If you are thinking about going vegan, wonderful, go ahead. If you are thinking about turning your pet vegan, pause for a moment.

Humans and animals digest food differently. The way their bodies process certain nutrients varies depending on their origin and species.

Cats, for example, are obligate carnivores. To them, meat is biologically essential for survival. Their diet is strictly based on meats. Cats are not able to consume carbohydrates because they cannot produce enzymes, which are needed to digest carbs. A cat’s energy comes from vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, which they can only digest in animal meat.

A stack of Fancy Feast cat food. (Photo by Roger H. Goun)

For instance, cats need Vitamin D, specifically Vitamin D3, which can be found in animal meat. You could attempt to have your cat live off a vegan diet and feed it supplements to replace the missing vitamins. However, you would basically be feeding your cat a handful of supplements instead to obtain the missing vitamins and amino acids.

Cats would also need several supplements to account for the deficiency in vitamins and minerals they receive from meat. Vitamin B, calcium, phosphorus and iron are all easily be obtained from animal sources.

Even with supplements, your cat will have an inadequate total protein intake, leading to physical weakness. There would also be an imbalance of certain amino acids, such as taurines and L-carnitine. To put it simply, putting your cat on a vegan diet is against their physiology.

On the other hand, turning your dog towards a vegetarian (not vegan) diet would not be a terrible decision. Dogs would be able to live a healthy life and thrive without eating meats. Cutting it to a vegan diet may be harsh, however it would not be impossible.

“To put it simply, putting your cat on a vegan diet is against their physiology.”

Dogs are omnivores, meaning they can live off of both plants and meats. A dog’s body is canine-based. One may argue that a canine is better off with meats in their diet. Yet one of the world’s oldest dogs, Bamble, lived to be 28, though she was never once fed meat. Bamble lived on a strictly vegan diet, much like her owner. Her diet, included, vegetables, lentils, and rice.

So should you feed your pets a vegan diet? It may seem as a complicated ethical question but to answer it simply: yes to dogs, and no to cats. Yes to omnivores, and no to carnivores.

Ultimately, it will also depend on the pet’s health and the owner’s beliefs.

By Sherouk Elasfar

Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.