May 26, 2004

Vegan cats

by peterb

This story makes me angry. It's about vegans who feed their cats vegan diets.

Cats, you see, are obligate carnivores. Feeding them a diet without meat (or rather, with amino acids that are only found in adequate quantities in meat) is abuse. I can understand people who don't eat animal products because they think it is cruel or exploitative, even though I don't share that belief. But I have nothing but contempt for people who have ethical objections to eating any animal product, but delight in torturing their pet.

Apparently, for these people "vegan" means "against animal cruelty where the cruelty is fast enough that I notice it." If your cat goes blind over a 3 year period because you were abusing it, though, that's fantastic.

I'm so enraged I can hardly see straight.

Posted by peterb at May 26, 2004 05:44 PM | Bookmark This

No doubt they are trying to "do the right thing" by their convictions, but they shouldn't have pets. How terribly wrong.

Posted by Kristen at May 27, 2004 06:53 PM

I have been involved for over a decade in rescuing homeless cats in a major city area in Canada. For many years I thought it was not possible for cats to be vegans but over two years ago I discovered several companies who produce high quality vegan cat food. The food is highly digestible; it comes in either kibbles or cans and smell and taste just like your average cat food. It contains all the nutrients a cat needs to stay healthy and live a long happy life. I deal on a daily basis with homeless cats outside who are sick and hungry. Not doing anything about these starving homeless cats is what curelty and abuse is. Vegan cats are living perfectly fine lives. To a cat, a kibble is a kibble. They really don't give a damn whether the amino acids come from grain, beans or animal flesh. Once cooked and all blended together, it tastes and feel just about the same anyway. We have been feeding two dozen cats vegan kibbles and cans for over two years now and they are doing perfectly fine. And a cat can't go blind unless they are missing taurine, an amino acid that is added in vegan food but also in anny/all regular commercial meat cat food. Since taurine gets destroyed in cooking, all cat foods contain artificial taurine to prevent meat eating cats from going blind so all our vegan cats are actually eating the same taurine as anybody else's meat eating cats.
You might decide that you philosophically are against feeding a cat a vegan diet and you are entitled to have philosophical opinions on any matters. But you can't call people who are feeding their pets healthy diets that keep them healthy and happy abuse.

Posted by Charlene at June 29, 2004 08:49 PM

Taurine (aka 2-Aminoethanesulfonic acid) is free-form amino acid that participates in a variety of metabolic processes. Taurine is a neurotransmitter, a neuromodulator and is involved in glucose uptake. It is found in meats, fish, milk and eggs, but not in vegetable proteins. Calling the taurine in your "vegan" food "artificial taurine" is a little bit of a finesse, I think. Since the "artificial" taurine in your "vegan" cat food in fact comes from animal sources -- most "artificial" taurine, in fact, is synthesized from ox bile, which I promise you isn't extracted from the ox while it is still alive -- can we at least agree that "vegan cat food" isn't?

There are two types of people here:

(1) people who feed their cats "vegan" foods with taurine from animal products added. This, I agree, is not abusive, it's just ethically pointless.

(2) people who feed their cats "vegan" foods without taurine added, such as the person in the article I linked to who feeds his cat a mixture of lentils and tofu. This is what I call animal abuse, and I think that's a fair characterization.

Posted by peterb at June 29, 2004 09:57 PM

The cat owner referred to in the article mentioned that he follows the recipe from James Peden's book, "Vegetarian Cats and Dogs". James Peden was the first with his wife to come up with a food supplement formula that would include taurine and all the other nutrients cats need and which are added anyways to regular commercial meat cat food. So perhaps it is the fault of the journalist for not mentioning that piece of info but if the man follows the famous "tofu and lentil" recipe (it is a popular recipe from James Peden's book), then that means he is in fact adding the vegecat supplement which includes taurine, arachidonic acid and all his cat needs to stay healthy. I would not myself feed my cats vegan food unless I was 200% convinced that it is good and healthy for them and that they enjoy eating it. I have spent too much energy and years of my life rescuing animals from misery to bring them into my home and make them sick.

