When it comes to cats, the topic of veganism is a rather controversial one. While dogs have evolved over 30,000 years to be omnivores, cats are more recently domesticated and still have the digestive tract of a carnivore. That doesn’t mean cats cant eat a vegan diet, it just means that it has to be done with a few precautions that go beyond their nutritional needs.
For one, cats being fed dry kibble are more prone to urinary tract infections. When coupled with a vegan diet that is more on the alkaline side, cats could be more prone to urinary tract infections. Keep reading to learn about how you can safely feed your cat a vegan diet
What are the benefits of feeding a cat vegan?
The majority of animal-based cat kibble is not benefiting our cats’ health. In fact, it’s doing the opposite. The problem lies in the quality of ingredients and inevitable contaminants that end up in the end product. Here are the main reasons why you should feed your cat a well-planned vegan diet:
Higher quality ingredients
The majority of commercial cat kibble is made up of vague ingredients that contain the words by-product or meal. These ingredients are often made up of livestock scraps, including the remains of sick animals, animal scraps that are unsafe for human consumption, or ground-up bones and hooves. Livestock ear tags and styrofoam have also been found in tested pet food. It’s also important to mention the number of antibiotics and livestock medications that end up being concentrated in animal-based dry kibble. Vegan pet food brands are naturally more ethical when it comes to ingredient sourcing. Ingredients found in vegan cat foods are also more straightforward and recognizable with nothing sketchy to hide.
Most pet food recalls are due to either salmonella, listeria, or e.coli contamination. Not to mention, the recent recall involving pentobarbital contamination. Pentobarbital is a drug used by veterinarians and shelters to euthanize dogs and cats. The question of how that ended up in pet food is a scary one. The main vegan cat food brand available in Canada, Evolution Diet, has never had a recall in its 30 years of existence. In fact, we are not familiar with any recalls involving vegan cat food brands in Canada or the USA.
What nutrients do cats require?
If you’re feeding your cat a commercial vegan cat food, the food will most likely be fortified with all the nutrients your cat requires. If you’re feeding your cat a homemade vegan diet, it’s important to supplement it with a few key nutrients or add VegeCat supplement that covers all grounds. Here are a few of the most critical dietary requirements for cats
As carnivores, cats require a high protein diet in order to thrive. Unless your vet tells you otherwise, an adult cat requires a minimum of 3.97 g of protein per kg of weight per day. It’s important to take this into account if you plan on feeding your cat a homemade vegan diet. Kittens require more than double this amount.
Taurine is an essential amino acid found exclusively in animal-based foods. It is critical for a cat’s vision and cardiovascular contractile strength. A diet deficient in taurine can result in blindness. For that reason, it’s important to ensure that the vegan cat food you choose is supplemented with taurine.
Vitamin A is another critical nutrient your cat requires for optimal health. Cats require 9,000 IU of vitamin A per kg of food. The best sources of plant-based vitamin A for cats are orange or yellow shade vegetables such as pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes. As a fat-soluble vitamin, it’s important not to feed your cat too much vitamin A.
Arachidonic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid that is important for your cat’s development. Unlike humans, cats cannot produce their own arachidonic acid so it’s important that their food contains it. In the wild, cats obtain arachidonic acid by consuming the organs of their prey. Commercial vegan cat food is typically fortified with this omega-6 fatty acid. Otherwise, the VegeCat supplement contains arachidonic acid.
What vegan cat foods are available on Amazon in Canada?
If you’re lucky to live in a city where vegan cat food is readily available at your local pet store, you’ll most likely come across brands such as Evolution Diet, Ami, Wysong, or Benevo. Here are some vegan cat foods you can find on Amazon in Canada.
Evolution Diet Maximum Life Cat Food
Evolution Diet Maximum Life is free from GMOs, grains, and gluten. Its main protein sources are sunflower seeds, pea protein, and organic soybeans. Unlike many cat foods on the market, Maximum Life is suitable for all stages of life. The food contains 30% high-quality crude protein.
Evolution Diet Vegan Gourmet Fondue Cat Food
Evolution’s Gourmet Fondue Kibble is slightly lower in quality than its Maximum Life but loved by many cats for over 25 years. Its main ingredients are oats, corn protein, soybean meal, and pea protein. Similar to Maximum Life, this vegan cat kibble is formulated for all life stages. The food contains 30% high-quality crude protein.
Wysong Vegan Cat Food
Wysong’s Vegan Cat Kibble has a base of brown rice, corn, extruded soybeans, and pea protein. It’s made in the USA and is a great option when transitioning your cat to a vegan diet. While Wysong is not an exclusively vegan pet food brand, they have had only one recall in their 40 years of existence. The only downside is that the product is not always available on Amazon. Check for availability below.
Evolution Diet Vegetable Stew - Vegan Wet Food for Cats
Evolution Diet’s vegetable stew for cats is an excellent option if feeding wet food is in your budget. It can also be mixed in with your cat’s dry kibble to increase moisture. Its main protein sources are peas, brown rice, wheat germ, and oat groats. A little more on the pricey side, their Organic Stew is an even better option.
Vegan Sample Pack for Cats
If you’re newly transitioning your cat to a vegan diet, this Vegan Sample Pack for Cats is a good place to start. It comes with two small bags of Ami Vegan Cat Food and Evolution Diet Gourmet Fondue Cat Food. It also comes with a can of Evolution Diet Gourmet Entree wet food, some cranberry treats for urinary health, and some Cheesy Chic’n Flavoured Nutritional Yeast. Note that the vegan cat food sample bags are 400 grams each.
