Can Cats Be Vegan?

A couple of months ago, while we were minding our own business, a furry little someone wandered out of the wilderness and showed up on our doorstep… literally.

Scrawny, scruffy, cute beyond belief, yearning for affection, and obviously fighting for her survival, this little kitten was lucky to have found us before she died of starvation.

Our New Zealand center is surrounded by Department of Conservation land, and just down the road is a picnic spot that the locals call “The Reserve.” The Reserve is well-known for being a spot where unwanted cats, dogs, puppies and kittens are dropped off and left to fend for themselves, and this is not the first time a furry friend has arrived at our haven on his or her last legs.

Our only permanent nonhuman resident of Shangri-La wandered in out of the bush 12 years ago, a dog called Kisses who had clearly been abandoned and was suffering from the results of horrific physical abuse. After over a decade of rehabilitation, she still has her quirks, but Kisses is an example of how love can heal the wounds caused by even extreme abuse. She used to cower in the corner when a person simply approached, apparently in anticipation of the violent blows she was sure would follow. To this day, she still barks like crazy at tall men in hoods, especially if they’re carrying something that looks in any way threatening.

But this little kitten had not been physically abused – just left to starve like a piece of living garbage. It never ceases to amaze us how people can be so cruel and heartless toward living beings who have so much love to give, if we are only willing to show them our kindness. But then again, in a world where the majority of people think nothing of sinking their teeth into the limbs of a lamb or the ribs of a piglet, we shouldn’t be surprised.

But what do you do when you’re living in a vegan sanctuary and a starving carnivore shows up at your door? You break out the seitan, of course! Once again, seitan with a little oil and nutritional yeast worked its wonders, and before we knew it, our little vegan kitten was chowing down on everything we could conjure up for her, and even growing a little tummy where there used to be nothing but an insatiable hunger.

Generally speaking, here in Gentle World, we tend to rescue and live with dogs rather than cats, as it is easy for canines to thrive on a vegan diet due to the fact that they are metabolically omnivorous. Also, since cats are carnivorous and tend to be natural hunters, we don’t feel right about inviting them to live in our homes, where we value the lives of the birds and the other critters whom cats tend to view as prey, rather than friends. For that reason, when cats wander into Gentle World, we try to find them an appropriate home as soon as is practically possible, and shower them with love, care, and good vegan nutrition in the meantime.

As for feeding vegan dogs, we have done that successfully for many years, with a number of dogs of different breeds who all thrived on the vegan diet. Raising cats vegan is also possible, but it seems to require much more of a commitment from the caregiver, with regard to ensuring that they are getting all the nutrients they need. Having said that, although we haven’t actually experienced it ourselves, we have read and heard claims of thousands of healthy vegan cats.

The cats who we have cared for have eaten mashed tofu, garbanzo beans, seaweed, squash, some grains, seitan, etc. topped with nutritional yeast, oil, and a dash of salt (for flavor), and supplemented with nutrients designed for vegan cats (read below). This little feline also ate regular helpings of a dry kibble called ‘VeganPet‘, which is produced in Australia and available in New Zealand.

The website veganpet.co.nz has lots of information about the specific nutritional requirements of cats, and how to meet these requirements without the use of animal products. When we have taken care of cats, we have used feline supplements such as “Vege-cat”, as well as various fortified vegan cat food products.

Many vegan cat caregivers have reported greater success with changing the diet gradually, by introducing small amounts of vegan food into the animal-based meals, and increasing it a little at a time until the meals are fully vegan. This allows the cat’s digestive system to adjust, rather than going into shock, which can happen with too much plant-food all at once. There is a digestive enzyme marketed by Harbingers of a New Age that seems to be helpful, especially for the transitional period. The same company also markets other animal care products, including something called Vegecat phi™, which helps to prevent urinary tract infections.

So what happened to our little feline friend? We found her a happy home with an elderly lady who adores cats, and simply wanted a friend with whom she could share her days. She calls her Precious.

Yes, it was hard to say goodbye to such an incredibly sweet kitten who seemed to have no problem eating vegan food, and seemed only to want to demonstrate her affection to the people who helped her recover her strength after the ordeal of being abandoned in the woods. But once a cat grows big enough to pounce… well, as far as the lizards and field mice are concerned, we might as well have brought a panther in for lunch.

We know she’ll have a good life with her new person, long after we’ve left Shangri-La for the winter. But we suspect she’ll always remember the friends who brought her back from the brink of starvation, just as we will always remember the beautiful gift she gave to us… the opportunity to save a precious life.

Gentle World is a non-profit educational organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. Visit www.GentleWorld.org for more information.

1054 comments

Valentina R.
Valentina R.8 days ago

No, dumbass, cats (and dogs) can't be vegan. So why don't you get a effin' hamster!

Susan Griffiths
Susan Griffiths1 years ago

More vegan bashing. It is so awful and seems to be the case on the commentary of all Care2 articles, when their is the opportunity to do so. Forget bashing the vegans and keep to the issue, please. There is solid evidence that cats can live a healthy and long life on vegan food. "Cats need nutrients, not ingredients." However, it requires a very BIG commitment from the owner to do, and keep up to date with, the research and ensure the food is supplemented with the necessary nutrients. As a vegan I find it hard to serve my rescue cat (who would be dead by now if I had not found her) the flesh of other animals who have suffered so terribly and are then murdered. I will no doubt get bashed for the last phrase using the words 'suffered' and particularly 'murdered'. It is a dilemma for vegans and as more people move away from animal products, for society - thanks for the excellent article.

