Knight, a cat and dog veterinarian, suggests that vegan cats are less prone to skin allergies and experience improved vitality.

Despite the fact that cats are carnivorous, this doesn’t mean that they necessarily must consume animal products in order to live healthily. One interesting observation, that debunks the nature fallacy, is that foods such as cow’s milk, tuna, and pig that are commonly fed to cats, would be outside of what a cat could physically manage to acquire in nature.

Imagine  your domesticated cat fighting a large tuna fish in the ocean, or obtaining milk from a cow. These foods are not naturally available to cats, yet they can still subsist on them, just as cats can also subsist on an adequate vegan diet.

Wysong Vegan Canine/Feline Pet Food Vegan food for cats can be just as satiating and nutritionally sufficient as a meat-based diet, given the correct preparations and monitoring. It’s important to choose a quality brand that has been tested to meet all a cats needs.

See our page on vegan cat food to learn more what to look for in vegan cat food products and read our reviews.

Potential risks of vegan food for cats

Biologically speaking cats are carnivorous predators and as such, they have a tendency to subsist and thrive on animal products. This is unlike humans who are often prone to disease and diet-related illnesses as a result of doing so.

Alkaline urine

Many warn of the potential complications that may arise from making your cat transition to vegan pet food, such as crystallized formations developing in their urine, resulting from the urine’s pH becoming more alkaline. These crystallizations can eventually form into stones that can block the urinary tract and lead to major problems if unchecked. This seems to be more pronounced in male cats, but it is a concern for both sexes.

Solid Gold Urine Testing pH Strips for Dogs & CatsThere is, however, a solution to this issue namely by checking the pH level of your cat’s urine before and whilst you transition them to a vegan diet. This can be achieved in a few ways, although, more recently certain brands of cat litter have included additives that change color based on the pH level of the urine.

A simpler, less messy option, is to use these urine testing strips to check your cats urine has a healthy pH. This way, you can monitor how your cat is responding to the change and make an educated decision from there.

Additionally, scheduling a few visits to the vet whilst your cat is undergoing the transition, may help to get guidance for where your vegan cat’s diet is lacking and how to prevent further complications from arising.

Nutritional insufficiency

Another risk of vegan food for cats is that without proper research into brands or research into how to home cook, the diet may not be nutritionally sufficient.

In much the same way that a human may experience vitamin B12 deficiencies if their diet isn’t correctly supplemented. Thankfully, with the breadth of the information available on the internet, it doesn’t take long to research the main requirements of a diet for vegan cats but also discover where common deficiencies lie and how to circumvent them.

Closing notes

There are those who will push the notion that cats can only thrive exclusively on meat-based diets. There is no denying that placing a cat on a vegan diet is somewhat higher maintenance than a dog and certainly poses some risks if done incorrectly. Though, that doesn’t mean that you can’t safely transition your cat onto a vegan diet, so long as the correct measures and precautions are taken.

Vegan food for cats also poses numerous benefits, which may increase your cat’s longevity and prevent certain illnesses from arising, indicating that it may be worth the extra effort and investment. The biggest benefit, is to all those animals who are not ending up in your cats pet food!

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The risks of vegan pet food

The risks of vegan pet food

TRUTH: feeding a pet a vegetarian or vegan diet can be risky… especially, if you’re unwilling to spend the necessary time researching and properly preparing their diet.

There are serious consequences to feeding pets food that are poisonous to them, or to not giving them all the nutrients they need. To make sure you do it right, you need to be aware of the risks of vegan pet food – then you can avoid the pitfalls.

Nutritional deficiency

The most likely problem is that the food given won’t meet your pets nutritional needs. This is not necessarily the case – it is possible to have a vegan diet that meets your pets needs – but to make that happen you need to put some thought and time into getting the balance right.

The requirements for dogs and cats are different. To learn more about what’s required see the pages on vegan dog food and vegan cat food.

Cats, for example can easily become nutritionally deficient in taurine, B12 or some other micronutrient that is vital for health and wellbeing.

The easiest way to avoid this problem, is to use a commercial vegan pet food that has been designed to include all the nutrition needed. Luckily, there are a growing number of vegetarian and vegan cat food options available to consumers.

Otherwise, vegan pet food supplements can be mixed with a homemade diet, which can majorly help with regulating micronutrient levels.

Inadvertently feeding poisonous ingredients to your pet

Do you know which ingredients a dog or cat can’t eat?

Before you share your people food with your pet, become aware of the ones that can harm animals.

For a quick summary, avoid these:

  • avocado
  • chocolate
  • coffee and caffeine
  • citrus
  • coconut products
  • grapes and raisins
  • nuts
  • onions, garlic & chives
  • salty snack food
  • artificial sweeteners including xylitol
  • yeast dough

Learn more at ASPCA.org

vegan puppy looking at food

Problems with transition to a vegan diet

As with any change to your pets diet, there could be issues arising during the transition stage. When your pet’s stomach is used to a particular type of food, it may need some time to adjust to the change.

Always change your pets diet slowly. Take a couple of weeks to slowly phase out the old food and introduce the new food. Pay careful attention to your pets health during the process.

Urinary stones

Further complications can arise from cats developing stones in their urinary tract as a result of their urine alkalizing, causing blockage, pain and a host of serious problems down the line.

As recommended by Dr. Andrew Knight, it is important to regularly check the acidity of your cat’s urine during the vegan transition and it’s strongly advised to take the transition gradually.  This means that you slowly replace foods in the cat’s existing diet with vegan alternatives.

