Many people choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. There are many reasons, ethical, environmental, and health-related, for doing so.
However, some of those people also want to feed their cat a vegetarian or vegan diet. Is that safe?
Cats Are Obligate Carnivores
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they must have meat to survive. Unlike omnivores, cats don’t have the enzymes necessary to convert plant material to the amino acids they need to live. They get many nutrients that are essential for their health from meat, including taurine, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.
Cats evolved eating mostly rodents, birds, and other small prey, and their systems are not designed to be without meat.
Can You Give Cats Supplements That Allow Them to Be Vegan?
While some people feed vegan diets to their cats along with supplements of taurine and other nutrients found in meat, these supplements are not as available for their bodies to use as the real thing in meat.
The margin of error is so slight that cats can easily become sick on such a modified diet. Cats that don’t get the proper nutrients can develop heart and liver problems as well as blindness and other issues.
Find a Vet You Trust to Help You
Whether cats can thrive on vegetarian or vegan diets with supplements is a controversial subject with many opinions, both expert and not.
The bottom line is that cats evolved as carnivores and can’t get certain nutrients from plants. If a meat-based diet is not provided, supplements may or may keep the cat healthy.
We recommend that, if you are considering a vegetarian or vegan diet for your cat, you consult closely with a veterinarian you trust.