Is Vegan Cat Food Okay?

Is vegan cat food or vegetarian cat food okay for your kitties? We get vets to weigh in.

A cat looking up and reaching for a bowl of kibble. Photography ©Gabriele Grassl | Getty Images.

Given the fact that cats are obligate carnivores, creatures that feed primarily or exclusively on animal matter for their health and well-being, is becoming a vegetarian a good idea? Is vegan cat food okay?

Is vegan cat food okay? A vet weighs in.

A cat vegetable sandwich.
Is vegan cat food okay? Photography ©serg78 | Getty Images.

“For cats, it’s really inappropriate,” says Cailin Heinze, VMD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and assistant professor of nutrition at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

The risks of vegan cat food

The risks of feeding cats a vegetarian or vegan diet include inadequate total protein intake, imbalance of amino acids such as taurine or essential fatty acids like arachidonic acid, and deficiency in vitamins and minerals that are obtained ideally, or only, through meat or other animal products.

Health risks associated with vegan cat food and vegetarian cat food

These dietary problems can lead to serious and sometimes irreversible medical conditions, according to Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD, board-certified veterinary nutritionist and professor of clinical nutrition at the University of California, Davis veterinary school. The one issue veterinarians mention most often is taurine-related dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart with weak contractions and poor pumping ability), but low taurine can also lead to reproductive failures, growth failures and eye problems, she adds.

“We did see a case of a cat that almost died as a result of taurine deficiency,” Dr. Larsen says. “The owners were feeding a vegan cat kibble, so a commercially available vegan diet, and they were mixing that diet with cooked chicken breast, for some reason, but it was not enough taurine for the cat, obviously, and it resulted in a near-death experience for this animal.”

Thumbnail: Photography ©Gabriele Grassl | Getty Images. 

About the author

Ellyce Rothrock spent half her life with Flea, a Maine Coon who lived to be 21 and is missed every single day. She’s currently seeking a feline friend to manage Fritz and Mina, her German Shepherd rescues. She’s lucky enough to live her passion for pets as a 25-year member of the pet media industry.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home. 

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5 thoughts on “Is Vegan Cat Food Okay?”

  1. Cats need taurine which can be found only and only in meat, dairy, and fish. So, if you are thinking of giving your cat only vegan food, you are robbing your cat of one of the most important nutrients it needs. Do not do that. Your choice of being vegan is yours only. Do not impose it on your cat. If you want to impose commands, don't get a cat. Get a toy instead. Stuff as much vegan food to your toy. But that living, breathing cat needs non-veg. Respect the nature!

  2. Ellen DeGeneres is promoting vegan food for animals. Too many people place their own beliefs/values on their animals and the animals suffer for it. Cats and dogs are obligate carnivores for a reason!

  3. Yep, my daughter has a tortoise. He eats strictly greens. But don’t torture your cat because you don’t eat meat!

  4. If you don’t want to feed your pet meat, don’t adopt an obligate carnivore.

    No one is telling you that you can’t have a pet that doesn’t eat meat. What they are saying is make sure you adopt the right pet if you don’t want to feed it meat. Nature has plenty of herbivores.

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