This will provide enough time for your cat to properly adapt, without becoming seriously ill in the process. There are a variety of options available for checking your cat’s urine pH level, including brands of cat litter that have color indicators or testing a sample with an indicator swab.

Allergies

As with any diet, there is the risk of the pet being allergic to or having a sensitivity to one of the included ingredients. This isn’t something particular to a vegan pet diet, but something to be aware of anyway.

If there is an underlying allergy to an ingredient commonly found in vegan pet food, such as soybeans, this could spark health issues seemingly out of the blue. At the first sign of any complications arising during the transition to a vegan diet, it is important that you get your pet checked by a vet to outline the cause and not speculate.

 

Conclusion

There are certainly potential hazards of transitioning your pet to a vegan diet. The risks can, however, be managed and worked around.

There are also potential benefits that are seemingly very worthwhile, not to mention the benefit of reducing your contribution to the meat and dairy industries.

Provided that you take the necessary care and steps to ensure that your pet transitions to vegan pet food successfully, there seems to be no reason or scientific justification for not feeding your pet a vegan diet.

The risks of vegan pet food can easily be overcome by buying commercial pet food that has quality ingredients in the right balance. To help get you started, we’ve reviewed the best vegan dog food and vegan cat food brands available on Amazon.

Vegan cat food???!!! What the science says.

Vegan cat food???!!! What the science says.

Vegan cat food is a controversial subject.

Cats are biologically carnivorous mammals. Does this mean they MUST have animal products to survive and thrive?

The short answer is no. Animal products are not strictly a necessity. However, if you remove animal products from a cats diet you must do so very carefully and make sure it is getting all its nutritional needs met. That’s going to mean you need some cat supplements.

Vegan cat food and nutritional sufficiency

Putting a cat on vegan food should not be done haphazardly. Cats on vegan diets require a higher level of maintenance and precaution than a cat on a standard diet based on animal products. You can’t just start feeding your cat the same vegan meals you eat yourself, for example.

Cats have particular requirements that are normally derived from meat. If you’re not giving them meat you need to ensure they are getting these nutrients from some other source.

The consequences of missing these nutrients is very serious and can result in severe illness and even death. You’ll need to either put a lot of research into working out what nutrients your cat needs, or buy a commercial vegan cat food or supplement which has already worked this out for you.

Cats need a considerable amount of vitamin A in their diet. Insufficient vitamin A leads to problems with hearing, skin, bones, intestines and reproductive systems.

Another important nutrient for cats is taurine, and a lack of this can cause eyesight problems.  Standard, meat based pet food often contains taurine obtained from mollusks, but commercial vegan cat food brands use animal-free sources for any added vitamins and nutrients.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of the America Veterinary Medical Association investigated the B12 and taurine levels of cats fed a vegan diet. It found that the cats which ate the vegan foods provided were not clinically deficient in either of these micro-nutrients. The levels for taurine were somewhat lower than average, but not dangerously insufficient.

The benefits of vegan pet food


There are some purported benefits of feeding cats vegan diets. While there is not a lot of research done in the area yet, there are a few studies that have found a vegan diet to be sufficient for dogs and cats to be healthy.

European veterinary specialist Dr. Andrew Knight claims that both cats and dogs stand to benefit from a vegan diet. Dr Knight has written a review of the research on vegan diets for pets published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Based on the case studies published in these peer reviewed scientific journals, potential benefits include:

  • a reduced and healthier body weight.
  • a reduction and possible prevention of diseases like diabetes and arthritis.
  • cataract resolution
  • healthier coats
  • potentially increased longevity.
  • improved vitality and general well-being.
  • reduced skin allergies.
  • reduced skin parasites.

The risks of vegan cat food

Despite the potential benefits, feeding a cat a vegetarian or vegan diet can be a risky endeavor. Especially, if you’re unwilling to spend the necessary time researching and properly preparing their diet.

Luckily, there are a growing number of vegetarian and vegan cat food options available to consumers, which are designed to satisfy your cat’s nutritional needs.

Alternatively, vegan cat supplements can be mixed with a homemade diet, which can majorly help with regulating micro-nutrient levels.

Cat urine ph level testing stripsOne complication occurs when cats develop stones in their urinary tract as a result of their urine alkalizing. This causes blockage, pain and a host of serious problems down the line. Dr. Knight recommends you regularly check the acidity of your cat’s urine during the vegan transition to look out for this problem. Transitioning to a vegan diet gradually and slowly will also give your cats body time to adjust.

There are a variety of options available for checking your cat’s urine pH level, including disposable testing strips with color indicators and cat litter that changes color.

Another risk is an underlying allergy to an ingredient found in the new cat food, such as soybeans. Whenever changing a pet’s diet, watch for signs of any trouble. At the first sign of any complications arising during the transition to a vegan diet, get your cat checked by a vet to properly determine the cause.

Is it all or nothing?

Currently, the science indicates that a carefully constructed vegan diet for cats is quite healthy. But, maybe YOUR cat absolutely turns up its nose at the pet food you give it. You could try a few different brands until you find one that your cat likes. Another option is to mix in the vegan cat food with the meat based cat food so as to reduce the amount you use. Read our reviews of cat food to see where to start.

Some people feel more comfortable in supplementing their cat’s vegan diet with meat products on occasion. After you transition your cat to a vegan diet, watch how it adapts and adjust your approach as needed. At least by feeding your pet vegan cat food at times, you are making some impact to helping the animals that become the pet food.

 

 

 

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