If you’re vegetarian or vegan, should your dog or cat be, too?

Via on May 8, 2010

dog cat vegetarian vegan food diet

Can pets be vegetarian?

I’ve been vegetarian for 7. 5 years—from right around the same time as when I started this web site, then a magazine, first known as Yoga in the Rockies.

I adopted a mutt a few years back, and had a brief moment when I first rescued him when I contemplated the oddness of buying meat for the first time in forever. “Oh, well, I’m not gonna impose my diet and health and morality on my pooch. Dogs loooove meat,” I thought to myself. And so while there are great veggie and vegan dog foods out there that I buy from time to time, I feed him a little wet food every night. Buffalo, chicken, duck, salmon. And bones from the Farmers’ Market, left over from the “production” of beef.

And yes, he looooves it all.

But Red also loves the veggie wet food, and the vegan treats. And so I think, from time to time—could he go veggie? Would it be bad for his health in some way? I’d love to know.

As for cats, I’ve heard tell that they must eat meat, so that would seem to be a simpler question, if true.

petguard vegan dog food

PS: what are your favorite veggie and vegan pet foods and treats?

Just thought to look to youtube:

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28 Responses to “If you’re vegetarian or vegan, should your dog or cat be, too?”

  1. Krys says:

    Today while doing some vegan outreach at a festival, a couple came by with a gorgeous, friendly 4 year old pit bull. They told us he was vegan! He was in great health; trim, happy, and energetic. Dogs, like humans, are omnivores, so they certainly can be vegan, and I've heard they usually thrive on a vegan diet.
    I have two cats. One will eat some of our food along with his own, the other is very picky. When I get them some vegan cat food, I'll let you know how they like it!

    • My feeling is that my dog would be perfectly happy with vegetarian food, if it tasted good…but I'm concerned about whether it would have all the nutrients he'd need.

      • nealjsivula says:

        I think dogs and cats can be perfectly happy eating vegetarian food. They evolved to be meat eaters (the cat is considered an obligate carniovore), but vegetarian diets can be formulated (whether commercially prepared canned and kibble or home-prepared) that are balanced so that no nutritional deficiencies occur.

  2. Vegann says:

    Twenty-one years ago, my husband and I adopted our 1st family dog. She was a 12 week old red collie mix. Our 5 year old daughter named her Tobie Layne. Our family was still eating fish, dairy and eggs at the time. Tobie had trouble keeping her food down, but she didn’t have trouble keeping down handouts of “human” food. We had her blood checked to see if she was sick. She was perfectly healthy. Our vet did some research and decided she had a meat allergy. There were only a couple of vegan dog food brands available back then. We bought both. She liked them and did well on them. A few months later we adopted a 9 mo. cocker, Dollie Sue. We fed her the same, to avoid conflict. Our family stopped eating fish around that time and we didn’t go vegan for another 4 or so years. Our cats still ate the awful meat food then. All cats need from meat food is taurine. I discovered 9 years ago that meat foods are cooked at high temps to kill the harmful bacteria and so the taurine is also cooked out. They then add synthetic taurine. That’s the exact same taurine that’s in vegan cat food. When I found that out, I thought “why am I paying for dead animals to feed my cats, animals they would NEVER eat in the wild, just so they can have the exact same taurine?” I did some research and changed their diet to vegan. They are in perfect health after nearly 9 years of being vegan. I had to acclimate my oldest picky boy, a tiny bit at a time, but he loves his food and he is now at a perfect weight, after being a fatty for most of the first 7 years of his life. I feed all of my animals half homemade food with Vegepet (Vegecat for the cats and Vegedog for the dogs) and half moistened Evolution Vegan Kibble. As for our 1st two dogs, Tobie lived to nearly 15, and that’s dang old for a big dog. She died of a brain tumor, while the rest of her was still in good shape. Dollie (our energizer bunny) lived to 18 1/2 years and she also died of a brain tumor. I asked my vet why both of my dogs died of brain tumors. She said, “they live so long, they have to die of something!” All of our dogs have been vegan ever since we changed Tobie’s diet and they have all been perfectly healthy, fit, beautiful and happy. We humans always “impose” our diets on our dogs and cats. They wouldn’t eat cows and pigs in the wild. My cats are afraid of chickens and they hate water, so if left to fend for themselves, chicken and fish would be out of the question as well, without someone to kill the creatures for them. I spend time and energy to feed my animals a healthful diet, because I love them. They likely wouldn’t be here, if not for being rescued by me. I owe it to them to do the best I can for them. Thank goodness I know that I don’t have to take the lives of other innocent animals, who also want to live, in the process. My vegan animals are safe, full and comfortable. Who will rescue farm animals from their human imposed suffering?

