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Many people choose to be vegans and for all the right reasons and it could be a great choice of diets for them. However, cat owners often ask whether they could feed their cats a vegan diet too and if it would be suitable for them. The answer to this question is that feeding a cat a vegan diet would not be the ideal choice because it would not provide all right nutrients a cat needs in order to remain healthy.
Cats are carnivores and to remain healthy they therefore need to have meat in their diets. They also boast very specific nutrient requirements and these can only be supplied through them eating good quality meat. These all-important nutrients are not found in plants and although you may think it is just a question of supplying enough protein in a cat's diet and that it doesn't matter where the protein is sourced from, you would be wrong.
In truth there are many types of protein and each one is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Each and every different type of protein needs specific types of amino acids which basically means that no one protein is the same as another and the same can be said of amino acids.
One specific amino acid a cat needs in their diet is taurine and if there is not enough of this provided, our feline friends can suffer from heart disease, they can develop issues with their sight and experience a heap of other health issues to boot. Cats are unable to synthesise taurine in their own bodies as such it has to be supplied to them through their diets. Taurine is not found in plants so therefore a vegan diet would be lacking in this valuable amino acid. There is a synthetic source of taurine available but the only natural source of it for cats is in meat.
As such where our feline friends are concerned, the source of their protein is crucial to their well being. Cats in fact, need a lot more protein in their diets than other animals which includes people and dogs. Along with this, they need specific proteins and as such very specific amino acids which includes the following:
All of these amino acids have to be provided in the right quantities for a cat to stay healthy and if they are not, our feline friends can get very ill indeed. But plants do not provide other things that cats need which includes valuable vitamins listed below:
Exposure to light provides humans with the much needed Vitamin D but cats cannot obtain the vitamin in the same way so the vitamin needs to be provided in their diet. Vitamin D is found in fish and meats but it is rarely found in plant sources. Where Vitamin A is concerned, this too needs to be supplied in a cat's diet because cats are unable to synthesise it from beta-carotene which other animals are able to do. Lastly, cats need to be fed a diet that includes arachidonic acid because it's a fatty acid that's essential to them and it can only be found in meat and not in plants.
Although it could be seen as perfectly natural for someone to want to make the same sort of lifestyle choices for their pets, owning a cat would not be the best choice to share a life with if you are a vegan and would like for your pet to be vegan too. However, there are other animals which make great pets and which can thrive on a vegan diet so all is not lost, it's just that cats cannot survive and remain healthy without meat in their diets.
Because our feline friends have such a unique dietary needs, they would not be able to live on a vegan diet without supplementing a synthetic form of the nutrients they need to remain healthy. With this said, even if you do supplement their diet with the needed nutrients and proteins, you would need to get the amounts absolutely right which is extremely hard to do. If incorrect levels are fed to our feline friends, it could prove dangerous to their well being. So the question of whether a cat can survive on a vegan diet or not, the answer is definitely not because they need to be fed meat because they are obligate carnivores.
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