About artificial taurine being only available from animal sources, these references are outdated. Already in the early 90's James Peden described the synthesizing process of taurine in his book (in details that are too technical and uninteresting to me but it is on page 96 if anyone is interested in getting the book from the library). Common knowledge seems to be that artificial taurine not derived from animal sources is more economical to produce and therefore cheaper to buy. This is why it is more widely used as a supplement, including in commercial meat cat food than others. Commercial vegan cat food formula all certify that they use B12 from non-animal sources. If further proof is required, you can comtact them. But all of this fuss over taurine not derived from animal sources not being the same as taurine derived from animal sources reminds me of how for many years people said that only vitamin B12 derived from animal products was good for us vegans, that artificial, synthesized vegan B12 would not be the same. Well 30 years later we know it is not true. And the same thing goes for the cats. The point is that there are tens of thousands of cats in the United States and Canada and Australia and England and many other parts of the world being fed supplemented vegan cat food and they are doing very well. Again let's remember that all commercial meat cat food is actually also supplemented because they too do not contained the necessary nutrients to meet veterinary guidelines for feline nutrition. The three main companies selling vegan cat food are Evolution (, Vegepet ( VeganPet out of Australia ( The woman in Australia has actually even done test trials with success. My experience and that of at least a dozen people in my own city (including some people who have fed their cats supplemented vegan cat food for over 10 years)confirms that cats do fine on the food produced by these companies. For many years I fed my cats high quality meat cat food but I always said that if a company came up with a vegan cat food that my cats would love to eat and which would made them healthy, that I would consider it. I met here in Canada several people with healthy cats being fed the Evolution formula 2 years ago; I read about it the issue, contactd other people with vegan cats, and then switched.

On a final note, while over the years I have been in contact with dozens of people feeding vegan food to their cats, all of them used supplemented food that met veterionary nutritional guidelines. Perhaps there are in some places some isolated people who feed their cats vegan food without B12; I just haven't met any. If they are out there, they need to be told that while it is possible to keep a cat healthy on vegan food, that it is advisable to use supplements. They should be directed to the web sites I have mentioned.

Posted by Charlene at July 1, 2004 04:29 AM

ooops sorry I said B12 but meant taurine in the last paragraph : ))

Posted by Charlene at July 1, 2004 04:34 AM

To the individual who made the following comment:

"most "artificial" taurine, in fact, is synthesized from ox bile, which I promise you isn't extracted from the ox while it is still alive"

You are fundamentally incorrect in this assertion. Check out Evolution vegan cat food, for instance. The taurine is completely vegan -- we've been synthesizing it without nonhuman animal usage for decades now.

Surely, in the earliest stages (in the late 60s, or the early 70s, for example), there may have been animals necessarily involved in the formation of so-called 'artifical' taurine. This, simply put, is no longer the case.

You are incorrect -- and you are assisting in misleading people about the health, safety or "vegan-ness" of feline vegan diets.

Posted by David Langlois at July 12, 2004 02:07 PM


Thanks for your informative contribution. I'm sure vegan cat owners will be glad to know there's at least one supplier that claims to provide animal-free taurine.

My claim was that _most_ "artificial" taurine is derived from animal sources , not that non-animal-based synthesis was impossible. The largest producer of taurine in the world is Changshu Yudong Chemical factory, I believe in Taiwan. I'll drop them a line and see what they say; if there are no animal precursors in their process, I'll gladly retract my earlier claim. I'm willing to believe my specific claim of "ox bile" was wrong (in fact, I now am sure it is), but I think the fundamental truth that most synthetic taurine comes from animal precursors isn't seriously under debate (At least one "vegetarian" taurine supplement claims to be synthesized from petroleum. Do dinosaurs count as animals?)