    • John Morrison says:

      Vegann:

      How did you get your cats started on it? My cats aren't fooled or amused by non-meat food…. Did you maybe mix the usual food with the new stuff at first? My cats turn their nose up at even a 75% regular / 25% vegetarian mix… They sit next to the food bowl and give me vaguely disgusted looks until I relent….

      Thanks for the advice!

  3. Joshua says:

    Joshua Scott Onysko

    A plant based diet is an inevitable evolution of all beings, no culture can move beyond a life based on suffering when our daily vices stem from the suffering of others…to build compassion for ones own self we must feel compassion for the world around us….and also, the worlds longest living dog….was a vegetarian….

    http://dogsinthenews.com/issues/0209/articles/020918a.htm

  4. Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh Bjonnes says:

    We have found that our dog Shakti is perfectly happy and healthy eating pretty much the same food we eat. That way, we do not have to spend much money and thus wasted energy and raw materials on dog food from the store. She loves salad, even pickled food; she licks olive oil out of my hands; drinks raw milk like a cat, eats celery like it is a bone, etc. In the old days, people gave their pets leftovers; we can do the same today….even veggie leftovers.

  5. boulder kid says:

    wow great article elephant! Great comments as well, I keep trying to convince my family that it is actually ok for our dogs to be vegan- thanks for the backup!

    • I think dogs can be, seems to be the common wisdom. I was at Farfel's dog store yesterday wondering aloud about this and a lady said, no problem, my dog's veggie!

  6. Ficklecat says:

    Ahh…but try feeding them vegan and local. Practically impossible, isn't it? What's worse? Soy protein shipped from thousands of miles away or local meat from a local farmer?

  7. viahttp://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    Lola Rephann
    interesting post. this is something that comes up in debate a lot amongst vegans/vegetarians and omnivores. thanks.

    Rafi Katz
    I too am vegetarian, and a former dog owner (of a great dog that led a long healthy life) This post is way to one sided.. unless im mistaken, this post only shows videos of animals that WILL eat vegetables.. and one activist and offers no real answer from any sort of vet or doctor or anything… I really question the responsibility of this article and hope that anyone switching an animal to a diet that is contrary to their evolution would consult a vet.

    Linda-Sama Karl
    no way would I impose my vegan choice on my cats. they are carnivores. cats may eat grass sometimes but the lions I saw in the wild in Africa were eating meat. I am going to do what is healthiest for my cats as per my (holistic) vet's advice.

    Beth K
    agreed @ linda. well said!!

    elephantjournal.com
    Linda, did you read the blog? You'll see what I said…

    Lisa Shapiro
    dogs are considered omnivore and can and do thrive on plant based diets. cats are considered obligate carnvivores and need to have taurine and arachondonic acid added to their diet but can also thrive on a plant based diet. why such the anger towards people who want all animals to live and be free? why such vitriol towards a group of people who… See More … See Morewant to live compassionatly and don't make a distinction between the dog and cat they love so and the cow and pig or goat etc that are equally as worthy of love and compassion. why such hostility and contemp towards a goal of non-violence and compassion?

    elephantjournal.com
    Rafi, I just put in videos that came up under vegetarian cat / dog searches…did you read what I wrote? I said cats…well, I'll let you read before commenting.

    Rafi Katz
    I did read and im certainly not angry HA like I said IM ALSO A VEGETARIAN and im glad the point was raised. I just think that more info from someone more with more cred than videos of people feeding veggie food to their pets would have been helpful. there are dogs and cats that have Coprophagia does that mean they should eat poo also?

    Linda-Sama Karl
    "did you read the blog?" yes, I did read it, why do you ask? and I will do that I think is best for my animals and their health. I took care of my diabetic cat for 17 years, a cat that needed a high protein and a very low carb diet for his optimal health as a diabetic cat. along with 2 shots of insulin a day. compassion for animals? tell me about it.

    Beth
    i don't know why people are so angry about things that are natural in this world….that includes eating meat!! why is it that people think they have to always control things….including their animal friends? and feed them things they are not used to or that their bodies don't eat?? the earth is a place where there is a natural balance of life and death, why are you all trying to change that?????

