Cat food revisited

The cat food saga continues. As you may recall, I wrote about this topic a few days ago. Since then I have been researching cat food, looking for humanely produced brands and investigating the possibility of switching Freya to a vegetarian diet.

I eventually bought some new cat food today. This is certified free from animal testing though it isn’t vegetarian. Freya seems to like it so that will tide us over while I continue to investigate.

As far as I can see there is no obvious reason why cats cannot live on a vegetarian diet. Yes, I know the story that they can only get taurine and some other nutrients from meat but these days that is hardly a problem. Most humans and most animals (unless living wild) now live on food artificially enhanced with additives. One of the sites I consulted pointed out that even non-vegetarian cat food contains a good measure of added taurine, for example. So what the heck is the difference between serving Freya a meat-based food with added taurine and serving her a vegetarian food with added taurine? Don’t say it is because “cats are carnivores and need meat”: in what way do those little dry pellets you feed your cat resemble meat? Right: not at all. Nor do I go along with the idea that plant taurine is somehow different from meat taurine. Taurine is taurine.

Though I would like to feed Freya a vegetarian diet I don’t want to jeopardize her health and well being so I am not going to do so until I have been into the matter very thoroughly. There are some respectable voices on both sides of the argument. No one has yet produced any evidence that modern vegetarian cat food is harmful to cats. The best argument that opponents have managed to come up with is “It hasn’t been in use long enough yet to see whether it is harmful.” The question is how long is “long enough”? As the argument over mobile phone “radiation” shows, doubters can never be convinced no matter how many tests you run or how long you run them.

There is also a psychological aspect to this that intrigues me. Cat food sold in Britain can only be labelled “complete” if it is properly established that it contains all the elements your cat needs for a healthy life. Vegetarian cat foods are labelled “complete”. If opponents of vegetarian cat food do not trust this claim, why do they trust the claim when it is made for meat-based cat food? Why would they think that companies ethical enough to produce vegetarian cat food are less trustworthy than companies who have so little ethical concern that they carry out vivisection on the very animals they claim to love and support?

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to Cat food revisited

  1. The trouble with a strictly vegetarian cat isn’t the added taurine, but how well you want to treat your cat. I, for one, find projecting vegetarianism, a human moral construct, onto an animal that is an obligate carnivore is paradoxically immoral. If you’d like to treat your cat well I’d suggest feeding her organic non-processed meats rather than foods that must be heavily refined so she can unwillingly conform to your moral sensibilities.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    I think an obligate carnivore is an animal that needs nutrients from animal sources in order to live a healthy life. Supporters of non-animal derived cat foods claim that these provide all the nutrients a cat needs in order to live a healthy life. If this claim is true, then cats are not obligate carnivores and there is no duty on us, moral or otherwise to provide them with animal derived foodstuffs.

    Personally, I am uncertain. This is not because I think the claim is false. I just don’t know. As my cat’s physical and mental health is important to me, I require a high standard of proof. This may not be available at present.

    I cannot imagine that it is possible to “project a human moral construct” onto a cat. I am not sure I know what that means. I think that only humans have morals ideas and that cats have no moral sense. You can coerce them, not convince them.

    If you mean it is wrong for me to force my cat to behave in a certain way because of my own moral scruples, then I would say that it is inevitable that I, and all other cat owners, do so. We choose what food they eat; we take them to the vet against their will and we perhaps sterilize them to prevent unwanted off-spring because well believe that not to do these things would incur even greater moral blame.

    My goal is not to make my cat behave in a moral way. Such an idea is absurd. My goal is to bring my own actions (in this case feeding my cat) into harmony with my moral scruples. I have already made a move in this direction by ceasing to buy food from a company that tests its products on animals.

    I would say that as soon as we start to own animals, they inevitably become subject to our moral considerations. Getting rid of all domestic pets and all farm and zoo animals, etc. would not end this because we now have so great an effect on the environment that even “wild” animals are not safe from our activity and we need to make moral judgements about whether and how they are to be “conserved”.

    This may be a bad thing but it how things are.

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