Monday, October 6, 2008

My Male Cat is No Longer Vegan

This is an extremely difficult post to write but I believe in transparency in the animal rights movement.

Owen, pictured above attempting to cook himself, is no longer vegan. This deeply saddens me because it forces me to buy animal products but I am acting in his best interest as his guardian.

First, here are some facts about urinary tract infections (UTI) you may or may not know:
  1. It is much more common for males to become blocked

    • A veterinarian at the clinic my wife previously worked in claimed to have seen a female cat blocked just once.

  2. Tabby cats, especially orange tabbies, are more prone to getting blocked and developing UTIs.

Owen, being an almost six-year-old male orange tabby cat, is extremely prone to UTIs, getting blocked, and developing crystals in his urine. He had problems urinating even before he was on a vegan diet. However, it seems to have worsened in recent months.

My wife and I tried everything. A product I've highly recommended, Enzymes pH, just wasn't cutting it. We made sure he had clean water in his water fountain, which is supposed to help to prevent blockages.

When he did become blocked we used homeopathic medicine to relieve the blockage with success. (I'll have to blog about the stuff my wife uses to relieve blockages in a future post.)

On top of his urinary problems we found some sores on Owen over the summer and took him to the vet. We discovered he has an autoimmune disease. He also had eight teeth pulled while we were living in Seattle. Oh, and he has a significant heart murmur due to the fact that his aorta doesn't line up properly. (We had to take him a veterinary cardiologist to have special tests performed.) The cardiologist said this conditions is extremely rare and was the first case he'd ever seen.

So, as you can see, Owen is no normal cat. He has horrible genes. Natural selection would have killed this cat off long ago.

Here's a lit of Owen's health conditions:
  1. Asthma - this is due to his moronic first guardian who smoked inside and gave him asthma and wheezing. His wheezing has improved considerably over the years. (We are both completely drug-free.)

  2. Heart murmur - this is due to the fact that his aorta doesn't line up properly

  3. Autoimmune disease - he develops sores on his body

  4. High propensity for UTIs

He's our cat and we love him all the same. I love Owen just the way he is.

Anyway, it became clear to us that we were going to have to change his diet. We experimented with feeding him a mixture of eggs and his current food. (This was a sample meal suggested by a holistic veterinarian in a natural healing for pets book.) It didn't cut it.

After searching for hours online I came across a brand called Organix, made by Castor and Pollux. It appears to be the only organic cat food product on the market.

Too bad I can't buy Organix in any store here on Prince Edward Island. I asked about special ordering it with no success. So, I brought two cases of the stuff back with me when returning from Washington, DC. (I recently flew back to the U.S. for several days to attend my best friend's dad's funeral.)

The next best thing I've found is a product called Innova, made by Natura. I can buy this at the farm store near my house.

Note that both products are moist food. You should never feed your cats dry food. I have had numerous veterinarians tell me this.

We're currently feeding Owen a combination of the two. I figure some organic food is better than none. I'm still mixing Enzymes pH into his food as well.

So far he seems to be doing a little better. It's hard to tell sometimes if he's uncomfortable due to his autoimmune disease or a blockage. We've been monitoring him and he is urinating.

We were instructed by the veterinarian who diagnosed Owen with an autoimmune disease to try the following things in order:
  1. Change his environment. Apparently a lot of dogs and cats develop allergies when living in damp climates (mold and mildew).

  2. Change his diet. We're currently on this step right now. I hope this will do the trick because the next solution isn't ideal at all.

  3. Put him on steroids. Steroids could help clear up the effects of the autoimmune disease but would destroy his immune system. This would not be a good thing for a cat who's a genetic dud (no offense Owen).

Just because Owen can't thrive on a vegan diet does not mean your cat cannot.

Female cats are easy. If you have a female cat you can easily feed them a vegan diet with next to no concern with them getting blocked. I highly recommend Evolution. It comes in kibble and you'll need to mix it with water and allow it to soak in the fridge. You can follow my instructions on veganizing your pets here.

Male cats are more challenging. If you have a tabby he will have a higher propensity to becoming blocked but you may still be able to feed him a vegan diet. It's worth investigating. If he has problems switch him back to a non-vegan diet.

Anyway, I wanted to share this latest development in my life with the animal rights community. It feels odd to walk into the store and purchase animal products. I have a responsibility to Owen, though, and I'll always act in his best interest.

For the animals,


VeggieGirl said...

I'm praying that Owen is 100% well!!

Billy said...