All of this, of course, is tangential to the issue at hand, which is how much risk we are willing to take on behalf of creatures -- be they animals or children -- that rely on us to make intelligent dietary decisions on their behalf. I'm simply observing that taking significant risks with the health of an animal one has agreed to care for is ethically bankrupt. This strikes me as an area where conservatism -- in the classical sense -- is not only appropriate, but ethically required.

We know that on a vegan diet without appropriate supplements, cats will, over a long period of time, sicken, go blind, and die. We know that the effects are subtle enough that their owners are often ignorant of the fact that they are abusing their animals. I think the burden on anyone claiming to offer a magic potion that fixes these problems is pretty high.

Put another way: if children suffered the same way cats do from a "pure" vegan diet, and someone started feeding their kids a supplemented diet when said supplement had not gone through extensive, peer-reviewed, double-blind testing, that someone would probably be up on child abuse charges the first time anyone heard about it.

Who is speaking for the cats here? Certainly not the vegans who are playing dice with their charges' lives on what I suggest is insufficient evidence. Certainly not the companies -- be they Purina or Vegecat -- who are interested in selling products.

When I see a parent refuse medical treatment for their child because of their religious beliefs, I call that parent an abuser. Their strong religious beliefs do not justify their unethical actions. When I see a pet owner feeding their pet a questionable diet that may put the pet at risk because of their political beliefs, I call that pet owner an abuser. Some day, if the safety of vegan diets for cats is adequately demonstrated over the long term, I'll be glad to revise that opinion.

But until that day: meow.

Posted by peterb at July 12, 2004 03:50 PM

Hi Peterb,
If you condemn all who feed their cats supplemented diets they believe to be good but which have not been proven over decades to be good, then you condemn everyone, including all who feed their cats commercial meat diets. No commercial meat-based cat food has been tested as rigorously as you would like the supplemented vegan cat foods tested, so no one knows what deficiencies their meat preparation processes may have produced or what toxins their additives may have created. It seems to me that you are unjustly condemning vegans for feeding their cats a thoughtfully-formulated but unnatural diet when we don't know that the thoughtfully-formulated but unnatural commercial meat-based diets are any safer.

Posted by Susan at September 25, 2004 01:13 AM

Obligate Carnivore by Jed Gillen is an excellent book on this subject! It explains how cats can thrive on a vegan diet! Go to for more info.

Posted by Veronica at September 25, 2004 10:34 AM


Please follow the advice of some of the other posters, and check out some of those vegan cat websites! Your last post makes it obvious that despite the gentle guidance of others, you refuse to do the research that will prove you wrong.

Posted by Bexx at September 25, 2004 03:28 PM

Thanks for the advice. As I stated above, I'm already familiar with the claims of those (vegan and otherwise) who profit from selling products.

The fact of the matter is, performing a controlled double-blind study on cats to determine the long-term effects of a given diet is not hard. Susan, for example, claims "No commercial meat-based cat food has been tested as rigorously as you would like the supplemented vegan cat foods tested," but this claim is patently untrue -- Purina, as much as I may dislike their corporate nature, is very aggressive about performing legitimate, peer reviewed studies of their products, particularly those that are sold through the veterinarian channel. The folks at can point to no such study.

Why is that?

Could it be because they know that such a study would show that a vegetarian diet is hazardous to a cat's health? And because they don't want to _stop making money_?

(Vegancats did pony up the cash for "palatability" and "digestibility" trials -- the results of which are not yet published anywhere i could find -- but hey, as long as you're paying for a trial to show that your food tastes good and can be excreted safely, how about also trying to show that it, y'know, won't _kill the animals eating it_.

Also, amusingly, the vegancats warn potential customers to not believe anyone else's hype: "Currently there is no other Vegan pet food on the market that is nutritionally complete in any where in the world." But I digress)

The fact is, the people refusing to "do the research" are those of you who want to trust a commercial food manufacturer's web site over any peer reviewed study.

