A top animal welfare charity has warned cat owners they could be prosecuted for feeding their pets vegan food. The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals said it could be harmful to the cat and animal cruelty charges could be brought against owners.
The UK animal rescue charity said those with cats could end up making their pet “seriously ill” by placing them on exclusively plant-based diets—and potentially risk them getting a criminal record.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA said that while dogs are omnivores and could theoretically survive on a well-balance vegetarian diet, cats are carnivores and need meat to thrive. The spokesperson said: “Under the Animal Welfare Act, the law requires an owner to take reasonable steps to ensure that all the pet’s needs are met. This includes a healthy diet, as well as providing suitable living conditions, ability to behave normally, appropriate company and protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease.”
In the worst cases where cats are so malnourished, guidelines say owners could face a hefty fine or even a jail sentence if convicted under the Animal Welfare Act.
One in six pet food suppliers has branched out into supplying vegan or vegetarian food for animals.
The warning comes after the National Pet Show in Birmingham, UK, showcased the latest in vegan pet food and non-meat alternatives, as owners look to spread their ethical diets onto their pets too.
The spokesman for the RSPCA added: “Cats are strict carnivores and depend on some very specific nutrients that are found in meat including taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acid so can become seriously ill if they are fed a vegetarian or vegan diet.”
A world-renowned expert on animal revealed she had treated one cat that was so weak from the strict vegan diet that its owner was feeding it that it was unable to stand.
Marge Chandler, a clinical nutritionist based in Glasgow, Scotland, and university lecturer, said she had to hospitalize the animal, which was severely under-sized and had a substantial amount of its fur missing.
She then refused to release it until the owner agreed to feed it a diet that included meat. She said it is “crucial” a cat’s diet includes at least 20 percent meat protein.
She said: “Feeding an inappropriate or incomplete diet that doesn’t provide the animal with the nutrients its need is a welfare issue – no matter what diet it is.” Despite this advice, a number of companies selling vegan and vegetarian pet food have sprung up in recent years to cater for the demand in meat-free pet food.
These products use vegetable protein derived from soya, wheat, maize, rice and beet pulp substituted with synthetic vitamins and amino acids naturally found in meat.