We are all being urged to reduce the amount of meat we consume to help the planet but is vegetarianism for cats an idea we should be exploring? Every year, agricultural land roughly double the size of the UK is used to produce enough dry pet food for the global market, producing 106 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Many experts believe this is not sustainable and are looking to other ways of feeding pets.

Do Cats Need Meat?

Unlike dogs, which evolved into omnivores (eating both animal and plant matter) during domestication, cats remain obligate carnivores. Their digestive systems have developed to process small prey that is high in fat and protein, and cannot cope with fibrous plant material. It is suggested, therefore, that they stick to a meat-based diet.

Cats require a much higher level of protein than dogs or humans and their ability to digest carbohydrates is much lower. Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats, which can only be found in animal-based proteins. It is necessary for normal vision, digestion, heart muscle function and to maintain a healthy immune system.

Vegan Cat Food

There are brands of vegan cat food available on the market which use a synthetic form of taurine in place of the animal-derived amino acid but this can be a difficult balance to get right. Too little taurine in a cat’s diet can lead to blindness and heart failure while too much can lead to serious urinary tract infections. As taurine cannot be stored by cats, any synthetic version they have should be carefully tailored to their age and body weight.

Complete vegan cat foods tend to include ingredients such as sweet potato, soy, chickpeas, rice, flax, yeast, corn and peas in place of meat.

The Animal Welfare Act

Daniella Dos Santos, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) says that she would not recommend a meat-free diet for a cat and that owners should be wary of their responsibilities under the UK’s Animal Welfare Act 2006. By law, pet owners are obliged to feed an appropriate diet and it could be argued that a vegan diet is not designed to meet the welfare standards of a cat.

Consult your vet

It is the general consensus from vets that cats are unlikely to thrive on a diet that does not contain meat. However, if you are keen to move your cat onto a meat-free diet you should speak to your vet first before making any changes. 

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If you found this interesting, why not read:

Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

Food and Plants Dangerous to Cats and Dogs

How To Be a Responsible Cat Owner

Reading Pet Food Labels