Cats and Vegan Diet
Can Cats Thrive on a Vegan Diet
While switching to a vegan diet is easy for people, that is the exact opposite for cats. This is because cats are carnivores and have a different digestive system. They have sharper teeth, shorter intestines and stronger stomach acid just like other carnivores.
When putting a cat to a vegan diet, the first issue is getting food they’re willing to eat. Cats are not flexible at all when it comes to new foods. They will dismiss food just by sniffing and will be unwilling to try to help you out.
Since fruit and vegetables are not what cats normally eat, you will need to get foods that give cats the nutrients they require. This is very difficult when working with vegan foods. That is because while humans require nine amino acids a cat requires eleven. The extra two are taurine and arginine which aren’t usually found in plant-based foods. Lack of these amino acids can cause blindness in cats.
Luckily, you can synthesize taurine and arginine from vegan sources. Any known vegan cat food consists of the two amino acids in the ingredients. These amino acids are however not enough, a cat needs other nutrients as well. Vitamin D and A are nutrients cat obtain from animal products. Then there is arachidonic acid that is unheard of by people outside the cat food industry. Therefore, to provide your cat with the required nutrients make sure to check the ingredients list at the back of the cat foods.
Finding a good brand of cat food is the answer to how to get a cat to a vegan diet without much sweat. Do not forget, this will not be an easy journey because as we earlier mentioned cats are very selective when it comes to new foods.
To be up to speed with your cat’s nutrition needs, get Jed Gillen’s book Obligate Carnivore. This book explores this issue extensively including recipes for vegan cat food. Since taste varies from cat to cat, you will have to experiment with the recipes to find what works for your cat. This might be hours of preparing food that won’t be eaten, but do not give up. With perseverance, you will finally discover the right recipe. These foods should be spiked with amino acid and vitamin supplement that is usually mixed with homemade cat food. VegeCat is the most popular brand and can be purchased online. Remember this is after you have found out what your cat likes, otherwise you will end up wasting supplements that are usually quite expensive.
Some people prefer to cook for their cats even if there are commercially made foods that the cats consume. This is because the food usually saves a lot of money to prepare than packaged food. Adding supplements is something you should never forget otherwise your cat will develop serious risky deficiencies. It will take you approximately half an hour to make food that with refrigeration will last two weeks.
If the cat rejects the food you offer whether commercial or homemade there is a strategy you can use to get around this. This is to start adding 20 percent of the vegan food in your cat’s usual food and increase the portion percentage over a few weeks until you reach 100 percent. This only works if the food being introduced works for the cat. For instance, if you are feeding your cat dry kiddle, many cats dig through the bowel and eat the ones containing meat. If this happens, abandon feeding them this particular food immediately.
Monitoring Your Vegan Cat’s Health
Once your cat has adjusted and gone vegan the other most important part of the journey is to obtain urine samples from your cat for PH testing. Although you correctly formulate vegan food that meets your cat’s nutrition needs, having urine tested is important because most vegan diets tend to be more alkaline than meat-based diets. Since the urinal system of a cat is tuned for high acidity, alkalinity in the urinary tract can get out of hand leading to life-threatening, expensive health complications to treat.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) which is the formation of struvite stones is increased in cats by a vegan diet. These stone are caused by excessive urine alkalinity or too much dietary magnesium. Vegan cat food can increase urine alkalinity and is likely to contain too much magnesium.
These stones block the urethra making it difficult for cats to urinate. The treatment for this condition costs over a thousand dollars and without quick veterinary treatment, an infection may develop causing many serious consequences.
It, therefore, makes sense to do everything possible to avoid struvite stones, with the best option being urine tests. A urine test is supposed to be done two weeks after introducing your cat to the vegan diet. According to statistics, about 15 to 20 percent of vegan cats develop FLUTD if proper urine tests are not done.
A urine test reveals a lot of important information including bacteria causing a bladder infection, crystals which also leads to the same problem or an impending improper pH signals.
