When I was 9, I announced to my parents that I wasn’t going to eat cows or pigs anymore. They were mammals, just like my cat Jubilee. I loved Jubilee, and I loved animals, especially if they were fuzzy, and I couldn’t eat them anymore. I’m sure my parents thought it was a phase, but it stuck, and by the time I turned 14 I was completely vegetarian. When I was 17, I decided to give up all animal products and go completely vegan, because I realized I didn’t need to exploit other creatures to live a happy, healthy life.
Going vegan is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and in my seven years of being vegan, I haven’t questioned it once. But things got a little more complicated when Agnes came into the picture.
Agnes was an unplanned kitten. I grew up with cats, I loved cats, but at the age of 22, I wasn’t really sure if I was ready to be a committed cat mom. But then one night I ended up in a parking lot full of late-night food carts after hitting a few bars, and I saw tons of intoxicated twentysomethings cooing over something in the trunk of a car.
I approached. The trunk was full of kittens! Fluffy, adorable, wriggly black-and-white kittens. They were being petted, picked up, and passed around. The family who owned one of the food carts had apparently taken in a stray cat, not realizing she was pregnant, and now all of these kittens were in front of me, and they needed me and I wanted them — all of them. But I practiced restraint. I did not take all of them home. I just took one.
And so I went from being a 22-year-old without any actual responsibilities to the guardian of a very feisty kitten named Agnes. My world changed. It was my job to keep this ball of fluff safe and healthy and happy. There were so many things to do and so many decisions to make. I knew I wanted to take the best possible care of this being who depended on me so completely.
So what do you do when your personal ethics prevent you from consuming animal products, ever, and suddenly you find yourself raising a tiny carnivore?
There are a few vegan cat foods commercially available, as well as a supplement designed to be added to homemade vegetarian meals for cats. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that some cats do just fine on vegetarian and vegan diets, but since cats are natural carnivores, I am not convinced that it is without risk. And I cannot stand the idea of taking risks with Agnes.
So I am vegan, and my cat eats meat. A lot of meat. I dream of a day when a rodent-based cat food is available, because I think I would feel so much less guilty — and wouldn’t that really be an appropriate diet? For now, I make the best decisions I can for her and for other animals, using both logic and some perhaps irrational feelings.
Her dry food contains free-range chicken and turkey and wild-caught fish, which relieves a little bit of my discomfort. Her wet food is not free-range at all, though I am still trying to find a free-range wet food that she likes. She is, unfortunately, a total diva, and will turn her nose up at a lot of foods.
I won’t feed her rabbit, because I used to have a pet rabbit. (This means I can never have a pet chicken or fish, because Agnes might starve.) I won’t feed her beef because, while Agnes is certainly fierce, I don’t think she could take a cow, so it doesn’t seem fair to me. I won’t feed her pork for the same reason, and also because of Charlotte’s Web. I won’t feed her lamb because it’s lamb. I’m fairly certain she could attack a chicken and kill it dead, and maybe even a turkey — after all, she nearly killed her vet once. She could maybe catch a fish, if she didn’t have to get too wet to do it. So chicken and turkey and fish are what she eats. No ducks though — because I like watching the ducks at the park!
I told you not all of this was rational.
Almost three years after I brought her home, Agnes is thriving. She is happy, healthy, energetic, and trying to walk on my keyboard to get my attention while I write this. She is the best companion a girl could ask for, though it would sure be nice if she bit me less and stopped knocking over every drinking glass in sight. I will probably always feel a little unsettled when I feed her, thinking about the animals I feed to my animal, but we do crazy things for love. And if anyone wants to start a company that makes cat food from free-range mice, I will be your best customer!