Organic Vegan Cat Food Topper
While it’s not a meal on its own, Buddy Bits’ Sweet Potato & Carrot Cat Food Topper is a great way to add some extra vitamins and antioxidants to your cat’s diet. It can also help in transitioning your fussy cat to a vegan diet. We love that it’s made in Canada from two human-grade ingredients: organic sweet potato and organic carrot.
The Missing Link - All Natural Vegetarian Omega Superfood Cat Supplement
The Missing Link is a great way to give a nutritional boost to your cat’s diet. The supplement contains a mix of probiotics, omegas, dietary fiber, and phytonutrients that will benefit your cat’s immune system, brain, and cellular function. It’s also an excellent supplement for cats with digestive issues or rescue cats with a history of malnutrition. Its main ingredients are ground flaxseed, cane molasses, and rice bran.
Where to buy vegan cat food in Canada?
- Amazon: Amazon currently carries mostly Evolution Diet Vegan Cat Food. Other vegan cat foods are available on Amazon Canada, depending on availability.
- Vecado: Based in Toronto, Vecado carries many brands of vegan cat food including Evolution, Ami, and Benevo.
- VGRRR: Based in Montreal, VGRRR carries many brands of vegan cat food including Evolution, Ami, and Benevo.
- Canadian Pet Connection: Canadian Pet Connection is not an all-vegan pet food shop but it carries the vegan cat food from Wysong, Benevo, Oven Baked, and Pet Guard.
How to transition your cat to a vegan diet
A change in your cat’s diet should always be done slowly to avoid the consequences of an upset GI tract. Unlike most dogs, cats tend to be picky eaters, with some being more difficult than others. To transition your cat to a vegan diet, start by mixing in a small amount of the vegan kibble with their previous kibble. The ideal ratio is 1 part new food to 4 parts old food. Continue doing so for about two weeks, adding a higher proportion of the vegan kibble each day.
If your cat seems uninterested in the new food, try sprinkling some nutritional yeast, and seaweed powder over the food. A tablespoon of high-quality vegetable oil can also be mixed into the food. Soaking the kibble ins some warm water can also increase its palatability. While nutritional yeast is safe for cats, it’s on the alkaline side so don’t overdo it on a daily basis. During the transition period, about a half teaspoon of nutritional yeast should suffice.
Is a vegan diet safe for cats?
When executed correctly, cats can thrive on a vegan diet. The reality of the cat food industry is that the majority of animal-based cat kibbles are made from poorly regulated animal scraps. In fact, the essential nutrients found in these kibbles are provided by supplements. For that reason, supplementing a plant-based kibble is essentially the same thing, minus the sketchy ingredients.
While the same applies to animal-based cat food, it’s important to ensure that the vegan cat food you choose is veterinarian-approved. In order to ensure that your cat is doing well on a vegan diet, it’s highly recommended to check the pH value of their urine periodically and to take them for annual blood tests. Urine testing is especially important for male cats who are more prone to urinary tract infections.
Tips for feeding your cat vegan
As previously mentioned, a vegan diet is safe for cats when executed correctly. This means ensuring that your cat’s urine is not too alkaline and that they are absorbing the nutrients they need to thrive. Here are some tips for feeding your cat a vegan diet:
- Educate yourself further on a vegan diet for cats by reading Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats.
- Test your cat’s urine regularly with at-home urine test kits for cats.
- Soak dry vegan cat kibble before serving it or mix it with a wet vegan cat food.
- Add acidifiers to their food, such as Cranimals or DL–methionine.
- If feeding homemade, be sure to add VegeCat supplement to their food.
- Join a Facebook community for inspiration, such as Vegan Cats.
Are there risks to a vegan diet for cats?
The main risks associated with a vegan diet for cats concern inadequate amino acid intake and the formation of urine crystals due to a more alkaline diet.
Amino acid intake
As obligate carnivores, cats require specific amounts of particular amino acids to be healthy. These amino acids include taurine, arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Cats can produce most of these amino acids on their own, except for taurine. For that reason, cat food, vegan or not, is always supplemented with taurine. If feeding your cat homemade vegan food is on your agenda, look into vegan taurine supplements or, even better, VegeCat which contains all essential nutrients for cats.
A healthy pH level for cat urine is between 6.3 to 6.6. If urine pH is above this range can lead to the growth of struvite crystals. If urine pH is below this range it can cause the formation of calcium oxalate crystals. Commercial vegan cat kibble will contain acidifiers such as DL-Methionine or cranberry extract. If you’re concerned about your cat’s urine pH, purchase some urine test kits for cats and keep an eye on their urine pH level. If your cat is a male or prone to UTIs, you can add an extra acidifier to your cat’s kibble, such as Cranimals.
Whether it’s vegan or not, dry cat food poses a risk to your cat’s urinary health. For that reason, wet food is highly recommended if it fits your budget. If not, soaking your cat’s dry kibble in water for about 20 minutes before serving is a good idea.
Are grains safe for cats?
There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to feeding grains to cats. While cats don’t need grains to thrive, there is no research that supports the idea that they should not eat grains at all. Unless your cat is allergic to a particular grain, grains are a healthy addition to your cat’s diet. In fact, grains are an excellent source of fiber, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Certain grains are also good protein sources for cats.
Disclaimer: I'm not a veterinarian or a cat nutritionist. With two vegan cats of my own, I'm simply sharing the knowledge I've acquired over the years.