People choose to adopt vegan diets for a myriad of personal reasons, some over animal welfare concerns, and some to improve their overall health. And since living a vegan lifestyle is now easier than ever, some vegans may want to extend that aspect of their lifestyle to their pets. But is a vegan, plant-based diet safe for your pets?
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) says that while it is possible—though challenging—to keep dogs healthy on a plant-based diet, a vegan diet is not appropriate for cats at all.
But, if dogs can do it, why can’t cats?
Well, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they need to eat meat to survive. There are a number of reasons why cats don’t do well on a vegan diet, but it all essentially comes down to this: they aren’t adapted to it. Feeding a cat a plant-based diet is a lot like feeding a cow a meat-based diet—their digestive system isn’t geared to handle it, and they will not thrive on it.
What specific components make a vegan diet unhealthy for cats?
Taurine: Taurine is an amino acid (the building blocks of protein) essential for cats. Taurine can only be found in animal sources such as meat, milk, etc. It is not found in plant sources. Taurine can be synthesized in humans and dogs, but cats are unable to do this and require a direct source from an animal product. Cats who are fed a vegan diet will often develop a deficiency of taurine because the diet doesn’t provide them with this essential amino acid…