Should You Raise Your Pets Vegan?
With more and more people going vegan, there is increasing interest in whether their pets can go green, too. We break down the arguments for both sides.
Can pets be raised vegan?
It depends on what the pet in question is. There are loads of household pets out there that are naturally herbivores and therefore eat a ‘vegan’ diet. Rabbits, tortoises, gerbils are great pets for any concerned or conflicted about non-vegan pet diets, as these animals naturally need to be herbivores. However, things get slightly more complicated with certain well-loved pets, like cats and dogs, and there are lots of varying opinions on whether it’s morally ‘right’ for them to be raised vegan. It's a big source of contention amongst people, no doubt because we all love our cats and dogs so much. So let's find out why.
Should cats and dogs be raised on a vegan diet?
The argument for yes
There is a lot of evidence that dogs are actually omnivores rather than carnivores, and they have a natural ability to digest plants.
Dogs also have the ability to digest starch and glucose found in grains, separating them from their wolf cousins who are firmly carnivorous. Dogs also have neither a long or short intestinal system, which is found in other omnivorous animals, supporting the omnivorous argument. Because of this, dogs in short, are able to have a plant-based diet, as dogs are built to be able to digest fruit, vegetables and plant matter.
Things get trickier for cats, as they are naturally carnivorous. However, there are still lots of accounts of cats being switched to a vegan or vegetarian diet and living to old age. In order to switch a cat to a vegan diet, there must be supplements added as cats cannot naturally get the right nutrients for plants since their bodies are not built to be able to break them down in the way omnivores can. Because of this, cats need taurine and vitamin A supplemented into their diet for them to be healthy.
The argument for no
On the other hand, there is a lot of concern over whether putting dogs and cats on a vegan diet can still be too risky. If not enough research and professional advice is given, dogs and cats can become very ill. This is more true in the way of cats, who can develop brittle bones, blindness, and can die if they don’t receive enough taurine in their diet, typically sourced from meat.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) both actively state that dogs and cats cannot be vegetarian or vegan. Daniella Dos Santos, president of the BVA states the vegan ‘diet is not designed to meet the welfare standards’ of cats as they ‘are obligate carnivores’.
Transitioning your dog or cat to a vegan diet is risky, and for those who believe in veganism for reasons of animal cruelty, it may become tricky as cats are the pet that’s most likely to become ill when following a vegan diet. And the damage can be irreversible.
Ultimately it is at the owner’s own discretion whether or not to put their cat or dog onto a vegan diet, as there is evidence to support both sides. What is important, though, is to always get the advice of a professional vet if you are thinking of switching your cat or dog’s diet, vegan or not, because we all want the best for our pet friends. So when in doubt, speak to your vet, speak to others who have successfully raised vegan pets, or stick to what you (and your furry friends) know.
by Toni Olukiran
Toni is one of our lovely Content Marketing Interns, and when she’s not writing posts about everything from Jamaican cooking to vegan champagne, she’s making a Spotify playlist (she was at 200, at a last count) or playing tennis in the park.