Thanks very much for your comment. I appreciate it.

My wife and I love Owen so much.

Vegan_Noodle said...

Sounds like you are doing the right thing for Owen. That photo of him is adorable.

Lisa said...

Good luck with Owen - he's a beautiful little guy, and is lucky to have people who love him so much. (And that photo is precious.)

I have two cats, neither of whom eat a vegan diet. My older cat (a male tabby) had health problems that required him to be on a high-protein prescription diet food. I wasn't thrilled with the content of that food (byproducts out the wazoo) or the company behind it, so I did some research and decided to try Primal Pet Food (, a raw, mostly-organic frozen food. (Random - he won't eat the version with beef, but will eat the chicken/salmon one.) It's not cheap, but the cost is comparable to the prescription food that he had been on, and his health has been excellent since.

When we rescued our second cat two months ago, we just started her on the same food, and she's been thriving. I do have an ick factor with it, since it's essentially raw meat, but it's packaged in such a way that it's not TOO gross - they're frozen nuggets that you portion out and thaw as needed. The nuggets are 10% produce, and that seems to be the outer (green) layer. Primal Pet Food is sold in stores on the west coast of the US, though they're expanding. I know people on the east coast who use it, and they get it by mail-order. Okay, that all sounds like I work for the company, which I swear I don't, I'm just so happy my cats are healthy! Anyway, if you'd ever like to discuss kitty health or more about the diet my cats are on, feel free to email me.

Billy said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for sharing. You'd be able to switch your female cat to a vegan diet if you wanted to. Females thrive on vegan diets easily.

As I've learned, male cats can be difficult.

vegannifer said...

My best to you, your wife, and Owen! I hope he thrives on his new diet.

I'm curious as to why cats should never be fed dry food. I've never had any vet tell me this and every cat I've ever owned has been fed a combo of dry food and wet food.


Billy said...

I've heard from numerous vets not to feed cats dry food at all. This is because it highly increase the risk for urinary tract complications.

Moist food contains more moisture. Many cats do not drink an adequate amount of water so moist food helps with this.

The hard food is also not great for their teeth.

vegannifer said...

Thanks for the reply to my question, Billy!

I have a cat with diabetes insipidus and he drinks a ton of water each day. Luckily, he does this on his own and we don't have to convince him to do so. I previously had a cat with Chronic Renal Failure and, in hindsight, I wish I would have tried an all wet food diet.

Thanks for the info!

Alicia said...

I'm sorry to hear that Owen can no longer be vegan but it's all about what's in the best interest of Owen. My Jonathan was vegan until his untimely death to two rare forms of cancer. I pray that everything turns out well with Owen!

I am also curious about the no dry food thing. No vet has every told me that. What I have been warned against is dry food with a lot of fillers in them but that ultimately dry food or wet food doesn't matter. What matters most is that they have constant acess to water (hence why my cats had a little mini waterfall that they loved to hang out next to) I've known many a cat to live 25-27 years with just dry food and thrive (both male and female).

jennconspiracy said...

Owen is adorable!

I'm with the others who have never heard of the strict exclusion of dry food. I have never heard that from any vet -- in fact, I have heard that you shouldn't exclusively feed them wet food because it isn't good for their teeth.

Dry food gives them a way to get stuff off their teeth. I have three male cats -- the eldest is about 15 and when I first adopted him 10 years ago, he weighed 22 lbs (he's 2' long from nose to tail) and he had a couple bouts with blockages.

I have strictly limited his diet and he's around 15-16 pounds -- he gets dry food daily, but I will give them wet food a couple times a week.

They all seem to drink a lot of water (I'll come home and the stainless steel quart dish will be nearly empty).

I took Carmine to a new vet this year - he was astonished at his condition and estimated Carmine couldn't be more than 10 years old based on his physique and his teeth (but he was estimated at 3-5 eyars when he was found as a very full grown adult in 01/98). He also is FIV+ -- and hasn't had any symptoms or health problems since his last UTI 8 years ago.

The other two cats are 3 and 4 and pretty darned healthy. They love to eat fruit and veggies -- Dobson can't get enough of grapes, tomatoes, broccoli stalks -- you name it. George is a bit more particular and Carmine wouldn't even eat wet food until about 5 years ago (he snubbed meat scraps friends would bring over!).

I would never make my cats vegan -- it's not a choice for them. I let them eat meat based food and take away the rats they catch (sometimes alive, sometimes dead but they never get to eat them - I live in a city and the rats may well be poisoned). It all works out in the big scheme of things.

