Vegan cats healthier than meat-eating felines, study claims

WINCHESTER, United Kingdom — Vegan diets might be healthy and trendy for people, but should you be giving your cat the same plant-based meal plan? A new study contends that the answer is yes. Researchers in the United Kingdom say vegan cats appear to be healthier than their meat-eating feline friends.

Professor Andrew Knight from the University of Winchester, a co-author of the study, explains that while many pet foods list cooked meat as the primary protein source, there’s a rising availability of products that utilize alternative sources of protein, such as plants or fungi.

Despite this, some veterinary experts have expressed reservations about vegan diets for cats, pointing out the absence of meat, eggs, and dairy. Yet, there’s limited research addressing these concerns directly.

In an effort to shed light on the health implications of vegan diets for cats, Prof. Knight and his team analyzed survey data from 1,369 cat owners. These owners were asked about the health and diet of one cat in their household, which had been fed either a vegan or meat-based diet for at least a year.

Cat eating food from a bowl
(Photo by Laura Chouette)

Out of the participants, approximately nine percent reported feeding their cat a vegan diet, while the remainder opted for meat-based diets. Once variables like the cat’s age and neuter status were accounted for, the results indicated that vegan diets had a link to fewer health issues, though the differences weren’t statistically significant.

REACTION: Vet Says Study ‘Far From Conclusive’

For example, Prof. Knight observed that cat owners on vegan diets generally reported fewer vet visits and less medication use. They also claimed that vets would often describe their vegan-fed cats as healthier than those on meat-based diets. However, upon further analysis, there wasn’t a statistically significant difference between the health indicators of cats from both diet groups.

The survey further delved into 22 specific health disorders. It was found that 42 percent of meat-fed cat owners reported at least one health disorder, as opposed to the 37 percent of vegan-fed cat owners.

Publishing their findings in the journal PLoS ONE, the researchers support the potential health benefits of vegan diets for cats. However, they emphasized that the actual nutrient content of the cats’ diets was not analyzed in the study.

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South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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