The Flaming Vegan

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"Oh No, I Couldn't Possibly Give Up Cat Food!"
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"Oh No, I Couldn't Possibly Give Up Cat Food!"

A few weeks ago, I posted "Oh No, I Couldn't Possibly Give Up Cheese," a blog about my struggle to give up the most awesome-tasting non-vegan food on the planet. Many readers responded with suggestions as to how I could slowly dismiss cheese from my life. Indeed, a diet absent of pizza, lasagna, and Kraft Easy Mac is attainable. But then I got to thinking: What about my cats? I subscribe to the vegetarian life because I believe meat is murder. What about them? Shouldn't my furry children follow in my veggie-loving footsteps, too?

So I ran a little experiment. First I asked Myrtle, my 7-year-old tabby: "What if, instead of a bowl of dead meat kibbles, you eat some celery for lunch?" Myrtle lowered her eyelids drowsily, as if to say, "Oh, you silly human."

Then I asked Climbie, Myrtle's sister: "What if we shelved the Fancy Feast for a while and focused on carrot sticks?" Climbie rolled over and went back to sleep.

Lastly, I asked Mouse, my 15-year-old Maine Coon: "Do you think you could give up cat food and go vegan . . . you know, like PETA recommends . . . even for a day?" Mouse shot me her scornful cat look; the one where her pupils blacken dubiously and her ears pull back in irritation. "Oh no, I couldn't possibly give up cat food!"

I consulted some online PETA documentation and they do indeed advocate a vegetarian diet for felines. When you think about what goes into cat food – slaughterhouse entrails, 4-D livestock, perhaps even the remains of other cats – you really can't blame a kitty lover for cringing at the sound of the Friskies pull tab.

PETA supplies some terrific reasons for veganizing your cat. Cat food is unregulated by the USDA and probably chock full of unnatural and undesirable ingredients like the ickiness mentioned above. Kitties snack on lots of greens in the wild and some experts believe they can get along quite well on a vegan diet as long as they ingest the right supplements too. Like every meat industry, the kitty kibble business involves the cruel slaughter of animals for big-business profit. Need PETA say more?

But then there are the naysayers, the veterinarians and other animal experts who claim that kitties would languish on a diet without all-important protein and the nutrients necessary to synthesize that protein. They caution that feeding a cat a vegetarian or vegan diet could be a death sentence, particularly if it's not done the right way. Who wants to take that chance on their cat's life? I, for one, do not.

I intend to stay a vegetarian forever, but I personally have not seen enough scientific evidence to justify denying Myrtle, Climbie, and Mouse the animal protein they would seek in the wild. The pet food industry is horrible and gross and unregulated, true, but I fear the vegan pet food industry might be even worse, full of snake oil and un-researched scientific claims and anthropomorphic ideals that really don't belong on a cat's shoulders.

So what do you think? Would you feed your cat a meat-free diet because of your own personal vegetarian or vegan ideals?

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  1. Veganara
    Veganara
    Voted. Awesome blog, thought-provoking and entertaining! This is a real conundrum for vegans, isn't it? I am a cat-owner myself, and my cat gets commercial cat food, which I do feel bad about. I would probably try to get her onto a vegan diet, but the vegan catfoods are much more expensive, I can't afford them at present (+ the vets' bills, if she did start getting sick.) She has had vegan catfood before though on occasion, and was fine on it - the problem is, I don't know if cats can thrive on it in the long-term.
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  2. Mental4Lentilz
    I think it partly depends why you're vegan/vegetarian. If it's because you believe all animals are equal etc., I don't see how you can justify feeding your cat other animals. Why is your cat's life worth more than all those fish/chickens? But if it's for your own health reasons, or because you personally don't want to eat meat, then it's probably the most natural thing for your pet. Tough one though! Great blog :)
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  3. The Flaming Vegan Crew
    The Flaming Vegan Crew
    We have a feeling this is the second installment of a wonderful new series :-) "Oh No, I Couldn't Possibly Give Up _______"
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    1. Melissa Nott
      Melissa Nott
      In the word(s) of FB: "LIKE!"
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  4. The K
    This is something I've been concerned about for some time. If we feed our cats store bought food, we are in effect saying that our pets are more important than other animals. And yet, my feline companion, who had been healthy for the many years he's lived with me, developed. a bladder stone a few weeks after I began adding amicat to his diet. He is now on prescription cat food and doing fine. Maybe some cats do better on vegan food than others, but, although I find it to be an ethical dilemma, I'm not willing to further risk my friend's health.
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  5. AnnaB
    I suppose companion animals, and their diets are one of the biggest challenges for vegans. There is a lot of information out there suggesting that a cat cannot be a vegan and be healthy. Vet, Dr Andrew Knight (who I know many of you will be familiar with) advocates a vegan diet for cats. He uses an evidence based approach. There is no denying that cats are natural carnivores, but can they be healthy vegans? Apparently so. For anyone interested in this viewpoint, check out: http://arzone.ning.com/forum/topics/dr-andrew-knight-on-the-health-benefits-of-vegan-diets-for-cats-a I would also like to note that the argument that a vegan diet is unnatural for a cat is not really relevant when you consider what most people feed their cats. What we feed them is not what they would be eating in the wild. Can a cat catch a cow? That is not to say I would judge harshly anyone who does not want to give this a go. I want it to be true, but I need to do a lot more reading before I can come to an informed opinion. The K, I agree it's possible that some cats will do fine vegan and others will suffer. One other idea, how about limiting the amount of meat your cat eats? Every little thing we can do makes a difference to the animals getting eaten.
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  6. Melissa Nott
    Melissa Nott
    Thanks for all of the comments. It is interesting to see that others feel at least somewhat like I do, that the cat food issue is disturbing for vegetarians and yet we're not quite sure whether it would be safe to impose a vegetarian diet on them. AnnaB, you're absolutely right that a cat doesn't chase a cow in real life . . . that quip brought a smile to my face! If we made cat food of what cats in the wild eat, I suppose it would be a mixture of mice, birds, flies, and grass . . . at least from what I've seen. TheK, even though I'm vegetarian, I guess deep down in my heart I do favor my cats more than other animals. Maybe this makes me a bad vegetarian, I don't know. I also favor my children more than other peoples' children, but I don't think I'm a bad parent for it. There are no easy answers to this question, are there? Thanks for the discussion, all!
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    1. Veganara
      Veganara
      You both make really good points Anna B and Melissa. Yes, Anna' s comment made its point in a very amusing way! It's true, commercial pet food isn't altogether "natural", is it? i.e. what animals would eat in the wild. I have always wondered why there isn't mouse-flavoured cat food, LOL! I know of Andrew Knight - he is a friend of a friend actually, and he is in my Friends list on Facebook. One of my friends says that if you have a cat and feed them vegan catfood, but let them go outside as they please, they can always catch things, mice, insects, etc, for extra nutrition if they need them, good point. They probably would do that if they were deficient. I don't like cats catching mice, birds, etc, but at least it is nowhere near as cruel as factory farming animals to make pet foods from the by-products. I believe it is something that vegans should really consider, trying to get their pets on a vegan diet, and it is something I myself am working towards.
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  7. MissDelight
    MissDelight
    This is precisely the reason I gave up on having ferrets. It had always been a dream of mine, but those cute buggers are carnivores, and I simply could not justify the death of an animal (especially under horrid conditions) just to feed them. So now we have two very cute guinea pigs, adopted from the shelter just a week ago :) As for PETA: I recently read on their website that no cats should ever be allowed outside. Because, you know, they can get killed by cars or snatched by catnappers. I'm starting to understand why some people call PETA 'nutters'...
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