We’ve been vegetarians for about fifteen years and have been cat owners for a lot longer than that. We made the decision to go vegetarian because we were worried about out health, especially my husband’s health, which was in jeopardy. It didn’t occur to us that our cats might be better off eating a vegetarian diet until a friend asked me about it recently. She’s not a vegetarian, but was curious if we had put the cats on a vegetarian diet.
I was a little embarrassed to tell her that a) I never thought of it and b) didn’t know if it was even possible. So I did what any self-respecting modern vegetarian would do: I looked it up.
I found a great article by veterinarian Dr. Justine Lee of PetMD, who explains that dogs and cats are not nutritionally equal.
Dogs and Cats Are Not The Same
According to Dr. Lee, dogs and cats have entirely different nutritional needs.
Dogs are omnivores while cats are strict carnivores. While there are cat vegetarian and vegan diets commercially available, these are never recommended by veterinarians (well, at least good ones).”
This is because researchers have found that a lack of the amino acid taurine may cause DCM, or dilated cardiomyopathy, a very serious form of heart disease found in cats. As she states in the article,
Veterinarians were able to link certain types of DCM to the lack of a certain essential amino acid: taurine. An essential amino acid means that the body can’t make it, and it’s imperative that the diet contain it. What did we learn from this? You cannot make your cat a vegetarian”
Taurine is found in meats, not plant products and is essential to cats.
On the other hand, dogs are omnivores and their bodies do make taurine on their own as needed. So, you can make your dog a vegetarian if you really want to. But Dr. Lee advises that they probably won’t like it.
If you feel adamant about it, talk to your veterinarian or to a veterinary nutritionalist about it. It’s OK to make your dog vegetarian if you feel strongly about it, just make sure it’s a balanced diet.”
I have to say that I’m relieved that I don’t have to go through the process of finding vegetarian cat food. However, should we ever get a dog, I would seriously consider a vegetarian diet for it.