"Is vegan cat food safe?" Food consumption is rapidly growing and changing. We've seen changes in human consumption, and people want the pets they love and care for on a similar diet.
But while it is relatively easy for a human to switch to a vegan diet, we can't force it on our carnivorous pets. We can't force them because their anatomy can't digest plant products properly.
This article explores the safety levels of vegan foods for cats and two major research papers about vegan cat foods. Also, we recommended 7 top vegan cat food brands.
A vegan diet is a refusal to consume meat, fish, poultry, and any other animal products. People go on vegan diets to avoid eating animal products out of respect for animal life.
Some people maintain a vegan diet because they are trying to save the planet from the consequences of livestock farming. Livestock farming for meat consumption takes a toll on the environment. It increases the emission of greenhouse gases, contributes to climate change, and uses a large quantity of water and energy.
A vegan diet is a total plant-based diet. Vegans only consume large varieties of fruits and vegetables. They eat carbohydrates like bread, yam, pasta, rice, and potatoes. They get proteins from eating beans, peas, and lentils. Since they don't drink milk, their alternatives are unsweetened soya, rice, and oats drinks.
Related Read: Eat Less Meat to Help the Environment.
Many vegans want their pets on a similar diet to the rest of their household. They do this by incorporating vegan diets into their pet's meals. But is a vegan diet safe for domesticated cats?
Cats have a carnivorous diet. Cats are obligate carnivores because they find the nutrients they need for survival in animal products4. We call them obligate carnivores because they require over 70% of meat for survival. They can't get the mandatory nutrients from grains and other plants.
The crucial nutrients are large amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and negligible amounts of carbohydrates. They also require vitamins, fatty acids, amino acids, and minerals. Cats in the wild get these nutrients by hunting prey down. However, domesticated cats eat commercial cat food.
Commercial cat food comes in two groups: canned and dried cat food. Manufacturers produce these versions of cat food from products of the meat industry. They use meat, poultry, grains, and their by-products. They also use milk products, fiber sources, fish meal, and vitamin supplements.
These products used to create meat-based cat food give the same nutrients as consuming meat in the wild. Cats have a higher requirement for ten essential amino acids. They need arginine, taurine, cysteine, and tyrosine.
Cat's health deteriorates without these amino acids, especially arginine and taurine. Our domesticated felines will experience delayed growth development and fetal abnormalities2.
A plant-based diet can't provide all the essential vitamins and amino acids cats need. It makes a vegan diet harmful to cats, as it doesn't contain everything they need for survival. However, some researchers conducted experiments to explore ways to improve vegan cat food to suit a cat's palate.
Related Read: National Pet Day.
There is a controversy concerning the safety of vegan cat foods. Some believe that a vegan diet can cause health problems for cats because they don't have the digestive system for plant-based foods.
While others think cats can survive on a vegan diet. Some researchers have explored the positive impacts of a vegan diet on a cat. In contrast, others explored its danger to the cat's health.
The major problem with commercial vegan cat food is the inadequate nutrients it provides. Either the nutrients didn't meet the required stipulation, or a particular nutrient passed the obligatory quantity.
Research to evaluate the macronutrients, fatty acids, amino acids, and essential minerals composition in vegan food proves that vegan cat food products have inadequate nutrients1.
The study tested one vegan cat food brand and found a lot of missing and incomplete nutrient profiles. It had lower levels of potassium than recommended.
The copper and zinc levels in the food were more than the amount recommended by the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF). Also, the cat food lacked an essential fatty acid known as arachidonic acid.
The Brazilian pet food study showed that vegan cat food contained 75% of the minimum protein needed for obligate carnivores. Cats consuming the tested cat food will experience arginine deficiency because the food supplied 59.0% of the minimum recommendations for a vegan cat with an energy requirement of 52 kcal/kg.
The absence of arachidonic acid in a cat's diet leads to thrombocytopenia, impairment of platelet aggregation, and reproductive health problems. Acid is necessary for a healthy reproductive health system in cats. The brand used 1% corn oil as a substitute, but it caused congenital abnormalities. Also, the health quality of the litter was low.
