Can You Keep Your Cat Healthy on a Vegetarian Diet?

More on PawNation: Cats, Nutrition, Vegetarianism

In response to my Can Cats be Vegetarians post, Ludmila Marshal commented that a study published in 2006 came to different conclusions than the one I referenced questioning the nutritional adequacy of vegan cat foods.

Cat nibbling on broccoli

The study Ms. Marshal is talking about is entitled "Evaluation of cats fed vegetarian diets and attitudes of their caregivers." You can take a look at the abstract on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website. I do not believe that this paper is in conflict with the 2004 article that I previously referenced.

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The scientists looked at only the cobalamin (vitamin B12) and taurine status of cats fed vegetarian foods. Results showed that all of the cats had normal serum cobalamin concentrations, and 14 of 17 had blood taurine concentrations within reference range. The cobalamin findings are reassuring, but almost 18 percent of the vegetarian cats "had blood taurine concentrations between the reference range and the critical concentration, suggesting that their dietary intake was marginal, but that they were not clinically deficient." I hardly see this as a ringing endorsement for a vegetarian diet being able to provide optimum nutrition for cats.

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In praise of this paper's findings, a veterinarian wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in a subsequent issue of JAVMA. The letter concluded, "It is reassuring to know that I can recommend a meat-free diet to those clients who want to eliminate the link between their cat and the slaughterhouse." The authors of the original article felt compelled to respond in this way:

"We would like to point out that although it was encouraging that none of the cats tested in this investigation had taurine or vitamin B12 deficiency, we feel that given the limited scope of the study and the self-selection of the population, our findings should be interpreted with caution. We recommend that people who wish to feed vegetarian diets to their cats be counseled about the potential risks and the need to use a properly formulated recipe or commercial food. We also recommend follow-up contact of those owners with their veterinarians at least twice a year to monitor proper recipe use and examine their cats for signs of nutrient deficiency or excess."

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That's good advice. This study found that 82 percent of owners who chose a vegetarian diet for their cats cited ethical considerations as their reason for doing so. I certainly understand how people who are vegetarians themselves have issues with feeding their cats meat. However, deciding to make your cat a vegetarian adds an extra level of responsibility to ensure that your beliefs don't adversely affected the well-being of the animal under your care.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Today's post was originally published in September 2012.


Evaluation of cats fed vegetarian diets and attitudes of their caregivers. Wakefield LA, Shofer FS, Michel KE. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006 Jul 1;229(1):70-3.

(2006) Letter to the Editor. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 229:4, 498-498. Online publication date: 1-Aug-2006

"Can You Keep Your Cat Healthy on a Vegetarian Diet?" originally appeared on

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Cats eat meat, period! It's against nature to feed them a veg diet. It should be a punishable crime of neglect to feed veg diet. My cats eat raw meat and they thrive on it. They were designed to eat raw meat. A short digestion time ensures bacteria will not take hold as well as them being able to smell any off meat (way before I can) and refusing to eat it. Raw meat of high quality grain free canned food is the way to go. Don't fight nature!

January 12 2014 at 11:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Brandy's comment

Exactly! Agree100%. The only way a cat gets veggies in the wild are out of the bellies of the rabbits they catch. The only exception is squash. My cats love strained (for human) baby squash. I read it's a healthy beneficial way to prevent hair balls. So, it's win-win when they can't catch rabbits.

January 23 2014 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is ridiculous. Cats ar OBLIGATE carnivores not omnivores. Sorry this is very wrong information. Cats cannot be kept healthy on a vegan diet.

January 12 2014 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Cats are carnivores, not omnivores like dogs or us. Don't like it? Don't have a cat.

January 08 2014 at 5:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
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