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Should Your Pet Be Vegetarian Too?

Should Your Pet Be Vegetarian Too?

If you are a vegetarian, does that mean your pet must be as well? Should our own moral choices about not eating other animals be visited upon our dogs and cats? Do our pets have the right to eat other animals? Do we deprive our pets by making them vegetarian? Are we denying the fact that they are carnivores? How do you keep them from hunting, if that is their nature? I don’t really know the answers to those questions, but I feel they are worthy of discussion.

Dogs are, in fact, omnivores as anyone who has ever owned one can attest. I once read a poem that someone wrote about their dog, which I have never been able to find again, so unfortunately I don’t know the writer’s name. It goes like this:

Are you going to eat that?
Are you going to eat that?
Are you going to eat that?
Are you going to eat that?
Are you going to eat that?
I’ll eat that.

Which pretty much sums up a dog’s mind. While your dog can certainly exist on a vegetarian diet with few or no problems and without dietary additions, your cat generally cannot. Cats are obligate carnivores which means they require meat to survive. They must have an amino acid called taurine which they get from animal sources. To deprive a cat of this will result in blindness and degenerative heart problems. However, there is now a synthetic taurine which makes it possible for a cat to subsist on a vegetarian diet.

A case can certainly be made against feeding your dog or cat commercial pet foods. The tainted food scandal of 2007 opened a lot of pet owner’s eyes to the garbage being sold under the guise of healthy, premium food. I suspect that a lot of people radically changed their views of pet food at that time and altered their animal’s diet accordingly.

But what about their natural instincts? Our cat was only 10 weeks old when we first took him to our cottage which is in a fairly untamed landscape. He was young, with extremely fast reflexes and was a relentless killing machine. We kept him inside because he was so little, but he killed every mouse in the place. Now he is seven and slower but is still a relentless killing machine. And yes, he eats the mice.

I’ve read a few things on the internet suggesting that some vegetarians avoid this conundrum by not having dogs or cats at all. Personally, I can’t imagine a life without animals. I’m really interested in what readers think about this, and I want to open up the discussion.

Challenge of the Week: Bake your dog some vegetarian dog biscuits.

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, planetgreen.com and TreeHugger.com, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Pets, , , ,

By Kelly Rossiter, Treehugger

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133 comments

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11:19AM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

Those radical vegans who feed their cats and dogs (which are, in case you didn't know, mostly carnivore) vegetables only because it's the same diet they do should not be allowed to own any pet. They are a disgrace who ruin their pets' health in the name of what's "ethical". Humans are omnivores, and cats and dogs eat meat, deal with it.

2:06AM PDT on Jun 17, 2012

interesting

7:02PM PDT on Mar 23, 2012

interesting info, thank you!

6:54PM PDT on Mar 23, 2012

noooooo

6:38PM PDT on Mar 23, 2012

Sorry in my last post i meant to type. " I think animals should not be vegetarian unless they are by nature".

6:37PM PDT on Mar 23, 2012

If they want to be :)

6:34PM PDT on Mar 23, 2012

I don't thinkanimals should be vegetarian unless they are by nature. For instance dogs in the wild eat meat, therefore i would never make my dog a vegetarian.

1:42PM PST on Nov 18, 2011

My dog, Emmie, is almost vegetarian, and she is rather healthy. As for my cat, Thomas--a predator that needs taurine to survive--it can’t be that easy.
It doesn’t mean, though, that I’d feed him with meat only. He likes vegan foods, and anytime he sees a pumpkin (or its seeds), or maize, or even buckwheat, he insists on having it for dinner ^^ Animals (esp. those living outdoors) know very well, what they need. Sometimes predators have to eat meat; at other times, they prefer vegetables or green grass, if they feel it would do them good.
Of course, Thomas is sort of ‘killing machine’, too--and I have to live with it. But he isn’t constantly leaded by his instincts. There were a few times when he brought me LIVE mice and exchanged them for his favorite snacks. And when I was a small child, we had a cat who would never hurt a living creature, although he was very big, vigorous and strong. In addition, I’ve often heard about natural enemies--such as cats and mice--living together as pet animals and getting on with each other. So, overcoming natural instincts IS possible. It’s sort of strange to see a carnivore leaning to vegetarianism, but such things happen in life. Every animal has its unique temper-- as well as we, human. We just have more choices and possibilities.

1:38PM PST on Nov 18, 2011

I’d be happy if my pets can go vegan, but I’m not sure if a) they want it b) it doesn’t do any harm to their lives. I’m able to be a vegetarian because, as any human being, I can do without meat. Some predators cannot. And some of them happened to be our companion animals that we are responsible for and have to take care of.

The problem could be solved by producing ‘laboratory-grown meat’ or something, but neither scientists nor government seems to be interested in it, so…
I’d say it’s a question of facility. I cannot imagine if a synthetic taurine can be bought in my vegan-unfriendly country. Those people who can afford it are lucky. Unlucky ones (me included) have to live in the cruel reality.
Whether humans decide to kill an animal or to live a vegan life, they still have huge advantage over other creatures. Animals, on the other hand, have little advantages. I believe we can and ought to help them, if possible.

4:19PM PST on Nov 16, 2011

No, that is nonsense, trying to make a dog and of all creatures, a cat vegan is crazy! Since I am not vegetarian and certainly not vegan, I don't have to worry what I feed my pets, which includes snakes, cats,and aquatic turtles.The cats get leftovers from what I eat,such as fish and chicken.

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