With Veganuary upon us, many people may be starting the new year with a lifestyle change to a vegan diet. With its health, ethical, and environmental benefits it can be a great way for us hoomans to start 2023 with our best foot forward. However, can this be said for our feline friends?
Well, the short answer to “can a cat be vegan?” is no – so if that’s enough of an answer for you click here to check out our range of natural high animal protein cat food, but if you want to know a bit more about the reasons as to why your cat can’t be vegan read on.
Cats are Obligate Carnivores – What Does This Mean?
Within the animal kingdom, there are three main types of animals:
- Herbivores: who survive off eating a plant-based diet such as elephants, giraffes, and cows.
- Omnivores: who survive off eating a mixture of plant and animal meat such as humans, chimps, and squirrels.
- Carnivores: who survive off eating meat such as lions, tigers, cats, bears, and dogs.
Carnivores are then split up into two sub-groups:
- Plain carnivores: whose diet is made up of a majority of animal meat but can digest and do eat some plants, such as dogs.
- Obligate carnivores: who can only eat and digest animal flesh such as cats.
All cats in the animal kingdom, from lions all the way down to your household kitty, are obligate carnivores. Plants don’t contain the right kind of nutrients for obligate carnivores to thrive, principally because synthesise plant-based proteins into the essential amino acids they require. This is why the answer to “can a cat be vegan?” is always a no.
Can a Cat Be Vegan?
Throughout your kitty’s evolutionary history they have always been obligate carnivores. Sourcing their entire diet from hunting small prey such as birds, rats, frogs and lizards.
In turn, their digestive tract has adapted to eating primarily animal meat and whilst some plant-based matter is still beneficial for fibre, vitamins, and minerals, meat should make up the #1 ingredient in their food. As such feeding your cat a vegan diet is unhealthy and harmful to your furry bestie.
Here are a few nutrients that make a vegan diet unhealthy for your cat:
Taurine: One of the main issues with eliminating meat from your kitty’s diet is the fact that cats don’t possess the necessary enzymes that we humans have to create the amino acid Taurine. Taurine is essential for nerve function and a healthy brain and heart.
Cats get all of their Taurine from animal meat and cannot create it themselves. Without Taurine, your kitty can develop visual problems, heart diseases such as cardiomyopathy, issues with pregnancy and immune deficiencies.
Protein: If you need a pick me up you might reach for a sugary treat or a banana if you’re well behaved. That’s because we humans get most of our energy from sugar and carbohydrates.
However, cats are different and source most of their energy from protein and fats. Cats require a high-protein diet to thrive and unfortunately, plants do not have a high enough protein density to keep them healthy and happy.
Vitamins: Unlike humans, cats cannot get Vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, muscles and a healthy immune system to stop kitty cat sniffles. Your cat gets their Vitamin D from animal meat, so voiding them of these foods with a vegan diet can be very risky for your puss’s health.
To support your cat’s super-human night vision, they also need to be ingesting enough Vitamin A. Vitamin A keeps their coat deliciously glossy and smooth and gives them enough energy to chase that laser pointer around the room. This is another important vitamin found in animal meat and should be fed to your kitty with a delicious complete cat food.
Carbohydrates: too many carbs won't help great when you’re trying to lose weight, nor for your cat’s general health either. Herbivores and omnivores are better at breaking down carbohydrates by using the enzyme amylase.
Amylase is found in our saliva, pancreas, and gut, and helps convert carbs into energy. Cats do not produce amylase in their saliva, and levels of amylase in their digestive tract are much lower compared to us humans.
This is another reason why the answer to “can a cat be vegan?” is a resounding NO, as they are not adapted to living off a diet high in carbs found in plants. Cats need a high-protein diet rich in animal meat as this is where they derive most of their energy from.
Can Cats Eat Any Vegetables?
It’s not uncommon to see your cat nibbling on some grass every now and then, however, they won’t be absorbing many nutrients from this. Often kitty cats will munch away on grass if they’re feeling sick to settle their stomachs or to add some roughage to their tummies to help with digestion.
As cats have developed a much shorter digestive tract than herbivores, they cannot effectively digest and absorb nutrients from plants, so large quantities of plant material should be avoided at your fur friend’s meal time.
What Should I Feed My Cat?
So now that we know the answer to “can a cat be vegan?”, what is the best diet for your feline bestie?
A diet high in good-quality animal protein is essential for your cat’s health and happiness. Look for a complete cat food, meaning it contains all of the essential vitamins, minerals and proteins in a single food source.
At Scrumbles all of our complete dry cat food and complete wet cat food, contain at least 70% of single source animal protein and can be served to your kitty either by themselves or a mixture of the two for added yumminess.
We’ve added prebiotic slippery elm to all of our wet food and powerful probiotics to our dry food to support healthy digestion and pretty poops for an easy clean-up at the kitty litter.
So whether your cat loves a fishy dinner, a Sunday roast chicken or delectable turkey, we’ve got a flavour for even the fussiest fur friend!