In general, it is much easier to provide vegetarian and vegan diets for dogs than for cats. Although biologically omnivores, cats can be vegetarians and vegans as long as they receive all the necessary nutrients and their health is carefully monitored. Particular attention should be paid to the health of the urethra.
Cats need the same nine essential amino acids as all mammals. However, along with this, cats need arginine and taurine. Taurine is naturally present in meat, but can also be synthetic. Not getting enough taurine can put cats at risk for blindness and dilated cardiomyopathy (a specific heart disease).
There is one serious problem that even cats that receive a complete plant-based diet can face. This is an inflammatory disease of the lower urinary tract that most often occurs when tripel phosphate crystals or stones form in the urine resulting from excessive urine alkalinization. The cause of the disease can also be a diet containing excess magnesium. As a rule, cats are more likely to experience these problems, not cats. The formation of crystals in the urine of pets can be prevented by giving them adequate amounts of water, canned food (with liquids), diluting dry food with water, or adding a pinch of salt to the food to make the cat thirsty.
The excessive alkalinization of the urine of vegan cats is associated with high alkaline levels of plant proteins, in contrast to the high acidity of meat products. When urine becomes too alkaline, there is a risk of tripel phosphate crystals and stones forming in the urine.
Monoclinic oxalate lime stones can also form in the urine, but this occurs when the urine is excessively acidic rather than alkaline. These stones can cause irritation and urinary tract infections. In this case, you need to contact your veterinarian. Cats that form these crystals or stones in their urine suffer more than just irritation or infection—their urethra may become so blocked that the cat is unable to urinate.
This is a serious life threat and requires veterinary intervention. In such cases, a urinary catheter and intravenous fluid therapy are used, along with painkillers and antibiotics.
These cats often require hospitalization. In particularly serious cases, a surgical procedure known as a perineal urethrostomy may be needed. This is a complex and expensive procedure.
A couple of weeks after the cat was switched to a plant-based diet, it should be taken to the veterinarian, and then once a month to check the acid-base balance of the urine. If the urine is too alkaline, start giving the cat oxidizing agents such as methionine, vitamin C, and sodium hydrogen bisulfate. There are natural oxidizing foods such as asparagus, chickpeas, brown rice, oats, beans, corn, Brussels sprouts, white gauze, most nuts (except almonds and coconuts), grains (but not millet), and wheat gluten (used for cooking). pads of dry cat food).
When the problem with the acid-base balance is solved, it is necessary to check the urine at least once a year. If your cat experiences pain or tension while using the litter box, contact your veterinarian immediately. Only give acidic foods to your cat when they really need them, as hyperacidity can lead to the formation of calcium oxalate stones.
Many cats are very picky when it comes to food. While vegan meat substitutes and nutritional flavoring yeast are attractive to many cats, there are individuals who reject these foods.
Cats that are anorexic for a long time are at risk of developing hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver syndrome). This is a serious disease that requires the attention of a veterinarian. The transition from a meat to a plant-based diet should be gradual. The owner of a cat needs patience. It can be difficult for a cat to give up their usual food, since most commercial cat products contain offal chicken, which “enriches” their taste.
On the positive side, many cats that are put on a plant-based diet are in excellent health, alert, have glossy fur, and are less likely to experience problems like skin allergies and other illnesses.
Commercial vegan cat food is not always optimal as it may lack some important nutrients such as methionine, taurine, arachidonic acid, vitamin B6 and niacin.
Food companies claim that thousands of cats eating their products are healthy, which begs the question: how is this possible if nutrition based on such food is inadequate?
Further research on this issue and more stringent product quality control measures are needed. Cat owners should study the benefits and risks of different diets and monitor the quality of their pets’ food.