Can cats be vegan?
Cats have very specific nutritional needs which would be unlikely to be met by a vegan diet.
The short answer is no, cats cannot be vegetarian or vegan. Cats are obligate carnivores which means they need meat in their diet.
With the rise in plant-based diets in the UK, many have started to consider altering their pet’s diet too. This can be for many reasons, such as environmental, ethical or health reasons.
But owners must be aware of the risks involved before thinking about feeding their pet a vegetarian or vegan diet. Ultimately, feeding your pet any diet that does not meet their nutritional needs is likely to cause health issues in the future.
Why do cats need meat?
The problem is that cats require a much higher level of protein than dogs and humans, and their ability to digest and use carbohydrates is much lower.
Additionally, taurine, an amino acid, which is needed for many of your cat's vital tissues and organs, including their heart, is an essential part of a cat’s diet. Cats cannot make their own taurine so they must have it in their diet. Taurine can only be found naturally in animal-based proteins and it’s really important for their eyesight, growth and immune system.
This means that cats need to eat meat to get important nutrients that are not available in vegetables. Cats can become very ill if given a plant-based diet.
Your cat needs a proper nutritionally balanced diet throughout their life. Pre-existing conditions, such as heart and kidney disease, will often need a special diet recommended by a vet, and a vegan or vegetarian diet can make matters worse.
If you are still considering feeding your cat a vegan diet, please speak to your vet beforehand.
Commercial vegan diets for cats
There are companies that sell vegan cat food which will usually include supplementary taurine in a synthetic form. While it may be the case that taurine is available in vegan pet foods, it is unclear whether these are as bioavailable to cats as the natural form and whether they are ultimately able to provide sufficient long term dietary benefits for your cat at all the stages of their life.
Until more research is undertaken, we do not yet know what the implications of feeding your cat a vegan diet will be. We strongly recommend feeding your cat a diet that meets PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers Association) guidelines and to speak to your vet if you have any questions.
Making your own cat food in the vast majority of cases will not meet your pet's needs. Buying a cat food which says it's 'complete' ensures that they're getting all the nutrients they need to be happy and healthy. If you do wish to make your own cat food, always seek advice from a qualified veterinary nutritionist.
• 18 August 2023
• 18 August 2026