Nowadays, it’s common for people to switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet. In some cases, once they switch their lifestyle, they try to switch their pets over with them. It’s important to understand the difference between the diets. A vegan doesn’t eat anything that has to do with animals, including anything that’s made from animals, such as eggs or honey. A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat. Read for more information on vegan and vegetarian pet diets.
Cats are carnivores. They need essential nutrients to stay alive and healthy. Cats can be put on a vegan or vegetarian diet but they cannot produce certain nutrients within their own body, so they have to get them from another source. Some nutrients that cats need-such as taurine and L-carnitine, which cats can’t produce-are found only in animal meat. That’s why they’re carnivores.
There are ways to make sure your cat stays healthy by certain vegan cat foods, or you can make your own food as long as you get all the vitamins and nutrients needed. This is very crucial because if you don’t, it can become fatal for your pet. You should consult with your vet before deciding to put your cat on a vegan/vegetarian diet to see if it can be done or if it’s actually necessary. People disagree with putting cats on these diets because it’s in their nature to hunt and eat animals.
Cats’ bodies aren’t made to switch diets without any help. Their bodies don’t produce everything they need to stay alive, and can’t process enzymes that break down plant-based carotenoids; this is gathered by eating meat from animals that have already processed nutrients and broken them down. It takes time and effort to put a cat on a vegan/vegetarian diet, but it can be done as long as you’re serious about it and are willing to take the time. It’s risky, as cats are very prone to getting dilated cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarged heart with weak contractions, caused by low taurine in their diet.
Dogs are omnivores, so they have less of a problem switching to a vegan/vegetarian diet, but they still need help because they’re natural meat eaters. They can’t make decisions for themselves so you either have to keep them on their diet or they’ll get their needed nutrients another way. Unlike cats, dogs produce their own taurine. You have to make sure they’re getting the calories needed, since dogs need more protein than cats and even humans. They can’t process excess salt, so watch their salt intake in any homemade meals. It’s risky but doable, and if done correctly, it’ll be safe for your pet.
- Can live long, healthy lives
- Aggression goes down
- Shiny coats
- Helps with flatulence in some cases
- Energy levels may increase
- Eye problems
- Growth failure – less protein provided
- Can be fatal to pet – if owner doesn’t keep up with diet
- Dilated cardiomyopathy – low taurine
- May cause UTIs (Urinary Tract Infection)
- Loses natural desire/need to hunt
Meat from commercial brands can contain hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics. Taurine and L-carnitine can be washed away during processing. For any animal diet, the meal should be mostly proteins and the remaining can be other nutrients like grains. If you decide to put your cat or dog on a vegan/vegetarian diet, it’s best to feed them at least twice a day, including some healthy snacks for them. That way their energy and health stay up. Watch what proteins you give them because not all proteins are the same, so make sure you’re giving them the kind that they need.
Here’s a list of food to start your cat or dog off on:
- Chickpeas/garbanzo beans
- Seitan – wheat meat
- Sweet potatoes
This isn’t a full list, of course, there are still more foods you can use. If you make homemade meals, be sure to not include too much salt and to put a good protein base food in each meal. Sweet potatoes have beta carotene in them, which dogs convert to vitamin A. Instead of vitamin D, vitamin D3 is best for your pet, as it helps with bone growth and overall health. This vitamin is received only through the sun. So it’s important to take your pets outside or for walks.
It can be safe to put your cat or dog on a vegan/vegetarian diet. It just takes time and effort from you to ensure that they get everything included in their diet that they’ll need to stay healthy. Always consult with your local vet to get input on your decision. Be sure to take pets in for regular checkups and keep a constant eye on them for any changes they may go through as you switch their diets.