Updated March 6, 2024

There are several companies and websites that promote vegetarian (no meat or fish) or even vegan (no animal products at all) diets for cats. These products appeal to people who have chosen a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons, and want to apply the same principles to their cats.

As a feline veterinarian, I absolutely do not recommend trying to turn your cat into a vegetarian or vegan, but if you are determined to do so, here is my best guidance for you.


The three most commonly used products are: Wysong Vegan, Vege-Cat, Benovo, and Evolution. There is also an Italian-made food, Ami-Cat, that our European friends are using and is .

Wysong Vegan clearly states that it is a supplement to be used with meat (either fresh or canned). It is not complete by itself. The website and packaging clearly state this, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t read the label very carefully. Please be aware that despite the name, this is not a vegan cat food! Using it alone will cause severe nutritional deficiencies.

Vege-Cat comes in a supplement that you can add to other foods, and in a kibble mix that you make at home. Because of the increased risk of urinary tract disease in vegetarian and vegan cats, Vegecat products contain a urinary acidifier (methionine) to help prevent urinary tract problems; and they also produce a separate supplement that amplifies this effect. James Peden and HOANA (Harbingers of a New Age) were the original pioneers of vegan pet products. Their products are thoughtfully produced and time-tested, but are not adequate for kittens, or for pregnant or nursing queens,. The book “Vegetarian Cats and Dogs” is an eye-opener.

Ami-Cat: Many cat guardians praise this food, but it is nearly 50% carbohydrate; not great for cats who rely on animal protein for optimal health. However, since it is produced in Italy, which does not allow pre-harvest application of glyphosate (and the corn is specifically non-GMO), it is probably the best choice among poor options.

Benovo is the newest vegan pet food in the U.S. market. Its kibbles share their high carb, high ash, dehydrating features with the others. They do have a canned version intended for both dogs and cats, which is a red flag in my book.

Evolution makes canned and dry vegan foods for dogs and cats. Of course, it is very high in carbohydrate, It relies on industrial seed oils for fat.  The website claims its foods are nutritionally complete and GMO free. However, analysis of its canned cat food found it to be deficient in taurine, methionine, arachidonic acid, vitamins A, B6 and niacin, calcium, phosphorus, and total protein. Rather than attempt to improve the food, the company’s owner claimed the study was flawed.

Evolution operates in an ethical gray area. Evolution’s owner illegally reproduced and distributed copyrighted literature from a non-profit animal rights organization. Numerous requests and demands  to stop using its materials were ignored until legal action was imminent. its website makes outrageous claims about extending pets’ lifespans that have no scientific basis. Its claims about environmental impact are also vastly exaggerated.

Cats and Non-Meat Diets

Cats, of course, were designed by nature to be exclusively carnivorous. The cat’s body has many specific evolutionary adaptations to its expected diet of prey consisting mostly of protein, fat and moisture. While cats have managed, in general, to adapt to grain-based commercial foods, it is clear from many scientific studies that carbohydrate-based diets are in no way optimal for the feline.

Cats have an absolute requirement for the nutrients taurine and arachadonic acid that are found naturally only in animal products, with one exception: a type of seaweed that contains arachadonate. Taurine can be chemically synthesized (although the process is so environmentally harsh that all synthetic taurine used in the U.S. is imported from China). These additives can be used to make a diet that is chemically complete. However, natural sources of taurine and arachadonic acid contain many other amino acids, enzymes, co-factors, and other complex nutrients that may also be important for the cat’s overall health. Science has shown us that whole-food derived nutrients are, in almost all cases, far superior and healthy than synthetic versions. For instance, ascorbic acid is the active ingredient in Vitamin C. However, natural Vitamin C contains many other components, including rutin, bioflavonoids, and other co-factors.

These diets all rely on chemical analysis to verify their nutritional adequacy. They follow the Cat Food Nutrient Profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) in 2016, but they still relied on data that was already more than a decade out of date then. Pet nutrition experts also agree that feeding tests are far superior to the Nutrient Profiles for assessing nutritional adequacy (although both are far from perfect). Many pet foods that meet the profiles may be inadequate in the long term.

Cats consuming meat have a naturally low urinary pH. Vegetables and grains cause the urine pH to be more like a cow–alkaline–which can cause urinary crystals and stones to form. These can become life-threatening. While the food producers skim over this problem, the website Vegan Cats is at least honest about the risk. They recommend frequent testing of the cat’s urine pH to make sure it is remaining in the normal range (6.5 or less), and therefore less likely to create struvite crystals and stones in the bladder.

High carbohydrate diets (which vegetarian and vegan foods are, by definition) are also considered by many experts to be the primary risk factor for  feline diabetes. Excess carbohydrates also contribute to weight gain.

Ingredients in these foods are also problematic. The protein typically comes from corn and soy. In the U.S., 95% of soy and corn are genetically modified. Assume they are GMO unless specifically labeled organic. Many cats have difficulty digesting soy, which along with soy’s naturally high phytoestrogen content, makes this protein source inherently problematic for cats. Additionally, many non-GMO crops are also sprayed with glyphosate, and may contain even higher residues. These include common ingredients like rice, oats, sweet potatoes, and peas.  Studies show that GMO products cause many health problems in rats, including cancer.

The truth is that science just doesn’t know enough about the cat’s nutritional needs to ensure the long-term safety of vegetarian and vegan diets for cats. While there are many anecdotal tales of cats thriving on vegetarian and vegan foods, it is a path that requires great commitment, frequent health checks, and a willingness to be flexible on the part of the guardian.

The ethical dilemma

A a 20+ year vegetarian/vegan, and having worked as a full-time animal rights activist for two years, I understand the ethical reasons that lead people to avoid consuming many or all animal products. There’s no doubt that the intensive “factory” raising and slaughtering of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and fish is truly a hideous industry that causes a great deal of animal suffering.

If you are considering a vegetarian rather than vegan diet for your cat, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet has more flexibility by allowing dairy products and eggs as protein sources. However, you should know that in terms of suffering, animals raised to be food themselves are actually better off than dairy cattle and egg-laying chickens, who live far longer and surely crueler lives as production machines, and still face death at the slaughterhouse when they are too worn out to be worth keeping.

The ethical dilemma comes home when we share our lives with pets who are by nature carnivorous, such as dogs, cats, ferrets, and reptiles. Of these, dogs are the most evolutionarily flexible. Dogs’ nutritional requirements are quite similar to ours, so it is not at all difficult to include them in our animal-friendly lifestyles.

There is also the moral question of whether we should slaughter one animal (chicken or cow) to feed another animal (cat or dog). As Dr. Michael Fox asked, “Can we justify using parts of many other severely deprived and prematurely killed nonhuman animals to maintain each individual cat’s well-being?”

Speaking strictly from a veterinary viewpoint, vegetarian and vegan diets for cats make me nervous. I have seen some very sick cats as a result of these diets. The consequences of a such diets can reasonably be expected to include obesity, diabetes, urinary tract disease, kidney disease, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, and more.

Personally, I believe that when we voluntarily adopt cats into our homes, we are ethically obligated to honor the feline spirit and feed it according to its basic nature. But everyone needs to answer that question from their own heart.

Click here to learn what cats should eat.

See also:

10 Reasons Why Dry Food is Bad for Cats and Dogs

Homemade vs. Commercial Food for Cats (and Dogs!)

Homemade Diets for Cats and Dogs

Selecting a Good Commercial Pet Food

Switching Foods

The “Dangers” of a Raw Diet

Why Cats Need Canned Food