When we choose to become vegan or vegetarian these are choices we make for ourselves. For health, for the environment, for the promotion of humane treatment for animals, whatever the reason, it is ours. But veganism isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle, therefore it encompasses all areas of how we choose to live our lives.
So what about our companion animals? Our pet cats and dogs – should our own veganism, as mammals, be extended to other species that we care for? According to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, a lot of people are starting to pick up on the trend of raising a vegan pet. Search the world wide web and it seems that the Globe and Mail is not only right, they’re already highlighting old news for the veggie community. However as this was a mainstream national publication, the focus of the piece was the emotive nature of the argument between those for and those against veganising our pets.
Dogs, natural omnivores like ourselves, are catered for much more easily. It can be argued that larger dog species should be spared a vegetable dominant diet as based on their size alone and the inability for their nutritional needs to be met. But this is easily countered by top competitive athletes who lead a vegan lifestyle and boast about improved performance since making the switch.
So it’s fair enough to say with dogs – the choice is left to those doing the rearing.
The more challenging consideration can be with cats, which are obligate carnivores, meaning they are not meant to be able to survive without meat.
The UK based Vegan Soceity stands in the ‘for vegan cats’ camp championing a brand of vegan cat food called Vegekit and Vegecat. One of the biggest concerns you’ll read about with vegan cats is the risk of a taurine deficiency which can lead to blindness and death if not treated. Vegekit and Vegecat both have added taurine to their recipe. They also point out that most meaty cat food have taurine added back into it as the processing of meats removes the natural taurine.
In the ‘against vegan cats’ camp are organizations such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals who don’t recommend a vegetarian or vegan diet. Their reasons begin with the taurine deficiency but also say that although the cat may seem healthy, there could be a deficiency built up over time that will harm their overall health. In their argument against veggie cats, the ASPCA quotes the Vegetarian Society who also recommend against a turning your cat vegan.
From the Vegetarian Society’s website they go on to say that when cats aren’t fed meat at home they will seek it out elsewhere, hunting small rodents and birds. And expanding beyond the taurine deficiency, which is sourced in nearly every argument for or against, the Vegetarian Society looks at the loss of vitamins A and B12 as well as the essential Arachidonic fatty acid, which are all needed for a healthy cat, but are unavailable in plant based foods. Unlike humans, cats can’t absorb vitamin A from non-meat based sources.
So now the question is where to drawn the line? This isn’t to say the decision is made and it’s wrong for cats to be vegan. However, it is not a decision to be taken without arming yourself with as much information as possible. To help you in your decision making it is best to consult your family veterinarian – not only can they help you understand the nutritional needs of your pet, they can also help to monitor the health of your feline friend to ensure they’re leading a safe, healthy and balanced life.
Even VeggiePets.com, an online pet store selling vegan and vegetarian alternatives for food, supplements, litters and medicines, stress the fact that should you choose to raise a vegan cat you need to take responsibility for carefully planning their diet to ensure optimum health.
If you’re looking for a less complicate companion alternative, there’s always cuddly herbivore pets like rabbits and guinea pigs or an iguana.