If your cat were to live in the wild, it would certainly find a way to survive. Thankfully for them, they know exactly where their next meal is coming from—you! But in the world we live in today, there seems to be a strange phenomenon with cat owners wanting to stray away from what their cats should be eating and feeding their cats what they want them to eat. The issue with this is that your cat is an obligate carnivore. Not sure what that means exactly? Well, I’m happy to tell you, just keep reading!
So, what’s an obligate carnivore, exactly?
The term “obligate carnivore” has a rather literal meaning: your cat is obliged to be carnivorous for survival. This means that they MUST eat meat to live. All cats (Felids), including that domestic cat in your living room, are obligate carnivores.
Unlike canines, your cat’s body can’t properly break down carbohydrates in anything other than tiny amounts. And although there are some human foods that are safe for cats in minimal quantities, your cat needs to stick to an animal protein diet in order to support optimal health and necessary bodily functions.
Dr. Kathryn Primm, the resident veterinarian for iHeartCats.com and owner of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, TN, stresses the importance of your cat’s dietary restrictions and need of animal protein for survival:
“In a meat diet, the substances have been synthesized by the animal source of the meat and the cat can utilize the end product of the prey’s metabolism… People wonder if they could still make their cat vegetarian and merely supplement these substances, but the list of essential nutrients is long and varied. If you missed something, your cat could become blind, develop heart disease or die from other nutritional issues.
If you truly care about your cat, then you’ll care about the food they need in order to thrive…
Please, do not make your cats vegan, and do not subject your poor cat to your vegan beliefs. If you want to be vegan or vegetarian, more power to you! That is great. But when it comes to your cat, they do not care about animal welfare, and if they are presented between the choice of bean curd and a big juicy steak, I’m just going to let you guess which one they will gravitate to.
Fun little factoid for you on your cat’s preferred taste buds: your feline friend does not have the ability to taste sweetness. (Now if only that were true for me…)
Feline-Nutrition.com goes into detail in layman’s terms as to why this exact diet is essential to your feline’s health:
Because eating a meat-only diet provides some vitamins and fatty acids in their pre-formed state, cats and many other obligate carnivores have lost the ability to make these amino acids and vitamins in their own bodies the way herbivores or omnivores do.
But what’s even more important about your cat being an obligate carnivore is the dangers you can impose on them should you choose to ignore this common fact. Feline-Nutrition.com explains this in clear detail for cat owners:
One of the defining characteristics of an obligate carnivore is a requirement for a high amount of protein in the diet. Cats meet their blood glucose requirements from gluconeogenesis, using protein, rather than from the breakdown of carbohydrates in their diet. They are so dependent on protein that if their diet is lacking an adequate amount to supply their energy needs, they will break down their own body muscle and organs.⁸
The fact of the matter is this: unless you want to send your cat to an early grave, you must, must, must supply them with a diet that caters to their specific dietary needs. This way, the two of you can spend a long and happy life together, and you will be honoring and respecting them as a living beings with specific dietary needs. And if you ever meet anyone who tells you that they feed their cat a vegan diet, please, by all means, tell them they’re crazy to do so.