I think most vegans feed their cats regular commercial cat food. I do. We just sort of accept that if we decide to have a cat, that is what cats eat. But it bothers me that, while human veganism is often discussed reasonably, most discussions about feline veganism, even among vegans, involve verbal frothing at the mouth. Reason and logic seem to fly out the window.
Maybe this negativity is justified, but so much of it seems to be circular in reasoning. The number one reason given against vegan cat food is that (all together now) “cats are obligate carnivores.” All that means is “they have to eat meat.” So: they have to eat meat because they have to eat meat. I wish we could ban that pat phrase from discussions and move on to some actual facts, such as who decided that and what it’s based on.
It’s probably primarily based on the fact that cats naturally eat nothing but meat in the wild. Grass is just for digestion. OK, but that does not automatically prove that they would not be healthier on an “unnatural,” vegan diet. We vegans hear that same argument when cavemen are dragged into discussions. Who cares what cavemen ate? Luckily studies prove that well-planned veganism is very healthy for humans, so we humans don’t have to put up with that reasoning.
In addition, pet cats do not live like they would in the wild – they are inside sleeping in fuzzy beds and gazing at the fish tank, not stalking prey in the snow. And most commercial cat food is a conglomeration of the worst parts of the most ill-treated animals – beyond the misery involved, which is outside the scope of a discussion on whether vegan food is healthier, this flesh is so beat up it’s not allowed for human consumption. But people get apoplectic at the thought of someone substituting a thoughtful plant-based diet for that factory crap, because it’s not “natural.” Blech!
We’re getting to better arguments when people start talking about nutrients. But the nutrients that we know about are all available in plant or synthetic form.
I think the best arguments will point out that there seem to be some formulation problems with some of the commercial vegan cat foods. The two I know of, Evolution and Vegepet, were found in a test to be nutritionally inadequate. One producer denied this and another fixed it. Wikipedia seems to have a reasonable discussion about this topic. It’s not clear to me why vegan cat food manufacturers can’t solve these formulation problems and prove it, so we can all move on.
It turns out that thousands of cats eat this cat food, and I was unable to find a single complaint where someone who actually fed their cat these foods felt it made them sick. Google “Evolution Diet cat complaint” or “sick” and you will find nothing. Same for HAINA. The BBB has two complaints against Evolution Diet, both regarding shipping issues. I couldn’t find any BBB record of the Vegepet manufacturer, HAINA.
But not everybody posts their negative response where Google can find it. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau said that she felt her cats did better on meat cat food, I believe because one of them became ill on vegan cat food. The Evolution Diet web site says that male cats may have trouble and should perhaps not be fully vegan. They recommend a urine test to check the pH. We as pet owners have to weigh all this information ourselves.
But none of these arguments supports the conclusion that cats cannot be vegan – that is, that no non-meat food invented ever (as in the future) could be healthy for cats. I am not sure how anyone can prove that argument. The best the nay-sayers can reasonably try to prove is that there is no suitable commercial vegan cat food right now, and that it is not currently known how healthy vegan cat food can be prepared.
Here’s my experience. I decided to put my 15 yo cat on a 75% vegan diet (Evolution dry) because she was diagnosed with liver cancer. The vet said there was nothing they could do, and I wanted to see if cutting her animal protein would help. She was given 3-12 months to live 3 months ago. She looks better than ever. Her fur, which had turned brownish over the summer, is starting to come in black again. Fur turning orange like that can either be a result of more licking (due to allergies, etc. – she wasn’t doing that), or due to severe protein deficiency, which can be caused by kidney or liver failure or intestinal disease.
She has two of those, because she also has kidney failure, 15 months now. Because we were replacing her Rx kidney diet with non-Rx vegan food, my vet and I have carefully monitored her renal figures, which have improved slightly since the change. (FYI her treatment for 12 months has been 150 ml Sub-Q fluid 3x per week, and 1 month of Fosamax 1x per week (experimental therapy decided on 2 months ago, but not begun until after renal panel showed improvement on 50% vegan diet alone). Neither of these treatments bothers her much).
I sprinkle brewer’s yeast on the vegan cat food, and I can’t pry her face out of the bowl. And you would never know she was sick – she is alert, sleek, plays with my kids, eats and drinks well. This is one reason I am so determined – her quality of life is absolutely worth maintaining.
When I asked for help at message boards three months ago, trying to find phosphorus levels in different vegan foods, I got so much negativity, even though I deliberately never mentioned I was vegan myself, since that had nothing to do with my decision. People literally told me I’d be torturing my dying cat. They were incredibly mean at a very difficult time, calling me selfish, that I was doing this for me, to try to drag out her death. I know she’s not going to live forever, but why wouldn’t I want to try to help my cat?
It’s way too early to make any kind of claims, but so far so good. The owner of Evolution Diet (who I freely admit seems kind of flaky – but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong or lying) told me that he has had many cats at his shelter with exactly my cat’s issues (kidney failure and cancer) live healthy for many years on his cat food. I based my decision on The China Study, but it was nice to hear his experience.
I’m not pushing vegan cat food, I just think there should be more reason and less venom in the discussion. There don’t seem to be studies, actual science-based information, on vegan cat food. We are left to try to find information for ourselves in a very hostile environment.