living underground in the real world

why (and how) vegans (should) feed (some of) their cats (some) meat

(Hello from seven years later! WordPress tells me this post gets a lot of clicks or whatever, so a quick update: we still feed our cats meat, no vegan food these days, and they are wonderful and healthy and shiny. We now feed Sula a vet-prescribed special UTI canned food, and he hasn’t had any UTI issues in at least six years. It’s probably terrible, but my sweet pal is healthy and happy. He gets a lot of the meat food, too, since we don’t segregate him when eating. We don’t do any vegan food because every time we’ve tried to mix it in over the years he almost instantly has UTI symptoms (and we don’t have the discipline to feed him separately.). So…meat! Oh, we don’t mix in the eggs mentioned below these days, and I don’t think the butcher does either. OK, back to the past):

Hooray!

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A blogreader asked for the recipe for cat food mentioned in the infamous 101 meal ideas and this means I can indulge my need to share some of the 235 cat pictures I have. I’m going on a spree.

Years ago, our beloved Sula cat got a bad urinary tract infection (up there his stomach has just been shaved for a UTI-related ultrasound). We found a great homeopathic vet who instantly fixed him up. I have since become pretty knowledgeable about homeopathy and constantly regret that I didn’t write down the remedy she gave him, as she has since disappeared and the UTIs have infrequently reappeared.

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Both amazing vets recommended feeding the cats a raw meat diet with supplements (see recipe below). We had been feeding Sula high-quality commercial food, even though I quietly knew it to be horrible, because we didn’t think there were other options. We bought a few books on raising animals holistically and started making cat food based on a recipe in Natural Health For Dogs and Cats. We bought a separate Cuisinart to mix everything together, separate food containers, and organic meat and eggs and spent a horrible afternoon every month making our own cat food, which we froze in small containers.

Almost instantly we noticed Sula’s skin and coat were much shinier and healthier than usual. When two other cats, Cleo and Noodle, gradually made their way into our lives, we fed everyone the meat food and watched their health improve.

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For a few years we went on like this, until I started reading Obligate Carnivore, by Jed Gillen. Written from an animal rights perspective, Jed does a great job explaining exactly what’s wrong with the commercial pet industry (do you know that you’re currently feeding your beloved dog euthanized shelter dogs?) and making the case for vegan cats and dogs. It’s a really wonderful, funny, lovely book.

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He writes extensively and quirkily and passionately about why vegans should feed “obligate carnivores” like cats at least some vegan food – primarily because it is unethical to make value judgments about what animals get to live (cute kitties) and die (pigs and cows). He also makes the great point that though historically cats naturally ate a mostly meat diet, these days the commercial pet food available is anything but “natural.”

He gives you all the facts about why cats can stay healthy on a primarily or completely vegan diet (dogs aren’t such a concern, as they are omnivores).

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So, Jed’s thinking about these issues led to him starting a company selling vegan cat food, and my thinking about these issues (thanks to his rad book) led to me buying his vegan cat food.

Which almost instantly brought back Sula’s UTI problems.

And another round of research was done by both Jed and me, coincidentally around the same time, and his led him to this very informative page all about why male cats that are prone to UTIs (oh, Sula) should eat very little vegan cat food and a mostly meat-based diet.

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So now we’re back to meat. Once Sula gets out of the danger zone we want to start feeding the two girls (female are, in general, not as prone to UTIs) some vegan food, but Sula will probably need to eat dead animals forever. We can’t really fuck around with this because untreated UTIs can create kidney blockages that can lead to death in several hours if not caught, so we’re pretty observant of lil’ S these days.

Perhaps I should state here that I don’t blame the vegan food for Sula’s condition at all – it didn’t create it, but it did exacerbate it. I still believe that healthy cats, particularly females, can do well eating at least some vegan food, and that those who care about animal rights and welfare (which should be all of us, of course) have a moral obligation to reduce “food animal” suffering/death when it comes to what we feed our companion animals.

These days our “meat-only” Cuisinart sits, blissfully unused, in the basement, and the strangely lovely butchers in our town make cat food for us with high quality human-grade organic grass-fed free range blah blah meat scraps, bones, eggs, etc. But we still mix up everything but the meat in the following recipe and bring it to them, then they kindly add the mixture to every batch.

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cat food for happy cats!

