In case you’re not already aware, Leo is now a vegan cat so far as what we feed him is concerned. I can’t vouch for him when he’s out, as I’m sure he’ll continue to chase mice, birds and other small creatures, but that’s nature and, unfortunately, can’t be stopped.
The decision to make Leo vegan was very difficult for my boyfriend and I. Whilst researching vegan options for ourselves, I found vegan cat food, although I initially dismissed it as an option, as I thought cats needed meat and I wanted Leo to remain happy and healthy.
As a vegetarian, feeding Leo meat had been hard. We’d originally planned to only give him dry food, but, as a tiny kitten, he barely ate the dry food for the first few days (something that continued), so we tried giving him a jelly meat pouch. He wolfed it down. However, we soon discovered he was very fussy with his food.
If given the pouches with compacted meat-pellets in (for want of a better description), he would lick off all the jelly and leave the meat. He didn’t like the gravy pouches. To make sure he was eating properly, we’d buy him jelly pouches with shredded meat in, so that he found it harder to just eat around the meat. Dry-food-wise, he was extremely fussy. We tried lots of different options with him and found that there was only one brand of kitten food he would eat. However, he didn’t like the same brand’s adult food and, again, we only found one brand he would eat.
His dry nibblets were always a last-resort for him and he would cry by his bowl for pouches for quite some time before finally realising dry food was his only option. He has never had more than a pouch a day, as I was aware cats could end up with dental problems if they solely ate wet food.
When I became vegan, continuing to feed him meat was even harder. As a vegetarian, I’d thought that by-products of the meat industry were ok, as they were using up things that would otherwise have gone to waste. I hadn’t even considered that they were making the meat industry more lucrative.
Vegan research led me to discover some horrible facts around cat food, most worryingly that a lot of cat food is made from meat deemed unfit for human consumption, and it is often just scraped up from the abattoir floors, meaning the little pellets being disguised with jelly actually include all sorts of nasty substances, including rubber. It’s no wonder Leo didn’t want to eat them!
My concern with making Leo vegan was that I had discussed vegetarianism for cats with the vet when Leo was a tiny kitten. The vet had told me that it wasn’t possible for a cat to be vegetarian, as they needed taurine from meat. I didn’t question this until after becoming vegan and seeing that vegan cat food existed.
My research into the topic revealed that vegan cat food contains all the nutrients, including taurine, that cats need. However, whether Leo would get enough nutrients from it would obviously depend on whether he was prepared to eat it, something I thought was highly unlikely given that he is such a fussy-eater.
With the above in mind, and not expecting Leo to eat it, just before Christmas, we ordered some small packs of vegan cat food. We decided we would try Leo with it and see what happened. We knew we would probably have to go back to giving him meat, but decided it was worth seeing whether he liked it. We didn’t wean him onto it as many sites suggested, as, given the choice of wet jelly or dry food, he would have ignored the dry food until absolutely necessary. We didn’t see much point mixing it in with meaty dry food either, as he’d never been a huge fan of his dry meaty nibblets.
I was astonished when he went straight to his bowl and ate the vegan dry food. I had thought we’d have a lot of crying and rubbing up against our legs angling for wet food before he’d even touch it, as that’s what he’d always done when faced with dry food in the past. He’s now tried two different brands of vegan dry food (Amicat and Benevo) and loves them both. He occasionally sits by his bowl looking longingly at us or gives a little cry, but far less than before he became vegan, and it could be because he’s angling for a treat, as I sometimes give him a tiny bit of creamy sauce and have been trying to find other vegan cat treats for him.
Vegan wet food is another story, unfortunately. He’s not a fan. He had a few mouthfuls of it when we first tried him with it, but he hasn’t eaten any of it since. Same goes for the vegan cat sausage we tried. I’m still working on alternative vegan wet food options for him, but it will probably take a while to find something he’ll eat. There only seems to be one brand of vegan wet cat food and the fact it’s not in jelly was always going to be a problem with Leo. I have tried making him a vegan jelly, but my first attempt was so unsuccessful that I wouldn’t have eaten what I made, so I wasn’t surprised he didn’t go near it!
I am sure that I will end up with criticism from meat eaters for writing this article and, indeed, for making Leo vegan. I am not trying to persuade anyone to make their cats vegan, I am just giving details of my experience with vegan cat food.
There is an argument that cats are carnivores so need meat. As with any animal, the meat is not what they need, but the nutrients that come from the meat. As these are all present in the vegan dry food, I see no reason to go back to giving him meat. The only way I would do this is if he stopped eating the vegan food.
I am well-aware that, as a carnivore, Leo will probably continue hunting animals when he is outside. That’s his choice and is not something I would even try to stop. It has always upset me when he hurts other creatures (including the spider he brought me, dangling from his mouth by one leg, as a present when he was a tiny kitten), but I know he’s just following his natural instincts. It does seem a little unfair that he has an advantage over the poor mice, birds etc. as he is protected and looked after at home, but the amount he actually catches and eats animals when he is out is probably negligible, and will be reduced by his appetite being satisfied with vegan nibblets before going out.
On a final point, Leo’s health does not appear to have suffered over the first two months of being given vegan food. If anything, he’s less skittish and more affectionate. He also seems to want to play a lot more than a few months ago. These could all be coincidences, but I’ve seen no signs at all that his health has deteriorated. Next time he’s at the vets, I’ll be asking them to check him over before I tell them he’s vegan. I’ll let you know what happens.
If you’re thinking about trying your cat on a vegan diet, I strongly suggest doing a lot of research into the topic. There are certain foods that cats cannot eat, some toxic and some undigestible for them. It is also very important to make sure cats are getting all the nutrients they need to remain healthy.
I’d love to hear your views on vegan companion animals. Let me know what you think in the comments.