Given the fact that cats are obligate carnivores, creatures that feed primarily or exclusively on animal matter for their health and well-being, is becoming a vegetarian a good idea? Is vegan cat food okay?
Is vegan cat food okay? A vet weighs in.
“For cats, it’s really inappropriate,” says Cailin Heinze, VMD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and assistant professor of nutrition at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
The risks of vegan cat food
The risks of feeding cats a vegetarian or vegan diet include inadequate total protein intake, imbalance of amino acids such as taurine or essential fatty acids like arachidonic acid, and deficiency in vitamins and minerals that are obtained ideally, or only, through meat or other animal products.
Health risks associated with vegan cat food and vegetarian cat food
These dietary problems can lead to serious and sometimes irreversible medical conditions, according to Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD, board-certified veterinary nutritionist and professor of clinical nutrition at the University of California, Davis veterinary school. The one issue veterinarians mention most often is taurine-related dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart with weak contractions and poor pumping ability), but low taurine can also lead to reproductive failures, growth failures and eye problems, she adds.
“We did see a case of a cat that almost died as a result of taurine deficiency,” Dr. Larsen says. “The owners were feeding a vegan cat kibble, so a commercially available vegan diet, and they were mixing that diet with cooked chicken breast, for some reason, but it was not enough taurine for the cat, obviously, and it resulted in a near-death experience for this animal.”