Makes 10 batches of food, which will feed 2 cats for 6 weeks,
feeding a heaping 1/2c once a day

10# organic ground dark chicken
10# organic ground dark turkey meat (light would be OK, too)
3/4# organic loose spinach (get more if bunched), washed and trimmed (throw out stems – they are not good for cats.)
5 large cloves garlic
approx 1c olive oil
10 oz cooked small pasta
calcium lactate powder(*) (2014 note: we no longer use this.)
missing link plus powder for cats(*)
10 organic eggs (2014 note: we no longer use this.)
optional but excellent: 2c organic chicken livers (a nice treat for them)

(*) Look online for sources of these, or try your local pet store, if they are not too terrible (i.e., they don’t buy puppies from puppy mills) and you don’t feel too guilty about patronizing them.
1. you will make 10 batches, so have 10 (3-4c) freezable plastic containers with good lids and 10 plastic bags ready.

2. the following instructions are for each batch, so you will do this 10 times.
a. In the workbowl of a food processor, add 1/2 clove garlic, 1 handful spinach, about 1 oz pasta, a big glug of olive oil, 1 liver (opt), 2 Tb. calcium lactate, 2 heaping Tb. Missing Link. Chop finely. Cats cannot digest vegs unless they are very finely chopped, so make sure it is well chopped.
b. Add 1# chicken, 1# turkey, process to combine.
c. Transfer to container, wrap in plastic bag, and freeze.
3. Repeat 9 more times.
4. When feeding cats, be sure to take out a new container of food 1 full day before it’s needed, because it takes a long time to defrost. If you forget and the food is a little frozen, make a “meat smoothie” by mixing in a little hot water.

Adapted by Jacob Feinberg-Pyne, cat food chef, from Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.

 

8 Responses to “why (and how) vegans (should) feed (some of) their cats (some) meat”

  1. axelfoley

    Thanks for all that good info. I had a really similar experience with my boy cat, so we’re back on the meat too.

    It’s so rare that one has a legit excuse to show off one’s vast collection of cat photos!

    Reply
  2. Maggie C.

    thanks for the recipe. after you mentioned it in your previous blog I meant to ask for the recipe. I would like to give my cats a different option.

    Reply
  3. Jackie

    I really enjoy reading your writings. You’re so informative and funny. I enjoyed this one especially and will check out Jed’s book. Are you ever going to come to Woodstock to check out the Garden Cafe???? Would be loads of fun. Call me!!!
    Jackie

    Reply
  4. Terence

    Hey Lagusta!

    I recently finished an 18-month stint working for a phenomenal homeopathic vet in Rosendale. Her name is Michele Yasson, her number is 338-3300, and her website is holvet.net. She is nearly vegetarian and a raw foodist and I imagine you would have lots to talk about other than your kitties!

    Anyway, my reactions come from working for HolVet and writing articles on this exact subject. I won’t link to them here because your blog isn’t my promotional platform ;)

    Your cats should be eating meat for the same reasons people shouldn’t – it’s the way their bodies are designed, it’s natural, and it’s healthy. My cats always get a healthy amount of raw vegetable matter in their food – as much as 50% – because in the wild they get vegetables in their diets in the stomach of their prey. Sounds gross, but it’s true. Keeping your cats from eating meat is like running an old 1970s car on unleaded gas – it’s going to cause problems.

    If you’re grinding up meat and not including the bones, mix in 1/2 tsp of bone meal per pound of meat to give them the calcium they need.

    Remember that cats evolved in a desert and like other desert animals only drink water when they are VERY dehydrated – they are designed to get moisture from their food so they don’t have a very good sense of thirst. A drinking cat is a sick cat, and dry food is usually the culprit.

    If you don’t talk to Dr. Yasson I’ll tell you about vaccines another time.

    Reply
  5. lagusta

    Hello Terence!
    Please add a link to your articles, for sure! I’d love to read them.

    My vet is Bea Ehrsam, also a homeopathic vet and a super rad lady. I’ve heard that Dr. Yasson is wonderful, but I’m so happy with Dr. B that I haven’t sought her out. She has my cat Sula on some Chinese herbs that have really helped with the UTI.

    It’s hilarious that you said “Your cats should be eating meat for the same reasons people shouldn’t”—I’ve been making that argument ever since we started feeding our cats meat too! Their teeth, their intestines, etc etc—cats are meat eaters, we are not! So obvious!

    And yep, my recipe above has calcium lactate powder, which I am pretty sure is bone meal?

    Thanks for this info!

    Reply
  6. Terence

    I’m not a pro on the science, Lagusta, but if Dr. Bea gave your recipe the green light then I’m sure it’s fine. She definitely knows raw food and her knowledge of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in general is amazing. I have met her and I like her; I’ve also heard excellent things about her from clients and peers.

    So, articles . . . . here’s the vegetarian cat diet one:

    http://cat-care.suite101.com/article.cfm/vegetarian_diets_for_cats

    And about preparing home food for cats in general:

    http://pet-nutrition.suite101.com/article.cfm/home_prepared_natural_cat_food

    Reply

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