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Can Cats Be Vegan?

Studies show plant-based pet foods can minimize a dog’s carbon paw print. But what about felines? Can cats be vegans, with a lower impact on the environment too? A new study might be able to answer that question.

Plant-Based Dogs and Cats Could Be the Way of the Future

vegan cat diets
Can cats eat plants only? (Image by Andréas BRUN on Unsplash)

Most dogs can technically eat anything from plants to pork. They are scavengers by design who can swing from carnivore to plant-based, usually without a problem. But scientific literature has always told us that cats are obligate carnivores who only thrive on animal meats.

So when this plant-based vegan cat diet study was released in January, it drew tons of interest. The results of this University of Guelph feline diet study shows that yes, cats do well on a plant-based (PB) diet — at least, according to their humans.

Cat owner perception of the health and wellness of cats does not appear to be adversely affected by being fed a plant-based diet. Contrary to expectations, owners perceived no body system or disorder to be at particular risk when feeding a plant-based diet to cats. A cross-sectional study of owner-reported health in Canadian and American cats fed meat- and plant-based diets

Pet Parents Show Their Cats Can Be Vegan

Plant-based cat parents’ feedback included the following conclusions:

  • Plant-based cats’ life spans were about the same as cats who ate meat based (MB) diets. Meat-free cats live about the same amount of time as any domestic cat.
  • The PB cat parents report significantly fewer health issues than those experienced by carnivore cats.
  • Most surprisingly: PB vegan cats did not experience more health disorders (like gastrointestinal problems and urinary tract disease). These issues were once assumed to be more prevalent in cats who eat nutritionally deficient diets, versus their meat-eating pals.
plant based cat diet study
A cross-sectional study of owner-reported health in Canadian and American cats fed meat- and plant-based diets

At first glance, it does appear that yes, cats can be vegan (or rather, plant-based eaters). But The Skept Vet asks us to slow down and consider how the study was conducted before making that assumption.

Did You Miss This Fact Too?

Check out this review of the study, “Plant-based vs Meat-based Diets for Cats: Which is Healthier?” Skept Vet pointed out a very important aspect that we missed in our excitement:

The study is a good one that reviews owner beliefs about vegan cat diets. But Skept Vet points out that we should not jump to the conclusion that cats can exist on plants alone. There’s a lot of data still needed to find out.

As the authors suggest, prospective, blinded, randomized feeding studies would be needed to allow any strong conclusions about whether or not plant-based diets are safe and healthy for cats.  — Skept Vet

We are huge fans of plant-based pet food diets for dogs. But for now, this study shows that more research is needed to find out if cats can be vegans without any problems. This is the type of complex, expensive research that groups like the Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute (CANWI) are trying to tackle (and can certainly use our financial support to make this one happen!).

Does your Tripawd cat eat a plant-based diet?

If your cat is eating a plant-based diet, we would love to hear about it. Comment and let us know the details!



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