Here are some of the most common questions about vegan cat food and if vegan cats can be healthy.
Q. Why do all my friends say cats MUST eat meat?
A. They are not entirely wrong, nor are they entirely right! While cats are classified as ‘Obligate Carnivores’ meaning they must eat meat, this classification is based on a wild cat living in the natural environment. Cats that have to survive in the wild must catch and kill prey to survive, because they cannot produce several important nutrients in their own bodies, so they must get those nutrients from other animals’ bodies.
Unlike most other animals, cats cannot produce their own Taurine, Vitamin A or Arachidonic Acid. Like us, most animals produce these substances in their liver from the various foods they eat. When we eat foods our bodies break them down to the various amino acids, minerals and vitamins… and our livers rebuild those micro-nutrients into whatever our bodies need.
Because a cat’s liver cannot produce a few of these substances, it must have a source of these essential nutrients in it’s diet, because without them cats become ill.
In the natural environment cats wouldn’t be able to survive as vegans because these nutrients cannot be found in high enough quantities in plant based foods. But a specially designed vegan diet includes concentrated supplements to ensure the cat.
Q. Why is Taurine so important for vegan cats?
A. Cats are known to require 11 essential amino acids, which are generally present in all forms of protein including plant proteins, except for Taurine.
For cats a lack of Taurine in the diet will lead to irreversible blindness and heart function problems.
But as we mentioned earlier, it is not just Taurine that must be in the diet. A lack of Arachidonic Acid will lead to skin problems. A lack of Vitamin A (as retinol) will also cause degenerative problems for the eyes and skin and also the reproductive system. So these must be supplemented in a vegan diet to ensure vegan cats stay healthy.
Q. Isn’t Taurine from only found in meat?
A. Taurine doesn’t occur in plants, so understandably some may wonder how vegan cats would get it’s Taurine. What many people do not know is that Taurine, which you can find added to all commercial cat foods, in energy drinks and sports supplements, is normally ‘vegan’. Despite its name (which comes from it being first discovered in a sample of Ox bile in 1827), it is not extracted from meat or any other animal product. It is now produced in vast quantities in factories where it is then also used in human sports supplements and energy drinks.
Q. But cats cannot digest plant materials like us?
A. That is another statement that is true – but not the whole truth. To unravel this concept its important to understand that we are not suggesting your cat should graze on grass or leaves!
Cats do lack the digestive enzymes that allow us to break down plants and digest them like us, especially raw vegetables and fruits. But that doesn’t mean that cats cannot benefit from the nutrients that are in plant based foods. Wild cats will consume the stomach contents of their herbivorous prey, to benefit from the partly digested nuts, seeds, fruits, berries, etc. So while cats may struggle to do it on their own, with a little help they can benefit from many non-meat foods.
The ingredients in Benevo cat foods are are soaked, ground, mixed and cooked, breaking down many of those plant structures that cats struggle with, which ultimately means they can be easily digested.
So while cats in the wild would be unable to benefit from the vitamins, minerals and proteins in many plants because they cannot break down the plants structure, the nutrients in Benevo vegan cat food is ‘bio available’ for the cat and can be digested.
Q. So how does Benevo vegan cat food work?
A. The key to solving the problem of a vegan diet for cats, is to firstly understand that cats need specific nutrients, not specific food groups. Cats do not actually need meat, they need the essential nutrients that meat normally contains.
If we can find those same nutrients from other sources, we can meet the specific nutritional requirements of cats. This is exactly how we have achieved a vegan cat food that is nutritionally complete.
So Benevo cat is 100% meat free, but it is certainly not free from nutrition! It contains concentrated plant based proteins and is supplemented with all the essential nutrients like Taurine, Arachidonic Acid as well as vitamins and minerals.
Q. Is it OK if I give my cat milk?
A. Milk is absolutely not required in a cats diet, so there is no need to feed your cat milk.
While a few cats can digest milk, most cannot and and may display symptoms of intolerance. Most adult cats are lactose intolerant and are unable to break down the milk sugars, which can cause bacteria to develop in the stomach and intestines. This can lead to gas, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. For this reason, and also for the benefit of cows everywhere, we don’t recommend feeding milk or any other diary products.
Q. Can’t I just feed my own food? Are there any things cats should not eat?
A. Cats have different nutritional requirements to humans, so vegan foods for humans are not sufficient for cats. In fact some of the things we eat and enjoy can make your cat ill. We strongly advise you to only feed foods that have been designed for the specific needs cats.
Dog food for example might get you through a day if you run out of cat food, but you must not allow your cat to only eat dog food, as it lacks the right balance of nutrients and probably lacks the Taurine levels your cat needs.
Some foods should never be fed to cats, such as onions, as this can cause damage to the blood cells and cause anaemia. So do not use products like gravy sauces that are onion based on your cat’s food. Chocolate too can poison your cat. Xylitol is a sweetener in various candies and diet foods, which if eaten by cats can cause liver failure, so be sure to keep them out of reach.