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.