    Beth Kaplan Eckert
    i love animals, by the way, and will be respectful of who they really are and not what i think they should be!! they are different than we and eat differently too! thank you for putting this on, i hope people do think abou this!

    • lisa says:

      beth, just because something is "natural" or as i think you mean, is "part of our culture" does not mean that it is a good thing. slavery and rape are "natural" as well but does that make them something we want to have as part of our society. i find it immensley ironic that you would state that people who want to find a way to feed animals without having to kill others, are wanting to "control the situation" have you ever seen video footage or visited a slaughterhouse? that is control over many billions of animal's lives that are fighting and struggling to survive; just like you would, if you were being incarcerated, brutalized and slaughtered. please look at the irony in your email. if you love animals as you say then why would you want to eat them?

  8. Linda-Sama Karl
    as I said, I'm vegan, but I'm not imposing my philosophies or lifestyle choices on my animals if it's not optimal for their health. my diabetic cat loved avocados, couldn't get enough, ha! that was his choice! but my other cats love fish and turn their nose up at anything veggie. am I going to force them to eat avocados or veg? ridiculous!
    Buddha talked about a Middle Path for a reason..;)

    Beth
    yes linda,agreed, thank you, again!!

    Veralynne
    There's no question about it. It's more than philosophy or lifestyle. Canines and Felines are carnivores. Their digestive systems are made to digest mostly meat. In the wild they will eat the stomach contents of vegetarian prey animals and get their greens that way (at least somewhat pre-digested). That's why it's good to provide some veggies. One … See Moreof my cats loved cantaloupe and canned mushrooms! But those were extras. It's their intestines–too short for anything but meat, except in small quantities. That's why meat's not good for humans–intestines are too long, meat rots.

    Denise S
    yes, and I think that is true of humans as well. If you look at the health of people prior to the cultivation of foods, we were healthier. Archeologists know that if they find an ill formed skeleton, that it was alive after farming was introduced. People think that they can just "decide" what is healthy based on ideology or morals or just … See Morepreference, but its quite basic, look at the gut and what we all evolved on. To try and impose it on your animals is thinking too much…..you need to lable it thinking and go back to your breath…lol

    Adam Draper
    Hi, it's a myth that dogs are omnivores, dogs digestive systems cannot break down cellulose at all which appears to be pretty clear evidence that they are not omnivorous. Dogs also have short digestive tracts which supports the view that they are not naturally omnivorous because the food is not in the digestive tract long enough to break down the … See Morevegetable matter properly. As a contrast cows and any herbivore have long digestive tracts and omnivores like apes have medium sized digestive tracts. Carnivores have short digestive tracts so meat can be expelled quickly to avoid putrification in the gut.

    Studies of wolf diets have also shown that they don't eat any vegetable matter and don't eat the stomach contents of their prey. However, other types of dog like foxes do, but domestic dogs are wolves not foxes. Dogs unlike primates manufacture their own vitamin C and don't obtain it from vegetable matter.

    I'm vegan, but my dogs aren't – they eat a raw food diet because this is most like what they would eat in the wild. You *could* feed a dog on a veg based diet but you would have to be very careful about balancing nutrients and amino acids and minerals etc. Most domestic dogs are fed a grain/wheat based diet (the basis of most commercial dog foods) which they are unable to digest properly and to which many subsequently develop allergies. Many of the ailments that are considered common in domestic dogs now (e.g. arthritis) arose in direct consequence of so-called "modern" processed grain based diets. A lot of dogs are also soy intolerant too.

    As a vegan, I searched high and low to research this before making the decision to feed them a meat based diet. I also have two cats who eat a meat based diet too because….well, because you don't mess with the kitties! :-)

    elephantjournal.com
    Linda, I asked if you'd read the blog because you said "no way would I feed my cats vegan diet" and that's what I'd said, too, so I was confused. That's all..! Such a feisty subject, y'all!

    Denise, that's more or less what I said in the post…that it's wrong to impose if it's not healthy. I asked, what is healthy?
    a few seconds ago ·

  9. Mark Gailmor says:

    Here's my personal thoughts on this. I lived with two dogs that were both vegans for ten years. During that period both developed health issues that I discovered were directly related to their diets. In fact, I went to a holistic vet and she placed my dog, Alexis, on a specific diet that included cooked eggs, to clear up her infection. Then I had to feed her very specific animal products to clear everything up. So, if I ever own another dog I will not try to force that dog to be vegan. Dogs are true omnivores but, because of their shorter digestive track, can eat raw foods and do significantly better on a balanced diet of meat and grains/veggies.

