Cat & Dog Food

Should you feed your companion animals meat?

The quick answers:
As omnivores, dogs do not need meat.  Cats need special supplements if you remove meat from their diets, but it is possible for them to eat vegetarian diets.

My experience:
All of our dogs are vegan and have lived wonderful, healthy lives.  Our oldest dog is 17 years old and has been vegan as long as I have (over a decade).  No problem.

Our cat is another story.  We have tried several vegan cat food diets – both pre-made and home-made versions.  She wants nothing to do with any of them and, with true cat stubbornness, will simply not eat until we give her back her meat-based food.  She does, however, like to snack on the canned vegan dog food.  Go figure.  (She won’t eat enough of it though for us to just add supplements and let it go at that.)  So we are stuck giving her the meat-based food.  Yuck.

You are your companion’s caretaker.  It is your duty to make sure they lead happy and healthy lives.  That is the responsibility you accepted when they became part of your family.  You need to make sure that they are getting adequate nutrition, regardless of which diet you choose.  For dogs (as well as humans) I think the responsible and healthy choice means a vegan diet – assuming you don’t have a dog with cat-like stubbornness.  :)   For cats, more attention is required, but a vegan diet is possible.

The debates:
Aren’t you just forcing your will on them by making them eat a veg diet?
Well, unless you let them go to the store by themselves to pick out your own food, they are at the mercy of your decisions no matter what you do.  We choose their food.  We can choose meat or we can choose veg – either way it is totally up to us.

Cats are just like lions and tigers – they are carnivores and need meat.
Well, there are thousands of years of domestication between your cat and a lion.  They are not the same.  But, again – it comes down to the fact that cats can be vegan, so their similarity or dissimilarity to lions and tigers is somewhat irrelevant.

Wouldn’t they prefer meat?  Isn’t it more natural for them?
These are all the same questions that people ask me when I tell them that I am vegan.  If these questions aren’t enough to stop me from being vegan, there’s no reason they should stop my cats and dogs from being vegan.  Once you get past the fact that cats and dogs CAN be vegan, all the other questions can be answered the same way you would answer them for yourself.

Further info/resources:
From the Veg for Life website:

“Like humans, dogs are omnivores, able to digest and utilize a wide variety of foods. While dogs require a higher ratio of dietary protein and calcium than humans, these nutrients are available via a well-balanced vegetarian diet. Numerous pet food manufacturers provide tasty, nutritionally complete foods for dogs. So long as you provide adequate levels of protein, calcium and all-around nutrients, getting your dog to “go veggie” is typically a smooth process.

Cats are true carnivores and switching them to a vegan diet may prove more complex. Cats require dietary sources of taurine, an amino acid-like nutrient, and arachidonic acid, an essential fatty acid, according to CVM research. Both are found in appreciable levels only in animal tissues. Additionally, cats cannot convert the beta-carotene in plants into vitamin A. Instead, they require “pre-formed” vitamin A, usually found in liver and fish oils.  Synthetic versions of these nutrients are available, and it is up to you, the caregiver, to ensure that your cat is receiving the necessary nutrition. Some dogs, particularly larger breeds, may also require taurine to keep their hearts healthy; seek out veggie dog foods that contain taurine, or simply add a supplement with taurine to your dog’s diet.”

“With proper planning and guidance, using nutritionally-complete vegan dog and cat foods that meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiless, which were determined in cooperation with the U.S. Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), your dog and cat friends can lead happier, healthier lives.”

Links about veg pet food:

VegePets.info

Animal Awareness

Veggiepets.com

Vegetarian Network Victoria – This site provides objective information on why caretakers opt to feed their animals a vegetarian or vegan diet, potential problems, a vegetarian dogs and cats ‘check list,’ vegetarian pet foods and supplements, and helpful links for more information, including books and additional websites.

Suppliers of Veg Pet Food:

BlueDogBakery.com

Evolution Diet Pet-food Company

Natural Balance

Nature’s Recipe

VeganCats

VeganPet.com

VegeCat

Wow-Bow