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Can My Pet Be a Vegetarian?

Updated on December 16, 2014
Maggie Bonham profile image

Maggie Bonham, or Margaret H. Bonham, is a multiple award-winning pet author and expert. She has written more than 20 books on pets.

You're a vegetarian or a vegan, and you're thinking that you'd like to share your lifestyle with your pet. If you have a pet that is a natural herbivore, such as a rabbit, goat, or horse, then this isn't a problem. But what about cats and dogs? Is this a good idea and is it safe? You may get many conflicting responses if you search for your answers on the internet. Here are five things to consider before taking the vegetarian step with your dog or cat.

1. Dogs and cats aren't naturally vegetarians. The wild counterpart to dogs, namely wolves, and cats, the African Wildcat, are carnivores. Wolves will kill and eat elk, deer, moose, and buffalo, but will also eat smaller prey. Sure, wolves eat some stomach contents of the ruminants they kill, but they receive most of their nutrition from animal sources. African Wildcats eat mice, rats, wild gerbils hares, insects, rabbits, lizards and birds. If you look at the teeth of your cat and dog, you'll find them adept at cutting and tearing flesh, not biting off grass or rooting for vegetables. Their stomachs and intestines are not designed to process large amounts of vegetable matter.

2. Dogs and cats need vitamins A and D from animal sources. Dogs and cats need vitamin D and vitamin A from animal sources, not plant sources. Vitamin D3 can only be found in animal products; cats can't process vitamin A from beta carotene and must get it from animal sources.

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3. Cats need taurine from animal sources. While dogs can create taurine if fed the right percentage of amino acids, cats cannot and need taurine in their diets from meat. Taurine deficiency in cats can lead to blindness, reproductive problems, and heart problems.

4. Cats can't process niacin from tryptophan, thus leading to a niacin deficiency if not fed niacin from an animal source. Cats also require arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that is only found in animal products. Without arachidonic acid, cats will develop skin problems and reproductive problems.

5. Supplements come from animal products. If you're tempted to still feed vegetarian or vegan, you're using animal products anyway to supplement your pet's food. The synthesized versions must come from sources your pet can use, which means you're negating the reason why you're feeding vegetarian or vegan in the first place.

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