    Cats, on the other hand, can live on a vegan diet but it's up to the owner. I do recommend a necessary supplement called vegecat, that is a synthetic taurine. Cats can go blind without taurine and Jame Peden researched this issue over twenty years ago and determined that cats can exist on a vegan diet as long as their diet is supplemented with taurine and a few other things. Oh, and do get his book Vegetarian Dogs and Cats.
    http://vegepet.com/

  10. Mark Gailmor says:

    Forgive me, in my last post I used the word own. I don't believe animals are ours to own. Both of my dogs lived happy lives and Alexis, who I mentioned, was adopted from a local shelter. She was never owned by me. She was the best companion animal I could ever share my life with. Please forgive my faux pas.

    Mark

  11. Chris H says:

    No, cats especially can't be healthy vegetarians.

    Dr. Jean Hofve, a feline veterinarian, a 20+ year vegetarian/vegan, and a full-time animal rights activist, in her article "Vegetarian Cats?" has cautionary information about feline vegetarian diets. She also writes:

    "…I understand the ethical reasons that lead people to avoid consuming many or all animal products… Speaking strictly from a veterinary viewpoint, vegetarian and vegan diets for cats make me nervous. I have seen some very sick cats as a result of these diets. The consequences of a such diets can reasonably be expected to include diabetes, urinary tract disease, kidney disease, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, and more.

    Personally, I believe that when we voluntarily adopt cats into our homes, we are ethically obligated to honour the feline spirit and feed it according to its basic nature…" http://littlebigcat.com/index.php?action=library&

  12. Chris H says:

    See also "When a Vegetarian Feeds Raw Food" by Lee Ellis.
    Lee turned to a holistic veterinarian & followed their feeding suggestions for her sick cat. She's helped other people whose cats had inflammatory bowel disease by creating FelineIBD, a Yahoo internet support & discussion group. She also reports on some positive benefits of feeding raw to dogs.http://feline-nutrition.org/opinion/when-a-vegeta

    Catinfo.org is one of the most comprehensive sites on feline nutrition, by Dr. Lisa A. Pierson, http://catinfo.org/. – Her web site lays out some often-ignored principles of feline nutrition and explains why cats have a better chance at optimal health if they are fed a species-appropriate, non-vegetarian diet. Dr. Zoran's JAVMA article "The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in Cats" can also be found there with references.

  13. As the owner of V-dogfood, LLC, I can say that our plant-based formula has been used by dogs for over 35 years, with several improvements over the years. The key to a healthy vegan dog is a well balanced formula that contains all of the essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals and at least 20% protein. V-dog also adds taurine and L-carnitene for the 5 or 6 large-breed dogs that require it. As has been stated by many contributors, dogs can thrive on a well balanced plant-based formula. However, we always advocate adding other veggies and grains to expand the dog's interest in different foods as well as for her/his health. Feeding a dog a vegan formula saves the earth, and could very well extend your dog's life.

  14. Jax says:

    Our Dogs are but not our cats.

  15. ARCreated says:

    Here's my problem…as I cut up my dog's food I began to wonder…is it then irresponsible to have pets ? is the continued breeding of animals for our companionship that then need meat so that animals need to be slaughtered so we can have pets? (you have to understand my puppy is like my BABY, I can't imagine life without him and I want what is best for him) but it got me to wondering…is that just selfish? how can I say I am an animal activist when I purchase food that came at the expense of another's life? and it's not "natural" …my dog is not going out and killing anything on his own….he may be a decendant but he's no wolf….so by continuing to encourage pet "ownership" do we encourage an ecological nightmare and are we living a hypocricy? I feel torn – I want him to be healthy and happy but I also don't want to contribute to the areas I see as problems in society…I am seriously at a loss.

    • ARCreated says:

      I had the same issue as I cleaned out the kitty litter the other day – is that environmentally responsible??? is there a better way…
      Don't even get me started on the dilemna with my pet snake — who only eats frozen rats cause mom can't handle the living ones without becoming attached…and no the snake can't be vegan…I asked :)

  16. ARCreated says:

    PS I noticed in one video that the owner fed her dogs grapes…I've heard not such a great idea…grapes, raisins, onions, garlic and some vets say avocado…Of course some vets say no raw meat too…sooo….???

    and we all know no chocolate

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