It won't come as a surprise to anyone to hear that there has been a meteoric rise in demand for vegan products in recent years. You only have to walk around your local supermarket to see an ever-increasing range of products suitable for vegans. Gone are the days when options for non-meat eaters were hidden away on a tiny shelf in a dark corner at the back of our supermarkets. In fact, The Vegan Society says that in 2017 demand for meat-free food for humans in the UK increased by 987% and that the number of vegans in Great Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2018.
Noggins & Binkles was founded in 2018 to provide cat and dog owners with luxury, ethical and, most importantly, vegan cat and dog accessories including cat collars, dog collars, dog leads, cat harnesses, cat leads, ID tags and cat toys. We knew that some cat and dog owners, like us, were looking to move away from animal-based materials such as leather when choosing a cat or dog accessory. We work hard to make sure that our products do not include any animal products and this got us wondering whether our two rescue cats, Mr Noggins and Mr Binkles could or should eat a vegan diet.
A collection of our vegan dog collars in vegan cork 'leather' and unique cotton and linen fabrics
It is only normal, therefore, for other cat and dog owners to ask themselves whether their cats and dogs can be vegan. Here at Noggins & Binkles, we do not believe that it is our role to tell our customers whether they should or should not feed a vegan diet to their furry friends because everyone has a different view on this much-debated topic. However, we do think that pet owners may be interested to understand a little bit more about the different arguments that are out there so that they can decide for themselves.
The first question you might ask yourself is whether the same arguments and principles apply to both dogs and cats. The fact is that they don't and this will have a bearing on what diet you choose for your cat or dog. One of the key distinctions between cats and dogs when it comes to diet is that cats are described as "obligate carnivores" whilst dogs are described as "omnivores". Simply put, it is believed that cats need meat in their diet because there are certain nutrients present in meat which a cat's body is believed to be unable to make itself whilst dogs are known to be able digest both meat and plant based foods and in doing so it is thought that dogs can get the right nutrients from either a meat or plant based diet. For both cats and dogs, however, just like humans, significant care and attention needs to be given to your furry friend's nutritional requirements. When thinking about what to feed your pet, it is worth thinking about what the non-domestic ancestors of your cat or dog might have eaten in the wild. The fact is that both cats and dogs would have eaten meat in the wild. However, that is not to say that it is impossible to feed your dog or cat a diet that does not include meat.
Can Cats Be Vegan?
From everything that we have read, it seems that the most generally accepted conclusion is that it is more difficult to feed a vegan diet to cats than it is to dogs. When it comes to cats, being an obligate carnivore makes it more difficult to find a way to feed your cat a vegan diet. However, there a number of pet food manufacturers, including Benevo, who say that they have brought together identical nutrients from non-animal sources in their range of vegan cat foods. Benevo is approved by both the Vegetarian Society and the Vegan Society and also has some impressive ethical credentials from organisations like PETA and the Ethical Consumer Magazine. However, it’s worth noting that with cats, even if you do decide to feed them a vegan diet at home, if they are outdoor cats, it is likely that they will be doing what they naturally do and will be hunting for birds and insects. Noggins & Binkles are indoor cats now that we live in London, but when they used to go out on their harnesses in Seychelles and Mauritius, we would always make sure they were wearing a breakaway safety cat collar with a bell to warn birds and lizards that there was an incoming hunting cat! Cat collars with bells are recommended by International Cat Care who gave advice to the RSPB when they did a study on whether bells on cat collars can reduce the number of animals caught by cats and they found that a bell on a cat collar can reduce the number of successful hunts from a third to a half, so it’s definitely worth including a bell on your cat’s collar, especially if they are outdoor cats. International Cat Care also has some helpful tips on their website, such as making sure bird tables are not easily accessible to cats.
Binkles wearing his turquoise vegan cork 'leather' breakaway safety cat collar with solid brass bell
Can Dogs Be Vegan?
When it comes to dogs, vegan food options are more numerous. An important part of being successful in feeding your dog a vegan diet is ensuring that, just like humans, your dog eats a balanced and healthy diet which includes all of the right nutrients and food groups associated with good health. The good news is that a number of pet food manufacturers have done the hard work for you and produce vegan dog food that they say contains all of the relevant nutrients. PETA, the largest animal rights organization in the world, has identified a few vegan dog foods that they say can help to keep your dog happy and healthy.
Whether or not you decide it is right for you to move your cat or dog onto a vegan diet, the one thing that we should all be able to agree on is that both cats and dogs, just like humans, have certain nutritional requirements that need to be met and that these nutritional requirements can be met in a number of ways. We recommend that whatever diet you choose for your pets, you focus on ensuring that your furry friend gets the right nutritional balance and that the pet food that you buy is made by manufacturers who source good quality ingredients from ethical suppliers. We recognise that not everyone can afford to feed their cats and dogs luxury brands and that suitable vegan options are not readily available everywhere so it is important to be practical in the choices that you make and do the best that you can to deliver the right diet to your furry friend. If you do decide to make any changes to your cat or dog’s diet, we would recommend consulting your vet to make sure they are getting the right balance of nutrients.
For those of you who are wondering, both Mr Noggins and Mr Binkles grew up in countries where it was not possible to buy good quality pet food, let alone vegan pet food. As a result, their diet consisted of home-cooked local fish and a small amount of organic dried cat food brought back from the UK. Since moving back to the UK, and in order not to change their dietary habits, Mr Noggins and Binkles continue to eat this diet, which their humans believe provide them with the right nutritional balance. So as you can see it really is a personal choice.