Billy said...

I would never make my cats vegan -- it's not a choice for them.

Thanks for sharing Jenn.

This is something I hear often from fellow vegans. You are their guardian and you are making a choice for your cats by choosing to feed them meat.

Whether you feed them a meat-based diet or a vegan diet, you are making that choice.

Domestic cats are unnatural and any diet we feed them in today's society will be unnatural. Therefore, I think it's the ethical decision to feed them a vegan diet, when possible.

jennconspiracy said...

Sorry - I thought I made it pretty clear: they have unlimited access to any and all vegan foods they want that I eat.

Carmine has very little interest.

George has moderate interest (he and Dobson have been known to pilfer the closed CSA box to fish out broccoli - "gee, mom always cuts this up small for us...")

Dobson would eat as much fruit and vegetables as I give him (though he doesn't like raspberries, he does like an extraordinary array of vegetables and fruit).

They have a choice. Carmine doesn't like vegetables, rice or fruit. He doesn't even like wet food or meat scraps -- he really, really likes dry kibble. He's healthy on this diet.

Dobson, OTOH, has a satanic metabolism and no matter how much I feed him (and he gets more dry kibble, veggies and fruit than the other guys) - he never gains weight and is freaking hyperactive.

George and Carmine tend to be the pair who kill rodents. Dobson eats spiders and flies and bees constantly (it's amazing to watch).

They do get to choose what they get to eat -- it's pretty clear what they like and what they prefer. I have the entire spectrum of meat-to-plant preference in three cats.

Rural Vegan said...

Aww, Owen is beautiful! I've been through a slew of feline UTI's including one cat who had to have major reconstructive surgery to avoid future blockages. As a result, all of my cats eat canned and/or raw food diets. Yes, it is an animal product but I am at peace with the fact that cats are obligate carnivores and fully believe that this is their biologically appropriate diet and the correct thing for me to feed.

Depending on what type of crystals Owen has, I've found 2 great products that help my cats: Solid Gold Berry Balance, which corrects pH balance for cats with struvite crystals using natural berry extracts, and good old Methigel. Methigel is just DL-Methionine which breaks up the crystals and is usually found in the awful prescription diets. You can get it in drug in tube-form instead and continue feeding quality food this way. Good luck!

jennifer said...

Cats BY Nature are Carnivores and OBLIGATE at that ...Cats are not meant to be vegan or vegetarian in fact it is the opposite they REQUIRE meat to live ... For those who are doing the vegan thing with a cat PLEASE consult a vet about a proper diet ... Raw is the closest most of us cat parents can get ...

You are doing a great thing by giving him meat ..... he will live a healthier , longer and happier life... Do you have him on a urine acidifer??

Billy said...

I really don't think all cats have to be vegan. Owen lived years on a vegan diet with no problems. He had blockages before I switched his diet. I also know others who have been feeding their cats a vegan diet for years.

I think it depends on the cat.

Anonymous said...

I don't eat meat but I do feed my cats raw (it comes frozen) meat. Cats in the wild do not eat grains, they eat other animals, raw, not cooked. It's hard to deal with but it's the way it is. I think if you feed Owen a raw meat diet, some, or all of his health issues will go away. It's the same with humans, when they're put on a raw diet. Best of Luck.

Nathalie said...

Cats are called obligate carnivores, which means that they need meat to live.
I bet you if you switched him to the raw diet he wouldn't have blockages anymore and his autoimmune disease wouldn't bother him as much, if at all.
I'm not saying raw is the cure, but it could really help.
His teeth would stay clean, which would prevent plaque and tartar from entering the blood stream and then the kidneys.

I'm a vegan and I feed my dog and both cats a diet of raw meat because it is biologically a species appropriate diet.
This is a site you can go to to get more information:

What I usually try and do is locate hunters in my area. Lots of time when people go hunting they end up with way too much meat. I ask for their extras and sometimes they give it to me for free.
This way, at least I know that the animal that is being eaten was not grown in an over-crowded pen, violently tortured, then slaughtered.
I take care to buy organic meat as much as possible and am always looking for hunters in my area.
I'm located in Ottawa so it's not that hard.

The raw diet contains tons of moisture, so your cat would practically live blockage free for the rest of his life.

This is a quote taken from the above website:

"Cats have evolved over millions of years to be hunters – carnivorous predators – and no cat born in this world was ever designed by Nature to eat anything other than a diet consisting of the whole raw bodies of its prey.

