...Not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at...

Vegan Cats

So after much thought and research, I've decided not to force my vegan lifestyle upon my cats. I know I will get crap for this one way or the other, but I take solace in the fact that most of you folks who are gonna tell me "I'm not doing all I can" and "I'm not being consistent" are the same folks who, had I said I've decided that I AM going to make my cats eat vegan, would've told me it's wrong to force an "unnatural lifestyle upon them." Translation: either way I wouldn't've "won" with many of you. So suck it. ; ) Plus, if you are a meat-eater and *do* argue that I should be forcing them to eat vegan, realize that you arguing against your own lifestyle. So double suck it. =) And really, my vegan agenda shouldn't be one that I'm setting out on just to please other people anyways. That's not the point of it. I constantly have to remind myself of this when various meat-eating folks email me/inform me of various areas in which I'm failing in my "vegan duties." Yes, there are probably things that I'm still using/consuming that I'm not aware are not vegan. So much of the stuff we use to function on a daily basis isn't vegan (paints, tires, etc.). There is really no way to eliminate EVERYTHING animal-product-related from one's lifestyle. And even once you think you have, you're bound to find out something NEW you didn't realize wasn't vegan. It's not a matter of living up to the picky-ooney standards of folks who aren't making any effort in the first place. It's a matter of doing as much as possible. And it's a matter of educating yourself as much as you can on the subject matter and then using this knowledge to make the most informed decisions possible. It's a matter of doing the best you can do (in informing yourself on the matter and making knowledgeable decisions) and realizing that this best *is* helping out, and that perfection is NEVER attainable anyways, so better some than none.

But why not vegan though? That's the question. I've never been one to think that it's ok to eat fish but it's not ok to eat chicken and beef, simply because of the size of the animal and its more complex nervous system (and alleged differences when it comes to their capacity for suffering). To me, saying that it's ok to eat one but not another is its own weird world of speciesism. And if there's even the slight chance that you *might* be causing an animal to suffer, why take the chance? Maybe fish don't experience pain the same way that cows do, but I am not a fish so I do not know how they experience pain. And not eating fish is no skin off my back, so why take the chance that I could be causing them to suffer when I could just not eat them and eliminate that possibility? And yet, I've decided that I am going to continue to let my cats eat meat. And I've decided to draw lines on what they will be eating in the exact same way which I just criticized. My cats currently eat and will continue to eat moist food that is made solely of fish and vegetable products (and treats of the same), and they eat a dry food that is organic and made from free-range chickens and vegetable products (Pet Promise).

But why? Why why why? Why not feed them a vegan diet and stay consistent with my own moral ideals?

If I had a dog, I think I would probably feed it a vegan diet. Dogs are omnivorous. This makes it much easier to switch them over to a vegan lifestyle. Cats, however, are carnivorous:

"There is a huge difference in dogs’ and cats’ physiological, behavioural and dietary habits. Dogs evolved from an omnivorous species while cats evolved from a strictly carnivorous diet. The shorter gastrointestinal tract of the cat results in a rapid rate of passage, and therefore lower digestibility, of foods than the dog. Because of this there are many very special needs in a cat’s diet.

These differences are the cat’s unique energy and glucose metabolism, higher protein requirement, need for the amino acid, taurine, sensitivity to a deficiency of the amino acid, arginine, inability to convert beta-carotene to active vitamin A, the inability to convert the amino acid, tryptophan, to niacin and the inability to convert linoleic acid effectively into essential long-chain fatty acids. This is why many vets and nutritionists say cats cannot be vegan but dogs can if given a nutritionally balanced diet."{1}