The study explains that cats are sensitive to the absence of arginine in their diet. It can lead to hyperammonemia and severe uremia, causing symptoms like muscle spasms and hyperesthesia.
Some researchers believe pet owners can feed their cats vegan food without worrying about adverse effects. But, Andrew Knight wrote a response hoping to defend two vegan cat food brands reviewed by three researchers3.
The researchers discovered that the vegan cat foods were low on some essential amino acids, minerals, and arachidonic acid. One of the cat foods did not meet the overall protein requirement in a cat's diet. Knight argues the results of these analyses don't mean cats can't survive on a plant-based diet as long as vegetarian cat foods contain all essential nutrients.
The authors responded that Knight made his claims based on science-based faith. There isn't scientific proof that a vegan diet is consumable for all cats. The manufacturers claim their plant-based foods are healthy for all cats without scientific evidence or analysis to back their claims.
However, Knight found health evidence of the impacts of a vegan diet on cat's health. He confirms that there's a study that reports the development of malnutrition in vegan cats.
Malnutrition is specifically called hypokalemic polymyopathy. Meat-based diets also affect cats. It can cause kidney failure, liver and musculoskeletal diseases, congenital disorders, and bleeding disorders.
He said more focus should be on the benefits of a vegan diet with all essential nutrients. These benefits are the reduction of ectoparasites and obesity in cats. It also improves the cat's coat condition and vitality. Vegan cat food reduces the occurrence of food allergies in some cats and shows signs of diabetes, cataracts, and arthritis.
A vegan diet can also affect a cat's urine pH. So, pet owners must monitor their urine pH to prevent urine alkalinization. A vegan cat can also experience urinary tract health problems like blockages and infections.
There are various vegan food brands, but we chose the following because they provide the nutrients required in a cat's diet.
Evanger's vegetarian food is nutritionally balanced wet food that promotes weight control. They created it to meet the AAFCO nutrient requirements for adult cats and kittens. It contains potatoes, rice, carrots, olive oil, peas, and dried eggs.
They also used other ingredients like blueberries, cranberries, vegetable oil, minerals, and various supplements. Apart from eco-friendly food content, their packaging is also eco-friendly. You can recycle the food once it is empty. They can also reduce food waste by maximizing its shelf life.
Nature's Hug is a sustainable pet food brand. They have vegan cat food for various growth stages. These stages are 2-12 months old kittens, 1-10 years old adult cats, and senior cats above ten years. The ingredients used to produce these kibbles offer cats a healthy and lasting life.
Each food bag contains 30% protein, 18% fat, 10% moisture, 6.5% ash, and 1% calcium. These compositions come from the natural ingredients used to produce vegan cat food. These ingredients are green peas, dried yeast, potato protein, flaxseed, apple pomace, sesame seeds, and turmeric.
Nature's Hug vegan cat food contains prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics. These compounds will improve your pet's diet, microbiome health, immunity, and vitality. The crunchy nature of the kibbles serves as a form of oral hygiene. Chewing on the kibbles creates an abrasive motion that removes plaque from your pet's teeth.
Furthermore, it contains fatty acids omega 3 and 6. They promote the growth of healthy and shiny coats on your pet. BRestassured that the ingredients used to produce your cat's vegan food are from local but sustainable farmers.
Evolution Diet is a plant-based pet food suitable for vegan cat owners. It contains zero animal protein. The producers used sunflower seeds, pea protein concentrate, soybean meal, whole dried peas, and soybean oil to produce Evolution Diet vegan food.
They also used tapioca, whole dried potatoes, dried chicory, rosemary extract, dehydrated molasses, and kelp. The producers got the food's natural flavor from yeast. The Evolution Diet contains four amino acids: Taurine, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, and DL-Methionine. It also has multiple minerals and vitamins to keep your cat healthy.
The sunflower seeds contain vitamin E, which improves your cat's skin health. It prevents skin dryness and inflammation. The Evolution Diet uses pea protein concentrate and whole dried peas because it is a rich source of proteins, vitamins, and fiber. Soybean meal and oil produce essential vitamins, amino acids, and high-quality protein.