Posted by peterb at September 25, 2004 07:44 PM

I can't believe I'm hearing someone that claims to feel sickened by people abusing their cats then go on to claim that Purina are justified in their animal experiments! Their testing of pet foods involves huge cruelty and all of the cats in their tests are put down afterwards, even the healthy ones.

You can understand why vegans wouldn't conduct tests like these - they tend to dislike torturing and then killing animals. A lot of knowledge can be gathered in far more ethical ways, there is no justification for cutting up cats while they're still awake.

Posted by Lu at March 22, 2005 02:36 AM

Lu, do you have any references for your "all of the cats in the test are put down afterwards, even the healthy ones" assertion?

Nothing personal, but people claim a lot of things on the internet that really aren't true.

Posted by Nat at March 22, 2005 11:43 PM

I am vegetarian, who also happens to have a beautiful 8-year old cat, and I've had her since she was 5 weeks old. Whenever I do something, vegetarianism, raising fish, growing plants, etc., I research it as thoroughly as I can, which means continually. I'm just one of those people.
So as a cat owner, I'm astounded that so many people would make judgements that would adversely affect their pet's health. Cats are carnivorous animals and their digestive organs are designed for breaking down meat. I would never pressure others into making the choices that I've made, but a lot of the times people forget that personal rights should not affect our responsibility to others, including the animals we cherish as part of our family. It takes many hundreds of years for animals to adapt to changes in their food supply and environment, so how can we, as responsible pet owners, presume to speed up the process just because our ideals say that eating meat and wearing leather jackets or any kind of animal skin is wrong.
I have to be absolutely sure that my cat is receiving the best kind of nutrition, that is suitable to her digestive system, before I feed her anything. And from what her vet has told me, vegan cat food does not meet his standards for her health.

Posted by Kar at April 29, 2005 04:37 PM

hi all.
I totally agree with Kar on this one. I find it hard to justify changing an animals natural diet just because it infringes on your own ethical beliefs. Obviously this should apply as much to the processing of mis-treated animal produce as it does to feeding a carnivore on a veg-based diet. If you disagree with eating meat then choosing a meat eating pet can be tricky. With any pet the intention should be to create an environment closest to that that it would experience in its original healthy habitat. For cats that is fresh raw organic meat skin and liver. The only fruit and veg a cat would have assimilated would have been that contained in the stomachs of prey. (disregarding the Margay (Leopardus wiedi) which states as including fruit in its natural diet, heheh). ("Including" though, not "based upon".)
Of course animals can exist on processed meats proteins etc, supplemented with aminos, vitamins minerals, natural oils etc, but will they be as healthy, it becomes almost an inevitabilty that something will be missed out.
quality meat is expensive, but if you cant afford to feed a cat healthily, should you own one at all? - unfortunately selling a product, but full of empiric info.

Posted by aaron at May 10, 2005 01:46 PM

ps. what better double blind tests exist than those in nature..? Not much use for claws and flesh tearing teeth for broccoli eating animals.. Hence vegetarian cats being non-existent by definition. vegetarian cat = rabbit? :)

Posted by aaron at May 10, 2005 01:54 PM

I am a vegan due to ethical beliefs, and so is the cat I live with.
Cats can be vegans, they need their nutritious necessities covered, not meat!!!!
Everything a cat needs, is contained in most vegan food sold today. Vegan cats live happy lives (and so do the animals that weren´t killed to feed them).
If our obligation is to feed someone, and that individual can live perfectly with out harming others. Shouldn´t we do so?
Why harm other animals, to feed the one we live with?
Every cat, has as much a right to life, than every animal killed to feed him.
My cat, is the Proof that not only can we humans live without inflicting pain and suffering to other sentient beings, but so can our non-human peers.

Posted by Sharon at June 6, 2005 06:31 PM

I am a vegan due to ethical beliefs, and so is the cat I live with.
Cats can be vegans, they need their nutritious necessities covered, not meat!!!!
Everything a cat needs, is contained in most vegan food sold today. Vegan cats live happy lives (and so do the animals that weren´t killed to feed them).
If our obligation is to feed someone, and that individual can live perfectly with out harming others. Shouldn´t we do so?
Why harm other animals, to feed the one we live with?
Every cat, has as much a right to life, than every animal killed to feed him.
My cat, is the Proof that not only can we humans live without inflicting pain and suffering to other sentient beings, but so can our non-human peers.

