By Dr. Becker
PETA needs to rethink their position on this subject. And fast.
I'm certainly all for the ethical treatment of animals, but there is nothing ethical about forcing a vegan or vegetarian diet on an animal designed by nature to be an obligate carnivore.
There are powers in the world greater than man (or woman), and one of them is nature. Nature dictates to us, not the other way around.
Definition of an Obligate Carnivore
From New World Encyclopedia:
An obligate carnivore (or true carnivore) is an animal that must eat meat in order to thrive (Syufy 2008). They may eat other foods, such as fruits, honey, grains, and so forth, but meat must be included in their diet. True carnivores lack the physiology required for the efficient digestion of vegetable matter, and, in fact, some carnivorous mammals eat vegetation specifically as an emetic. The domestic cat is a prime example of an obligate carnivore, as are all of the other felids (Pierson 2008).
And a slight variation, from Wikipedia:
Obligate or true carnivores depend solely on the nutrients found in animal flesh for their survival. While they may consume small amounts of plant material, they lack the physiology required for the efficient digestion of vegetable matter and, in fact, some carnivorous mammals eat vegetation specifically as an emetic. The domestic cat is a prime example of an obligate carnivore, as are all of the other felids. The ability to produce synthetic forms of nutrients such as taurine in the lab has allowed feed manufacturers to formulate foods for carnivores (zoo animals and pets) with varying amounts of plant material.
Carnivores are animals that eat flesh. They have large, sharp canine teeth, big brains, and forelimbs designed to spring at prey.
Not all flesh-eating animals are obligate carnivores. In fact, most aren't. But your furry feline companion certainly is.
Obligate carnivores can neither digest plant-based foods efficiently, nor do those foods contain the nutrients felines require to be healthy.
Why Your Cat Needs Animal-Based Protein
The protein in animal tissue has what is known as a complete amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Proteins derived from plants don't contain all the amino acids critical for the health of an obligate carnivore.
You have the physiological ability to turn plant proteins into the missing pieces needed for a complete amino acid profile. Your cat's body isn't equipped to do this.
One of the amino acids missing in plants is taurine. Taurine is found in animal muscle meat, especially the heart and liver. Taurine deficiency causes serious health problems in kitties, including blindness and heart disease. Feeding a cat a taurine-deficient vegetarian diet, then supplementing with a taurine pill is similar, in my book, to eating iceberg lettuce as your sole food source and taking a synthetic multivitamin. It doesn't balance out.
Why Your Cat Can't Process Carbohydrates
Another indicator your cat is designed to eat meat and not carbohydrates is that her body doesn't produce the enzymes needed to digest carbs.
The only carbs cats in the wild eat are already digested by their prey. When a wild feline eats a prey animal, the stomach contents of the prey contain a certain amount of already digested carbohydrates.
Your cat's digestive system isn't designed to break down vegetables to release the nutrients they provide.
Omnivores and herbivores have slower digestion, but food passes quickly (within hours) through the GI tract of an obligate carnivore. That's why your kitty is built to eat relatively small amounts of highly digestible, energy packed food that provides optimal levels of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. In other words, animal meat.
Veggies just don't fill the bill when it comes to feline nourishment.
The Quality of the Protein You Feed Your Cat is Also Important
The biologic value of a type of protein is its available amino acid content. Better quality proteins have higher biologic values. Proteins with a high biologic value are easier for the body to digest and absorb. Eggs, for example, have the highest biologic value of any food.
At the other end of the spectrum are wholly indigestible proteins like snouts, beaks, feet and tails. They are entirely protein, but your pet's body won't get much if any nutritional value from them.
There are also foods high in sources of protein that are not species-appropriate for cats. Soy and corn are examples.
So if you buy commercial pet food for your cat, it's important to understand which foods are the most species-appropriate. You want a formula that contains a specific type of meat (human grade is highly preferable), high moisture content, no grains, and no dangerous additives or preservatives.
Feed Your Cat Like a Carnivore … Please!
I certainly understand and appreciate the personal decision many people make to adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. I am a vegetarian myself. But pushing my personal philosophy on another species is not appropriate.
I cannot under any circumstances condone forcing a similar decision onto a pet cat who is entirely dependent on her human for survival.
If your kitty lived in the wild and made her own dining decisions, her natural instincts would propel her to hunt and eat prey animals – the food most biologically suited to her. She would know 'by heart' to avoid plant-based foods.
Cats and dogs are carnivores, but other types of pets are not. For anyone adamantly opposed to feeding animal meat, there is the option of keeping vegetarian pets rather than carnivorous ones.
Nature has programmed your cat's body to be nourished by meat. Depriving her of the very food she needs to thrive is not, in my opinion, a responsible choice.