The Evolution Diet is nutritionally complete because it meets the Anutritional requirements of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). You can serve vegan cats the kibbles dry or wet. It depends on their palate. It's also suitable for cats in all growth stages, from kittens to senior cats.
The presence of Taurine supplementation improves the heart health of your cat. It also enhances the cat's breath quality and poop consistency. You don't have to suffocate while cleaning your cat's litter box.
Ami Cat is an excellent pet food to introduce to domestic cats. It contains Taurine, Omega 3 & 6, Biotin, and Zinco. Ami produced their vegan food with corn gluten, corn, corn oil, yeast, and peas. They also used potato protein, rice protein, minerals, hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, cellulose, and linseed.
Ami is an Italian brand established in 2002. They produce eco-friendly pet food without compromising the environment's safety. They want to feed our pets without the rigors of intensive livestock farming and animal slaughter. Ami is a perfect choice for vegan pet owners.
Using 100% plant products, they produce food suitable for feline veganism. They avoid using artificial preservatives and food dyes. Ami Cat is nutritionally complete, thus improving your cat's skin, hair, and muscular tone. It also contains magnesium, arachidonic acid, and essential proteins that help prevent hyper-excitability, soft tissue calcification, and metaphysis swelling.
Benevo is a nutritionally balanced vegetarian diet for vegan cats. It contains all the nutrients cats get when they eat meat. They produced it using soya, wheat, maize, rice, sunflower oil, and beet pulp. They also used Brewer's yeast, vegetable gravy, linseed, dried seaweed, yucca extract, and minerals.
Benevo vegan pet food contains several vital nutrients like Vitamin A, vitamin D3, vitamin E, zinc, and manganese. It also contains taurine, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, iron, and copper. It has 28% of protein. The kibbles improve the health of adult cats. It is exceptional for many cats with food sensitivity problems.
Benevo also has cat-wet food, but it is a duo package. Benevo Duo is a dog and cat vegan wet food. It contains all the nutrients required by cats and dogs.
They produce it with carrots, sweet potatoes, oat groats, vegetable oil, brown rice, and tomatoes. In addition, they put blueberries, cranberries, dried kelp, brewer's yeast, and peas.
These ingredients provide crucial nutrients like vitamins A & D3, iron, zinc, iodine, taurine, and copper. They also added blueberries and cranberries to improve urinary tract health by supporting healthy urine pH levels. It is free from grains like soya, wheat, and dairy. You don't have to worry about allergic reactions.
Wysong is a well-known pet food brand. They mainly sell food made from animal protein. However, they have two types of vegan cat foods. They are the Wysong Vegan and Anergen pet food.
They produced Wysong Vegan Cat Food with plant products. It contains high levels of fat, proteins, and macronutrients. Dr. Wysong, the founder of Wysong, uses brown rice, extruded soybeans, soybean oil, peas, molasses, sesame seeds, coconut oil, and dried kale to produce vegan cat food.
They also used dried spinach, dehydrated carrots and apple fiber, rosemary extract, and flax seeds. These ingredients provide folic acid, zinc, ferrous, vitamins, taurine, and sodium. A 5kg bag contains 26% protein, 10% crude fat, 5% crude fiber, 10% moisture, and 0.2% taurine.
The other type of vegan pet food is Wysong Anergen. Anergen contains a small percentage of meat and plant products. These ingredients include lamb meal, rice, sweet potato, flaxseed, soybean oil, and dried tomato pomace.
It also contains pepper, fish oil, dried blueberry powder, dried kelp, dried yogurt, organic barley grass powder, yeast extract, citric acid, dried kale, dried spinach, dried carrots, dried apple fiber, rosemary extract, inulin, salts, etc.
The whole nutrient profile of Anergen is 30% protein, 14% fat, 5% fiber, 10% moisture, and 0.2% taurine. These vegetarian cat foods are perfect for cats with high sensitivity to foods. You can only feed these foods to adult cats, not kittens. It provides the appropriate diet they'd get from meat, and it's easy for the digestive enzymes in their digestive system to process it.