Posted by Sharon at June 6, 2005 06:34 PM

I like the "vegan cat === rabbit" comment. It is spot on.

Vegans trying to reorder nature to their whim by making their cats vegetarian is the very definition of narcissism.

Shame on you.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at June 7, 2005 02:21 PM

in response to Amos:
domestic cats today are exactly a product of human "narcissism" as you call it.

who has genetically manipulated cats through breeding over centuries to create the domestic cat?

regardless, if the food makes cats healthy and yes I have known vegan cats living to 20 years of age and being healthy

then what difference does it make?

everytime I take my cat to the vet, he always remarks on how healthy she and and how shiny/soft/well kept her fur is. She has tons of energy, loves to play and is affectionate.

a healthy cat is all anyone wants, vegan or not and if my cat for some reason stopped liking her vegan kibble I would feed her some organic meaty kibble but as of yet there is no need

just today I was reading about the new confirmed case of mad cow disease in the US, notably at a plant that converts diseased and dying animals not fit for human consumption into pet food. disgusting!

(I feed evolution diet and she also loves homemade vegecat seitan, and vegitables like squash)

Posted by Jessica at July 1, 2005 12:26 AM

If anyone is interested, Taurine is sythesized in the body using methionine and B6, both of which are abundant in a totally vegan, or vegetarian diet. Methionine, by the way, may have an intimidating name, but it is an amino acid that is found primarily in legumes (including lentils).

As far as artificial Taurine goes the following was found here (quick search mind you, I didn't have all night)

Today, Taurine supplements are usually the result of synthesis by Sodium Sulfite sulfonation of Ethylene Chloride followed by ammonolysis with anhydrous NH3 (Ammonia without water) or with aqueous NH3 (Ammonia with water) and Ammonium Carbonate.
However, references from 1901 and 1918 point out that it can also be isolated from ox bile or from the large muscle of abalone.

Posted by Will_T at July 18, 2005 03:48 AM

To be clear, the entire point is that it is synthesized in the _human_ body, which is why humans, unlike cats, are not obligate carnivores.

Posted by peterb at July 18, 2005 09:01 AM

Purina One cat food eingredients: Poultry by-product meal, whole grain corn, brewers rice, soybean meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), salmon, tuna, non-fat yogurt, brewers dried yeast, phosphoric acid, calcium carbonate, malted barley flour, animal digest, salt, potassium chloride, tetra sodium pyrophosphate, choline chloride, dicalcium phosphate, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, taurine, zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite.

note: "poultry by-product meal" "animal fat" "animal digest" "salmon, tuna."
the poultry and "animal" ingredients are sources of taurine, the fish is a source of fatty acids available in vegetable oils. anyone calling packaged catfood "natural" can take a look at all the other ingredients listed.

the only animal products in Iams catfood are "chicken by-product meal," and "fish meal" with a note below the ingredients stating: "chicken is a natural source of taurine." if the taurine is replaced by a supplement, and the fish oil replaced by vegetable oil, there is no change in what your cat eats. I am not vegan, but it is dumb to think that conventional catfood is any different from vegan catfood. if you want your cat to be natural, let it hunt mice and birds, and don't feed it at all. if you are going to feed it catfood daily, vegan cat food is no different from animal by-product cat food. this should put an end to the argument.

