The Dangers of Feeding Your Cat a Vegetarian Diet

If you’re a vegetarian, you may want to share your humane lifestyle with your four legged friends. Unfortunately, if you’re a cat owner, this may not be such a healthy proposition. A vegetarian diet for cats can be downright unhealthy for your favorite feline. Why might this be? 

Cats are considered to be inherently carnivorous animals, requiring large amounts of an amino acid called taurine which is found only in meat products. Without this necessary amino acid, cats on a vegetarian diet can develop liver and heart problems as well as visual problems which can eventually kill them. In addition, cats also need a dietary source for essential fatty acids such as arachidonic acid which they’re unable to synthesize on their own. Meat is the only source for this critical fatty acid. Cats also need Vitamin B12 which is present only in animal products. To complicate matters even further, cats can’t use the Vitamin A found in vegetarian sources and can potentially develop complications of Vitamin A deficiency if not given meat. This can result in hearing loss as well as decreased function of vital organs.  Most veterinarians agree that to maintain a healthy feline, it’s best to avoid a vegetarian diet for cats. 

Not only is a vegetarian diet for cats not conducive to maintaining feline health, it also doesn’t titillate their taste buds. It seems that cats have an innate taste for meat products and can be particularly finicky when it comes to vegetables, often refusing to eat them. This makes it likely that your cat will hunt for carnivorous food when allowed outdoors which can contribute to the pain and suffering of innocent birds and mice.  

Recently, vegetarian supplements for some of these missing nutrients have been developed with the names of Vegecat and Vegekit which can be added to a cat’s food. You may want to speak with your veterinarian about the possibility of using these supplements if you still want a vegetarian diet for your cat. If your veterinarian advocates the use of a vegetarian diet for your cat along with supplements, you’ll want to make a gradual transition to vegetarian foods. This can be done by mixing more vegetarian based foods in with his regular food and gradually decreasing the regular food as your cat accepts the vegetarian diet. This can be a protracted process since cats are not inherently tolerant of a vegetarian diet. You’ll want to watch your cat for signs of weight loss or any changes in bowel habits or behavior that might suggest he’s not tolerating his new diet. 

Although a vegetarian diet for cats isn’t universally advocated by veterinarians with close monitoring and the use of supplements to provide essential nutrients, your cat may be able to successfully make the transition to a vegetarian diet. Be sure to check with your veterinarian first before making radical changes to your cat’s diet. 

Pat Mulford •