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?