If the urine is above 6.5 pH, acidifiers are added to the diet to balance out the situation. They include methionine, vitamin C, and sodium bisulfate. Methionine supplement can cause anaemia or gastrointestinal problems, therefore, consult your vet before using it. Instead of using supplements, if you are making cat food at home consider using foods that contain natural acids like brown rice, peas, oats and asparagus.
This should be after a urine test has been done. Acidifiers are required if your cat’s urine pH is not between 6.0 and 6.5. Unnecessary use of acidifiers may cause health problems including urinary tract stones that we trying to avoid in the first place.
If you are working on correcting the urine pH through diet or supplements, frequent urine tests are required. At least every two weeks if there is cause for concern and every six months for the rest of the cat’s life. To maintain a healthy urine acidity requires balance and check-ups. If you are not willing to do the work then do not put your cat on a vegan diet.
If the urine PH of your cat is at a healthy range, encourage your cat to drink a lot of water to keep it that way. This can be in form of plain water, and water flavored with vegan bouillon cubes. Cats get more encouraged to drink more water if it is provided by a fountain which is available for purchase at many pet stores. Also, consider offering wet rather than dry food to increase your cat’s water intake.
Even if your cat gets a clear pass from the urine tests, urinary tract problems may occur, therefore, be on the lookout for signs of meowing in distress, strain during urination or lingering around the litter box. This might be a sign of a blocked urinary tract and your cat needs to see a vet right away before too much time passes and there is serious damage.
Another important step that should never be bypassed is letting the vet know of the cat’s diet. Be very transparent with this information because after putting your cat on a vegan diet, they were predisposed to special health risks. Having your veterinarian on the know will help in knowing the signs to be watchful for.
Should You or Shouldn’t You?
If you have done all the above the long-term step is to keep an eye on your cat’s behavior, eye color and coat to monitor your animal’s health. There is research that proofs that some cats thrived better and had an improved health once they were put on a vegan diet. As long as you are meeting the nutrients need in their food, the urine pH is at a normal range, it is possible that your cat’s food is more nutritious than conventional non-vegan cat food.
However, the switch won’t be an easy transition and before making the change there are few things to look at.
The first is that no big manufacturing brand makes vegan cat food, which might make it hard to trust small companies because of meeting quality control standards and the fact that cats require a very specific balanced diet does not help.
A company once had an independent laboratory test their vegan cat food, the results indicated that the nutrients were lower than what was written on the label.
Taurine and other important nutrients are vital for cats and should not be toyed with by companies. This is a very ethical issue because it is very hard to test cats of deficiency of these nutrients. With it being even harder to test if the food matches what is on the label, cat owners are left with no choice but to trust the food and supplement manufacturers.
Non-vegan cat manufacturers are not any better with quality and integrity either. Most foods are derived from slaughterhouse by-products of flesh riddled by tumors, abscesses, or infected wounds. Basically, meat that can’t be used anywhere else is used in making animal food. Cheaper cat foods are made of animal protein from unspecified origins, meaning you might be feeding your cat food from dead cats and dogs from shelters.
Vegans should, therefore, not feel pressured to put their cats on a vegan diet. This is a personal choice and no one should be belittled for choosing either. Putting your cat on a vegan diet will ensure no penny from your pocket goes to support factory farms and animal slaughter. It is important to note that this does not make a big bang in terms of money in preventing animal suffering.
There is also the factor of added expenses of urine tests, and an extra two hundred dollars each year in keeping your cat on a vegan diet. You can cut the expenses by making the food yourself, but then the task becomes getting your cat to switch to the diet. This is twelve hours a year preparing cat food. Many people do not have the time, money or patience to make this commitment.
However, donating the two hundred dollars a year to an effective animal protection group will yield a reduction in the number of animals being slaughtered ten times more than putting your cat on a vegan diet. The twelve hours you would have used making cat food can be invested towards a form of activism activity that will lead to a reduction of animal slaughter.
The decision to switching your cat to being vegan is, therefore, dependent on finances, time and your cat’s ability to stay in good health while gladly consuming the vegan food. If you are lacking in these factors channel your energy to more effective avenues that make an even bigger difference.