Susan Griffiths
Susan Griffiths1 years ago

More vegan bashing. It is so awful and seems to be the case on the commentary of all Care2 articles, when their is the opportunity to do so. Forget bashing the vegans and keep to the issue, please. There is solid evidence that cats can live a healthy and long life on vegan food. "Cats need nutrients, not ingredients." However, it requires a very BIG commitment from the owner to do, and keep up to date with, the research and ensure the food is supplemented with the necessary nutrients. As a vegan I find it hard to serve my rescue cat (who would be dead by now if I had not found her) the flesh of other animals who have suffered so terribly and are then murdered. I will no doubt get bashed for the last phrase using the words 'suffered' and particularly 'murdered'. It is a dilemma for vegans and as more people move away from animal products, for society - thanks for the excellent article.

Alexander P.
Alexander P.2 years ago

I'm wondering if your vegan fanaticism isn't on the brink of insanity, because there is no way a cat can live healthily on a vegan diet, nor would it ever choose to if it had a voice to speak for itself. But of course the vegan agenda is more important again than the welfare of omnivores and carnivores - cats are carnivores. Stuff like this is why I put most vegans into the same box as fundamentalist religious fanatics, as do most thinking people I know.

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

Again, Dan, I gave you KUDOS for rescuing your cats. However, feeding them a vegan diet is not filling their needs. BTW, I would agree that a blind cat might have a real problem trying to hunt. Now, about what your cats are lacking? Try animal protein in the form of MEAT (from real animals) in the way of beef, chicken, fish, poultry, and soy based "fake" protein simply does not fill their needs. Even vegan cat foods "fortified" with taurine is insufficient.

You ask what we (Marilyn and myself) suggest you do with your cats? I think the answer is pretty simple. You are an adult, hopefully able to make "intelligent" choices for yourself, but you are forcing YOUR dietary choices on those cats. That is not helping them. If you truly care about them, yes, by all means continue to care for them but PLEASE get an appropriate food for them. Different cats will choose different foods........some refuse to eat kibble, period. Some (including two of mine) wouldn't touch the highest quality kibble on the market, but would go outside to the garage and eat cheaper varieties that I feed my outside cats. MOST cats will eat canned or moist foods, but those are usually not the best nutritionally. Just give them something with REAL meat, as few grains as possible, and no SOY.

MarilynBusy WITHCHARITIES
2 years ago

dan....good quality cat food is formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of obligate carnivores. They don't have to be outdoors eating mice, rats and other diseased animals or trying to catch tuna in urban puddles. Good quality cat food is made to fulfill their needs.

Cats don't do well with carbs, they need protein, and lots of it.
Supplements are not ever fully absorbed, so your carb-loaded vegan cat food is inadequate.
Yes, I have studied cat nutrition for over 25 years because I have cats and want them to be at their best. My rescue cats all have special needs and require special diets. I've had to learn to separate the truth from fiction in regard to feline nutrition.

You are not feeding your cats the diet that nature intended.

Dan N.
Dan N.2 years ago

Marilyn, you might want to start reading my posts properly if you want to complain about them. You got a lot of things confused here.

1. Nature-approved diet: in nature cats eat rodents, birds and insects, not kibble (vegan or otherwise)
2. Nothing to do with arguments against veganism: you were the one who brought this up by insisting that no one is vegan
3. Victim act: really??
4.Inflict your philosophy: you are doing this to farm animals
5. Keeping it hostage: my back door is open all day long - they choose to stay indoors
6. Forcing it to eat an unnatural diet for its species - all house cats do this (see above)
7. You are inflicting a slow painful death on those cats: they were dying street cats when I found them (2 were blind and could not hunt; 1 had typhoid and was not eating; all were severely underweight)
8. On the diet for 2 years: It has been more than that - 2 years is the life of a feral cat so even if they had been healthy when I found them, they would be dead if I had left them on the street.
9. Doing fine: They are playful and loving; my vet seems to think that they are fine.
10. Suffer and die of malnutrition and organ failure: Are you an expert on cat nutrition? Please tell me what nutrients are missing from their diet.

Dan N.
Dan N.2 years ago

Diane, what makes you think that my cats don't get their nutritional needs met by the food I give them? Do you know what is in vegan kibble or are you just assuming it is not good enough? Are you trained in cat nutrition? I consulted two vets (one vegan, one not) regarding the ingredients in the vegan food and both were happy that it would provide the necessary nutrition. My brother-in-law (a meat eater) recently did an in-depth study of my cats' eating habits and food for his pet nutrition course and declared the food acceptable. I don't claim to know about pet nutrition, so I go to the experts. Are you one?

You chose not to answer my question about what to do with my cats? Do you want to take them? No one else does. If I bring them to a shelter, either they will be put to sleep, or they get adopted and 8 other cats will be put to sleep in their place. Do you honestly think this is preferable to them living as vegan? Or should I have left them to die on the street?

You also seem to have ignored the part about commercial food companies performing tests on animals.

MarilynBusy WITHCHARITIES
2 years ago

Dan, when it comes to feeding animals a nature-approved diet....it has nothing to do with arguments against veganism....so drop the victim act.

You can eat waxed cardboard if that's your choice...and I don't care what you eat, but you have no right to inflict your philosophy on an obligate carnivore by keeping it hostage in your home and forcing it to eat an unnatural diet for its species.

You are inflicting a slow painful death on those cats....sure they've been on the diet for 2 years....doing fine???? I doubt it. You are killing them slowly...and it could take another year or 2 for the damage you inflict to take their lives, but it will be YOUR fault when they suffer and die of malnutrition and organ failure.

Dan N.
Dan N.2 years ago

Marilyn, just because I don't live in a vegan world, doesn't mean I shouldn't try. I don't live in a world that is free from child abuse, but I don't go around raping children. I am well aware of all the death and suffering in this world and I do my best to not be a part of it.

Of course your last rant had nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I imagine it is difficult to come up with good arguments against veganism.