Posted by don at July 27, 2005 04:29 PM

In the last few years, there have been serious problems for humans and animals due to common ways of raising animals for consumption--human or otherwise. I'm talking about Mad Cow and Avian Flu. Who knows where else the karma from these inhumane practices will lead. While it would be good to stop these practices right away, realistically it's not going to happen until vegetarian enlightenment becomes more widespread. I'm not prepared to weigh in yet on whether a vegan diet is as healthy for cats. I do know that reducing the number of animals raised for consumption can only be a good thing for animals and people. I'm glad there are people and cats experimenting with alternatives. And a health study conducted by Purina is a little suspect, don't you think? If I were to feed my cat the diet nature first intended, I would have to feed her raw mice, birds and fish without pesticide or mercury contamination. Right now she gets mostly home cooked vegetarian fare with a bit of meat, yogurt and fish. I would say she's better fed than 99.99% of the other kitties, though I worry a bit about the contaminants in the fish. Where is your righteous anger at the people who feed Morris "nine lives," peterb? I'm not that impressed with the ingredients in most commercial cat foods, and neither is my cat.

Posted by Hearth Moon at August 19, 2005 08:45 PM

A PS about the "torturing the cat" argument, the idea that vegans are forcing their ideals onto the cat without permission. I don't know of any cat that ever willingly ate the food put in front of them if they didn't agree with it. The food may or may not be healthy, but the cat has to find it acceptable or they won't eat it without a fuss. It's our human requirement that the food be longevity promoting. The cat kingdom has its own set of ethics. If the vegan cats have any objections to their tofu taurine kibble I'm sure they're yowling night and day for something different--subjecting their owners to a torture no human can withstand for long.

Posted by Hearth Moon at August 19, 2005 09:20 PM

So essentially, the evidence of your cat's permission to feed it the diet you do is that it would rather not starve to death?

Posted by Goob at August 22, 2005 02:23 PM

Sorry Jessica, you are just yet another spoiled selfish yuppie twit, the very example of narcissism.

If a mouse got into your house, how long do you think it would take you can to revert? 10 secs?

Cats are the most recently domesticed pet. Centuries of breeding? Mousers in a barn, not much more than that, except for a few minor exceptions. Just look at the hundreds of breeds of dogs, compared to the few unique breeds of cats.

Over the past 25 years, my partner has had probably 50 cats (maybe more, shudder) in total. Some live longer than others. Even with more data points than most, extrapolating anything from anecdotal observation is not scientificly rigorous.

Extrapolating from one data point (20 yr old cat) is just plain childish.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at August 24, 2005 06:05 AM

Will T. comments, "Methionine, by the way, may have an intimidating name, but it is an amino acid that is found primarily in legumes (including lentils)."

This is just plain untrue. L-Methionine is one of the amino acids that is specifically deficient in legumes, and in the plant kingdom as a whole. It must be made up by whole grains.

It is true, commercial cat foods are so scientifically artificially formulated, that they are hardly any different in many ways from a vegan formula, except that there may be "essential non-essential" amino acids which the cat does not synthesize in large enough quantities to thrive well, which may be missing in a vegan diet. A spectrum of amino acids might be a good supplement.

It is also true, for anyone who cares to do the research, that cat and dog lab animals suffer the most horrible, gruesome, ongoing neglect in laboratory settings, and some of these abused and maltreated animals are former housepets bought up by the big labs.

Find out for yourself.

However, I have very strong reservations against using a plant-based cat formula, or even a meat-based health food formula, for different reasons. I had 2 unrelated cats that, for a time, were eating the same meat-based healthy cat food formula. Both cats (a male and female) developed FUS at more or less the same time. It is the magnesium content of plant supplements to a cat's diet which is a concern. The less magnesium, the better.

The male cat, having a more narrow urethra, was for a short while in danger of his life, but quickly rebounded. After that, I never fed either cat the unscientifically tested formula again.

I also don't think I would ever feed a cat an exclusively dry cat food based diet ever again - not enough moisture and too much grain causes too many health problems. The female cat, on a dry diet, eventually developed diabetes and died. I still blame the dry formula for this. Cats shouldn't be eating grains, period.

I've read that tofu is an excellent source of magnesium, by the way.

Posted by Catwoman at August 30, 2005 03:12 AM

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