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Can your dog or cat become a vegetarian?

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Is a meatless diet safe for carnivores?

Can your dog or cat be a vegetarian? We have inside info from Dr. James Peden, author of Vegetarian Cats & Dogs, on the safety and practicality of a meatless diet for your pet.

Dog eating carrot

If you've been considering transitioning your cat or dog to a meat-free diet, it may be less complicated than you think. We chatted with James Peden, author of Vegetarian Cats & Dogs, who showed us just how possible it is.

Is vegetarianism safe for pets?

It's perfectly safe for dogs and cats to become vegetarian or vegan, but there are some considerations. Peden tells us that since dogs are natural scavengers, they adapt fairly well to a freshly-prepared or commercially-available vegan diet, even exhibiting "an enthusiasm for their food that must be seen to be believed."

Cats may take a bit longer. They're obligate carnivores and prey on small animals such as birds and mammals. For them, it may be best to feed them a commercial vegan cat food to ensure they get all the proper vitamins and minerals they need, because their dietary requirements are somewhat unique. Both animals will likely need supplements.

But how do you make the transition?

It's actually pretty easy. Start by mixing the vegetarian food with what you normally feed them, gradually changing the ratio to favor the vegetarian food until no food containing meat is left.

You may meet resistance at first. PETA recommends serving it warm or using a few add-ins that may entice your pooch or kitty to get on board.

  • Soy milk
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Olive oil
  • Catnip (cats only)
  • Powdered kelp
  • Baby food (with no onions or seasonings)
  • Melon
  • Chickpeas
  • Veggie burgers

You should monitor your pet for signs of chronic gastrointestinal or skin problems (or any new health problems) carefully at first, especially if they're babes. If your pet seems at all ill, use your best judgement.

You should also consider putting your pet on supplements, like those made by Peden's company, Vegepet. They've been specially formulated with input from acclaimed scientists to bolster a pet's diet with the nutrients they need.

Above all, educate yourself. Buy Peden's book, considered by most to be the go-to guide on veganism in companion animals, and read it carefully before starting your pet on any diet. It actually has several recipes in addition to tips.

James PedenAbout James Peden

Peden became a vegetarian in 1968. After 4 years of college, majoring first in theology and then in math and science, he developed a line of fruit and nut bars called Sun Bars. The company sold over four million of these popular 100 percent fruit and nut bars, each with an inspirational message hidden inside. In 1986, he and his wife spent a year researching the nutrient requirements for cats and then dogs. The results were Vegecat and Vegedog supplements. For the first time they made it possible for cats to "go vegetarian."

More on feeding your pet

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Homemade healthy dog food recipe
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