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Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc.
38 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572 USA -  845-876-2626
Vegetarian - Vegan - Animal Rights - Health - Nutrition - Environment

The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.

Newsletters - Winter 2006 Issue

On vegan cats

By Kirsti Gholson

When I became vegan almost 18 years ago, I was faced with the dilemma of honoring my new commitment to animals and my responsibility to my carnivorous feline companions. Early on, in my vegan zeal, I explored some homemade, meat-free alternatives, which my cats wanted little to do with. Eventually, I stopped researching the subject and decided it was a necessary evil I’d have to live with. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the queasiness I felt every time I shopped for cat food became so intense (oh that pesky conscience), that I knew I had to make some kind of change.

I read about and talked to people who had for years successfully fed their cats and dogs vegan diets. I also learned of cats who had not thrived on a completely vegan diet and I was concerned about compromising my animals’ health.

After reading the January 2004 “Companion Animals” issue of Satya magazine, which contained much information about pet food and vegan cats, I decided to order some Evolution vegan cat kibble.

I already knew that taurine, the amino acid cats must have, is not found in plants. What I didn’t know is that it has been synthetically produced for more than 80 years and that most pet food companies supplement their food with the synthetic version. The rendering process of commercial pet food requires such high temperatures that it is often necessary to supplement destroyed natural nutrients, such as taurine, with synthetic nutrients.

In a Satya article titled “Why Vegans Should Have Vegan Cats: A Moral Case,” Jed Gillen (author of “Obligate Carnivore: Cats, Dogs, and What it Really Means to be Vegan”) writes, “To settle a debate with a skeptical veterinarian, I had a blood test done on one of my cats who had been vegan for a few years and his taurine level was measured at ten times the average and three times that which is considered necessary to avoid a deficiency.”

Transitioning

I planned on a six-month transition period, slowly increasing the amount of vegan food in their bowls. I figured that if the cats did not thrive on a totally vegan diet, I could at the very least reduce some suffering by reducing the amount of flesh-based food that they ate.

The food I’d been giving them (and that they loved) was mostly organic with no by-products and as nutritious as I could get in a prepared cat food. I knew that many people had great success with Evolution and other vegan foods, but I was quite surprised to find, on the first day of transition, that my cats had actually eaten around their regular food to get to the vegan stuff. Two weeks later, when the old food ran out, the switch was over.

Their favorites

Although the dry food is a hit, wet food - which cats need - continues to involve experimentation. For many months, all the cats were happy and vibrant on the kibble and baby food peas (supplemented with a pH-balancing powder). Then my husband and I found a deathly ill, blind kitten and we didn’t want to take any chances with her recovery. We fed her animal-based wet food, which the other cats were more than happy to partake in. Now that she’s grown and healthy, I am once again testing out vegan alternatives. Current individual favorites are Veggy cheddar singles (contains casein), veggie salmon, broccoli, and our old stand-by, mashed peas.

Nasty stuff

If making the switch makes you nervous, consider this: There is no mandatory government inspection of pet food ingredients, which allows some pretty nasty stuff to make its way onto the plates of our companion animal friends. According to Vegancats.com http://vegancats.com/faq.html , this “natural” diet may include, “carcasses of euthanized cats & dogs (some with flea collars and containing sodium pentobarbital used for euthanasia); unwanted insecticides and pharmaceuticals from diseased livestock (complete with plastic ID tags); rotting supermarket rejects including plastic and Styrofoam packaging; animal parts deemed ‘unfit for human consumption’ (heads, legs, tongues, intestines, esophagi, beaks, feathers, bones, blood, lungs, ligaments, etc.); and diseased and cancerous body parts from dead, dying, diseased, and disabled factory-farmed animals.”

For those whose cats’ health problems are a concern, Sharon Gannon, in her book, “Cats and Dogs are People, Too!” offers a healthy alternative that greatly reduces the amount of flesh served.

For years her cats have eaten a varied diet of mostly raw and cooked land and sea vegetables, grains and seitan, with raw organic meat added a few times a month. This book is a great resource for vegan recipes and nutritional information, as well as shedding light on the commercial pet food industry.

With annual spending on pet food in the U.S. estimated at $14 billion, that translates into a lot of cruelty and devastation on our land and in our oceans. As ethical vegans who purport a lifestyle based on reducing suffering, the least we can do is feed our companion animals the least inhumane diet possible.

Note: Several times a year those of us in the area who use Evolution cat and dog food order in bulk to reduce costs. For more information, contact Kirsti at philafauna@aol.com or 845•679•3656.

Resources to get started:

Satya magazine, January/February 2004 issue www.vegancats.com , www.vegansociety.com , www.veganpet.com

“Obligate Carnivore: Cats, Dogs, and What it Really Means to be Vegan,” by Jed Gillen and “Cats and Dogs are People, Too!” by Sharon Gannon

Kirsti Gholson is an animal advocate and singer-songwriter living in Woodstock. She has worked with many animal rights organizations focusing primarily on humane education, legislation and outreach.

Editor’s comments

Many of us, myself included, feed our dogs and cats meat-based diets. The reason that most of us do is largely because of the prevailing opinion that because dogs and cats are carnivores in the wild, their natural diets must include meat, fish, and possibly dairy.

I therefore asked the opinion of renowned veterinarian Holly Cheever, DVM, who is in private practice and is a regular columnist for Good Housekeeping magazine. Dr. Cheever told Vegetarian Viewpoints that The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) is in the process of preparing a position statement on vegan cats which has not yet been finalized. It will essentially state that AVAR does not recommend a vegan diet for cats. AVAR raises the question of whether it is appropriate to impose animal rights philosophies on an obligate carnivore. I showed Dr. Cheever Kirsti Gohlson’s article and she wrote back:

“I think the article is fine. I am also fine with your description of AVAR’s stance at this time. You might add that vegan diets lack a multiplicity of nutrients found in an obligate carnivore’s natural diet, so that taurine alone is not the sole concern. The bulk of nutritional veterinary research supports the need for meat (canned, by the way, not dry—too much carbohydrate in dry.)”
 

Go on to Meat-Out
Return to Winter 2006 Issue

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