The global consumption of pet food is huge and continues to rise. For example, according to one estimate, the global pet population in 2018 included around 373 million cats as well as 471 million dogs, which is also driving extensive development of new pet food products or pet snacks. These include, for example, diets based on novel protein sources, in vitro meat products or raw meat diets.
How healthy is a vegan diet for cats?
While the British Veterinary Association claimed in 2020 that cats were pure carnivores and should not be fed a vegan or vegetarian diet, a new study from “PLOS ONE” now shows that cats fed a vegan diet are just as healthy as cats whose diet consists of meat.
Vegan diet versus meat diet
For the current study, a team from the University of Winchester in England surveyed a total of 1369 cat owners, nine percent of whom were fed a vegan diet and the remaining cats a meat-based diet. In addition, they also asked the owners about 22 specific health conditions. According to the survey, 42 percent of cat owners reported that their meat-fed animals suffered from at least one of the listed disorders, whereas only 37 percent of vegan-fed animals had a health disorder. In addition, according to this study, owners of vegan-fed cats also had to administer less medication to their pets. However, the values recorded by the survey are not statistically significant and therefore have relatively little significance. Feeding trials are nevertheless considered the gold standard for determining the nutritional compatibility of new products in this way.
To date, very few studies have addressed this issue. For example, Dodd et al. published a survey of 1325 cat owners in 2021, 1026 of whom reported on their cats’ diets. Eighteen percent of these cats were on a vegan diet, and their owners reported that they were in good health and had ideal body condition. Further results were also provided by a 2014 study conducted with 59 cat guardians whose animals were also fed a vegan diet, in Switzerland, Germany as well as Austria. These reported a shinier and healthier coat after switching their meat-based diet to a vegan one. Others noticed an improved smell from their animals as well as an improvement in stool volume or consistency. The first long-term study looking at the health of a vegetarian cat population was by Wakefield and colleagues, published in 2006, and again most owners described their cats as healthy.