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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Comments on "Can your dog or cat become a vegetarian?"

doglover February 20, 2014 | 12:31 PM

This article says they "can" and it's "safe" but it doesn't even attempt to address "WHY"! As a devoted dog owner I look for the healthiest way to feed my dog. not the most convenient. not the one that relates to how I eat - the healthiest for my dog's nutritional needs, maintenance, anti-disease if possible, and obviously longevity. So this article was beyond useless.

Elle November 01, 2013 | 3:44 PM

My cats body is drawn to pea soups she can sense what's good for her and what's not

Vanessa October 18, 2013 | 6:33 PM

You may want to do some research before having someone (who is clearly biased) give out information to people. Yes, there are many vegetarian/vegan diets out there, but few people know that there is little to no legislation regarding pet food. Anybody can start a company regardless of whether it is a properly balanced diet. Also, as a few people mentionned cats are OBLIGATE carnivores which means they NEED meat or else they can have vitamin deficiencies and compensating those with supplements is VERY tricky.

DIDI September 25, 2013 | 3:18 PM

For goodness' sake, are you supposed to be a vet? Apparently, you are a "theologian"!Carnivores have short intestines and can never, never digest vegetable fibres! That is why they eat grass - they can't digest it and it cleans out their stomachs. Eat whatever you want to, that's your business - but stop spreading stupidity on the net.

kitty August 13, 2013 | 2:44 PM

You are a disgusting hypocrite. You claim to love animals, yet you want to impose your human ethics on an obligate carnivore animal like cats. You advocate risking cats' lives and slowly killing them at worst and at best experimenting on them. None of these commercial vegan cat foods have been shown to be nutritionally complete even if they claim to be. In fact a 2004 AVMA study found two of them deficient in many nutrients. Even if they added some of those, there are no long term health studies to prove they are safe; and just because some of these vitamins were added in synthetic form doesn't mean cats can utilize them. Sure most diets add taurine, but cats need animal protein as well as a number of nutrients. They cannot digest veggies, they lack enzymes to synthesize many nutrients as we do. All these diets are are vegetable matter than cats can't digest i.e. filler and everything a cat needs added in synthetic form plus maybe some artificial flavor. Can some cats survive on it? Sure, many humans can survive on a diet of coca cola and pizza, but you wouldn't consider it healthy, would you? Even if you add a bunch of artificial vitamins and minerals. Your being a vegetarian is your choice. But you have no right imposing it on a carnivore animal. Get a rabbit. You are an animal abuser.

Nichole Latham June 20, 2013 | 6:37 PM

I have worked for Blue Buffalo pet food company and to be honest its not healthy for animals who has been domesticated to have a meatless diet. I would never ever suggest it for cats. Felines need the protein from fish and other meats to continue a healthy life. Soy is a huge no in dog and cat diets. Although they can digest soy, its causes major reproductive organ problems. Soy naturally has estrogens that don't go help their reproductive systems. Soy isn't all that healthy for humans either. This is a bad article and should be removed.

daisy June 16, 2013 | 12:43 AM

Your animals would never choose to be vegetarian or vegan. If you love animals don't force your human desires upon them.

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