There are vegan cat food sites that, while not *encouraging* a diet of meat for cats, are actually telling people that it may be necessary to do so (read more at vegancats.com). Why is this? Because cats need a daily dietary source of the amino acid taurine (which is naturally occuring in animal tissues). Deficiency can lead to degenerative heart disease and blindness, among various other things.{2}{3} Vegan cat foods often contain synthetic sources of taurine, but most places warn about it since a lack of taurine in a cat's diet can lead to horrible effects (as mentioned above). Unlike dogs and human beings, apparently cats also cannot synthesize Vitamin A from plant sources, and a deficiency in this area can cause hearing and sight problems.{2}{3}{4} Most vegan cat food places also warn that vegan cats need to be closely monitored--mainly for urinary tract problems due to a difference between their processing of meat/vegetable proteins. So it is recommended that a vegan cat food diet should include a) as much water as possible, b) added enzymes pH in every meal, and c) having your cats urine pH tested regularly to make sure that they are not suffering from urinary tract problems.{4} If a vegan cat starts having crystals form in the urine, then you also need to start supplementing their diet with methionine as well.{4} All this seems to me to add up to a very unnatural lifestyle for a cat. If you need to constantly and closely monitor your pets for health problems because of their diet and if the risks seem to highly outweigh the benefits, I find myself hard-pressed to want to force such a diet upon my pets.

Many vegans argue that cats are being forced to live an unnatural lifestyle anyways (indoor cats are kept indoors all day, they are forced to eat processed meat, etc.) and so since they are already living an unnatural lifestyle, it doesn't make a big difference to make it more unnatural by hoisting a vegan diet on them. This logic doesn't make sense to me, and I don't find it to be a justifiable reason to make a cat's diet even more unnatural. If an animal is suffering, you wouldn't say, "Ah well. The animal is already suffering, so that makes it ok to cause them to suffer more." Vegans would find this attitude detestable. You'd say, "Well, this animal is suffering already. So how can we reduce this suffering rather than increase it more?" This same logic seems to me to apply to a domestic animal's way of living as well--keeping an animal as a pet is perhaps an unnatural thing. But that doesn't mean that, ah well, since it's already unnatural, why not make it more unnatural? It means that, yes, it *is* an unnatural thing, but knowing that, how can we keep it as natural as possible? And to me, feeding an animal a diet that is far-removed from their natural carnivorous lifestyle to the point that they need to be monitored for the sake of their own safety is not keeping their lifestyle as natural as possible. Of course processed meat is not the healthiest and most ideal of meats. But to me, it seems to be more natural than no meat at all.

Vegans may also argue that I am promoting one type of animal's suffering over another's--a farm animal's over a domestic animal's. And yes, perhaps they are right. But I see this decision as a no-win situation--no matter what decision I make, there is the potential for suffering. And so, yes, I am choosing to safeguard the well-being of these two specific animals over the well-being of various non-specific animals. Perhaps this is not right, but in a no-win situation, it is (to me) the lesser of two evils. The well-being of these two specific animals (my cats) has been entrusted to me, and they are my immediate responsibility, so in a situation where there is the potential for suffering no matter what choice I make, it is difficult for me *not* to choose to reduce their suffering over another animal's. If you had to choose between investing money in reducing the suffering of some child you didn't know in, say, India and investing the money to reduce the suffering of your own children, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would argue that doing the former makes the most sense. In fact, the majority of people would probably argue that it is your responsibility and duty to choose the latter. Your own children are *your* responsibility, and you'd be neglecting your duties to them by placing the well-being of others' over their own.

This is how I see it at least.

I completely understand the logic behind a vegan's choice to raise their pets vegan. It is consistent with their philosophical outlook on factory-farming/meat consumption. It is also viewed by some folks as healthier for domestic animals. And so if that's the conclusion you've reached after educating yourself on the matter, it makes sense to me and I have little problem with that, since it seems to me to be a no-win situation regardless. But based on research and much thought, it is not something I want to force upon my cats. This is an ethical choice that I've made which many vegans (and many meat-eaters perhaps) will disagree with me on. It is not a decision I am happy about. But it is an informed choice, and despite the fact that it is a choice that doesn't make me happy, it seems to be the less detrimental after weighing all the pros and cons.

And now you may commence to yell at me as you see fit. =)




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