By Amanda Froelich
Pet owners who feed their cats vegan diets (free of all animal products) may soon face legal repercussions in the UK. According to The Telegraph, several companies now offer plant-based cat food options. But, the lack of vital nutrients, specifically amino acids, may damage felines’ health long-term. As a result, the RSPCA says feeding a cat a vegan diet is an animal welfare issue.
Last week, a spokesperson for the RSPCA said cats could become “seriously ill” if given exclusively vegan diets. They said while dogs are omnivores and can theoretically survive on a vegetarian diet, cats are carnivores. As a result, they need meat.
“Under the Animal Welfare Act, the law requires an owner to take reasonable steps to ensure that all the pet’s needs are met,” said the spokesperson. “This includes a healthy diet, as well as providing suitable living conditions, ability to behave normally, appropriate company and protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease.”
Reportedly, the warning comes after the National Pet Show in Birmingham which occurred earlier this month. The spokesperson concluded: “Cats are strict carnivores and depend on some very specific nutrients that are found in meat including taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acid so can become seriously ill if they are fed a vegetarian or vegan diet.”
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There are several reasons cats are obligate carnivores or, need to eat meat to thrive. First, the digestive system of a cat is made to consume meat. Secondly, a cat’s senses are adapted to respond to the makeup and smell of meat. Cats also require more protein than other animals — including dogs, which is why they are obligate carnivores.
What happens when a cat doesn’t eat enough meat?
When a cat is missing essential amino acids that are acquired from eating meat, health problems can occur. For example, when the amino acid arginine is missing, a cat might exhibit symptoms of lethargy and hypersalivation. The amino acid is required to synthesize urea, a waste product that results from the breakdown of protein. Taurine is also an essential amino acid. When a cat is forced to eat a vegan diet, he/she will not receive this nutrient. As a result, they may experience serious and untreatable damage to major organs, such as the eyes and heart.
Because of these two reasons alone, it is imperative domesticated cats (and wild big cats) are given meat in their diets. This is also why pet owners who feed their felines vegan diets may face legal repercussion in the near future.
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Source: The Telegraph
IMAGE CREDIT: Anatolii Tsekhmister