Evolution Diet wet food is an excellent addition to the brand's dry food. They started producing vegan wet food to mitigate harmful gas emissions and climate change. Their vegan products use less land and water than animal farming and slaughtering.
The main ingredients include whole & sweet potato, rice, soybean oil, oats, carrots, avocado, and pea protein. The potatoes help prevent cancer and slow down aging. It is a source of dietary fiber, making pooping for your cat easy. Also, pea protein and soybean oil are excellent sources of essential proteins and amino acids.
Moreover, they won the 2023 Animal Wellness Magazine Best Pick award for the finest per food and health science procedures for internal diseases. They also have other cat food products like cranberry treats. The cranberry treats contain cranberry, yeast, and maltose.
Cats become vegan when their owners feed them plant-based diets regularly. However, cats are obligate carnivores. It is their nature to hunt prey, and cats eat whatever they catch. Most domesticated cats still have carnivorous hunting instincts. They don't know what to do with it most of the time.
In the wild, feral kittens learn how to hunt and kill from the female cats. We can't take away this natural behavior because of human practices. That is why your outdoor cat still catches prey on your front porch and tries to eat it.
The British Veterinary Association also thinks cats can't become vegetarians. The president of the association, Dr. Justine Shotton, said, "Cats are obligate carnivores and should not eat a vegetarian or vegan diet as they require animal-sourced ingredients to provide essential nutrients, such as taurine and preformed vitamin A, which are minimal or even absent in plant ingredients."
She further agreed to the possibility of providing animal protein in plant-based forms. However, we still need to research to ensure the safety of cats. The absence of some nutrients in our pet's diet can lead to severe health problems, ending the lives of our pets.
Also, it violates the Animal Welfare Act to feed cats commercial or homemade vegan cat food. The Animal Welfare Act UK requires cat owners to take reasonable steps to meet all their pets' needs. It specifically includes providing a healthy diet.
A healthy diet is the nutrients found in meat. These nutrients are taurine, vitamin A, and arachidonic acid. The absence of these nutrients could endanger the lives of your pets. However, it's relatively safe for your cat to eat vegan meals once you ensure it has the necessary nutrients.
There are things to consider when putting cats on a vegan diet. You have to consider your cat's food interest and their allergies. Cats can be picky eaters, so you might experience difficulty introducing a new diet.
Also, you need to consider your cat allergies. Vegan cat food brands use different types of plants and natural and synthetic materials for production. Your cat might be allergic to some of these materials. It is best to contact your veterinary doctor and ask for nutritional advice.
According to the President of the British Veterinary Association, any changes to a pet's diet should be under a vet's advice. Monitor your pet's behaviors as you start your pet cat on a new diet. Discontinue the diet and visit your vet if your cat shows discomfort.
As an alternative, you can give your feline friends crickets! According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, these insects are high in fats, dietary fiber, unsaturated fat, vitamins, and minerals. And although it is not vegan, this alternative can significantly decrease your household's carbon footprint.
Cats are carnivorous animals. However, some vegan pet owners may want their pets on a vegan diet. You should exercise caution before you change your cat's meals to a vegetarian diet. Switching to a vegan diet could harm your pet's health because of missing nutrients.
We recommended seven vegan cat food brands, but feel free to make your own cat food to save some bucks. But first, contact your local vet before changing your pet's diet. The bottom line is don't force your cat to become a vegetarian.
Zafalon, R. V. A., Risolia, L. W., Vendramini, T. H. A., Rodrigues, R., Pedrinelli, V., Teixeira, F. A., Rentas, M. F., Perini, M. P., Alvarenga, I. C., & Brunetto, M. A. (2020, January 17). Nutritional Inadequacies in Commercial Vegan Foods for Dogs and Cats. PLOS ONE.
National Academy of Sciences. (2005). Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs: A Science-Based Guide For Pet Owners.
Knight, A. (2005). In defense of vegetarian cat food. ResearchGate.
Ullrey, D. E., Baer, C. K., & Pond, W. G. (2004). Encyclopedia of Animal Science.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.