Owners of cats on vegan diets report healthier pets than owners of meat-eating cats
In a survey of cat owners, those who fed their cats vegan diets tended to report better health outcomes for their pets than those who provided meat-based diets, though the differences were not statistically significant. Andrew Knight of the University of Winchester, U.K., and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on September 13.
Many pet foods contain cooked meat as the primary protein source, but a growing number of available products use alternative protein sources, such as plants or fungi. Some veterinary professionals have voiced concerns that vegan diets—which lack meat, eggs, and dairy—are less healthy for cats than meat-based diets. However, limited research has examined these concerns.
To help clarify the healthfulness of vegan cat diets, Knight and colleagues analyzed survey responses from 1,369 cat owners who were asked to report about a single cat in their household that had been fed either a vegan or meat-based diet for at least one year. The survey asked participants several questions regarding the cat’s health, followed by questions about its diet. About 9% of participants reported feeding their cat a vegan diet, and the rest a meat-based diet.
After statistically accounting for other factors that could influence health—such as a cat’s age or whether it is neutered—the researchers found that participants reported that vegan diets were associated with a lower risk of several health indicators, although none of the differences were statistically significant.
For instance, compared to owners of cats on meat-based diets, owners of cats on vegan diets tended to report fewer veterinary visits, less medication use, and that their veterinarian would be more likely describe their cat as being healthier. After analysis, there was no statistically significant difference between the reported health indicators of cats on vegan diets and those on meat-based diets.
The survey also asked about 22 specific health disorders; 42% of owners of cats on meat-based diets reported at least one disorder, compared to 37% of owners of cats on vegan diets.
The researchers say their findings support the healthfulness of vegan diets for cats. They note, however, that they did not analyze the nutrient content of the cats’ diets.