Every single cat on the planet – both wild and domestic - is, by definition, an obligate carnivore. This means that the essential nutrition they require to thrive may only be found in sufficient quantities in the flesh of other animals. And all cats, from their sharp, pointy teeth to their short, efficient digestive tracts, are made to consume and process that flesh in its whole, raw state. Such is the truly natural diet of any cat.

Simple logic indicates that feeding carnivorous cats a steady diet of processed, cooked foods - many of which are predominately made up of things like corn, soy and wheat - is highly unnatural for them. As is explained on this website, and as is being witnessed in the waiting rooms of thousands of veterinarians across the world, this utterly unnatural diet is having a direct, deleterious effect on the good health of many, many a beloved pet cat.
The fact that the cat is without a doubt one of Nature’s most ancient and classic examples of the ultimate carnivore, should leave no doubt in our minds as to the appropriate manner in which they need to be fed. And yet astonishingly, cats who have been fed an unnatural conglomeration of cooked, canned, dried and over-processed petfoods, continue to fill the waiting rooms of countless veterinarians’ offices the world over, waiting to be treated for a variety of health challenges that have been brought about, at least in part, as a result of being fed an utterly inappropriate diet.

All carnivores - from sharks to raptors, from porpoises to weasels, from hyenas to polar bears, from seals to foxes, from otters to crocodiles, and from wolves to snakes - are made to eat and digest the raw meat, bones and organs that make up the whole carcasses of their prey. And cats are certainly no different in this respect than any other carnivore. Feeding a carnivore anything that is cooked, canned, dried or ground is simply unnatural for that animal, and over time, puts a strain on its system. Such a chronic strain often results in the kinds of health problems from which too many present day cats are suffering."

I think it's wonderful being vegan, but when you take on a companion animal, it's imperative that you consider WHAT that companion animal actually IS. Cats are carnivores, not just that, but OBLIGATE carnivores. They need meat.

Good luck with your cat, and I hope that you'll at least take a look at the website provided. It's got some great information on how to switch your cat.


Olivia said...

Hi there,
I just stumbled across your post and I switched my dog to the Innova Evo brand with wild success, he's had every allergy in the book and also has a supressed immune system. I've also got him on a tincture of plant sterols that are supposed to mimick steroids naturally. The vet says he will always need to be on steroids and I'm not willing to accept that, so I didn't know if maybe the tincture would help your cat as well. It's called Immune Balance and I got it from
Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I hope Owen is doing better!

I came across your post looking for more information on blockages and urine crystalizing.. I have a 4 year old male orange tabby named Goober. He is the sweetest cat, he's 17 lbs and is a lap kitty. We first had the problem a month ago and took him to the emergency vet. The vet there said it was very common with male orange tabbys. We had to take him back to the vet yesterday for the same reason. They put him on a prescription food. They also said if the problem persists then we would have to get him surgery (to have his penis removed) in order to make the hole bigger so it would be harder for him to get blocked. It's so hard to see them pain so you have to do whatever is necessary to keep them healthy and happy.

Nathalie said...

For the last poster (Anonymous) I sincerely hope you'll try the raw diet before you go to such extremes as cutting off the poor cat's penis!
Please look at the links that I've provided and you'll see that raw is the best way to go for your cat, especially if he's having problems with crystals.

Think about it; cats in the wild don't suffer from stones or urinary tract infections, at least not in the numbers that house cats (who are fed a biologically inappropriate diet of kibble) do.
Try raw meat and watch the difference. The moisture content in the raw meat will dramatically change the problems he's having and you'll save yourself lots of $$$ by avoiding the vet's office.

Please feel free to email me if you want help switching.
When I switched my animals (2 cats and a german shepher/husky) to raw, I noticed a HUGE difference in their clean teeth, their shiny coats that don't shed as much, their higher energy, their lean frames and much smaller and much less smelly pooh. Their pooh is smaller and much less smelly because you're not feeding them processed garbage anymore and their body is utilizing more of the food.

I know that being vegan requires you to really stick to your guns about meat but this is what it means to be a responsible pet owner.
There's a rawfeeding group on Yahoo that has over 12, 000 people who feed their cats and dogs raw meat and a few of them are vegan.
As I said in my last post, cats and dogs are CARNIVORES and that means feeding them a species appropriate diet of raw meat.

Let me know how your cat fares if you do decide to make the switch!


Genny said...

Really great article. Lots of valuable info, I wish I came across it sooner. Here is my blog posting about vegan pet food.


Jackson Henry said...

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