Vegan cats live long and healthy lives - preliminary study results


A recent study from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph investigated owner-reported health and well-being of cats fed plant-based or animal-based diets. This study was conducted by Dr. Sarah Dodd, a practicing veterinarian and a PhD student specializing in plant-based nutrition for companion animals from University of Guelph.

Quick Facts about the Study

  • Self-reported data collected through an online survey
  • 1325 responses
  • Companion animals examined in the study - Cats and Dogs
  • Dr. Sarah Dodd lead researcher
  • 2 diets compared - plant-based diets vs. meat-based diets

Summary of Results for Cats

  • Lifespan of cats fed a vegan diet is about the same as of cats fed a meat-based diet
    • the study found no statically significant differences in the life-span
  • % of cat guardians who reported their cats in very good health
    • 82% plant-based diet vs. 65% meat-based diet
  • body condition score
    • 68% plant-based diet vs. 54% meat-based diet
  • most health conditions were less common in cats fed a plant-based diet (see table 1 below)
  • urinary tract condition was as common in cats fed a plant-based diet as in cats fed a meat-based diet

Results Summary for Dogs (pending)

  • data for dogs has been collected and is currently being analyzed

Introduction

The study was based on a survey, distributed to cat guardians in Canada and the USA. Through this survey, data was collected about demographics, cat diet, cat health and well-being. 1,325 responses were collected, about cats fed meat-based and plant-based diets.

Details for Cats

Longevity of cats on plant-based diet has been a topic of debate in vegan and non-vegan communities. Can cats thrive on plant-based diet? This is the first known research study which compared lifespan of cats fed plant-based and conventional diets.

This study found NO DIFFERENCE IN LONGEVITY among the two groups. These results clearly show that well-balanced diet with no animal products has no negative impacts on lifespan of cats (see table below).

Overall Health - an impressive 82% of cat guardians who feed plant-based diet to their cats reported their cats to be in very good health. In contrast, 65% of cats fed meat-based diet were reported to be in very good health.

Body condition score, based on visual examination of cats, was recorded for the cats. Ideal body condition score was observed for 68% of cats fed plant-based diet, compared to only 54% of cats fed meat-based diet.

Health Conditions and Diseases were also reported by cat guardians in this study. Cats fed plant-based diets had significantly lower prevalence of gastrointestinal diseases, renal diseases and diabetes. As Table 1 below shows, prevalence of diseases in cats fed plant-based diets were comparable or lower than those in cats fed animal-based diets

TABLE 1

 

These are the preliminary study results and the link to the full study will soon be available.

 


6 comments


  • Dr. Sarah Dodd BVSc, MSc, PhD(c), Res. ECVCN
    (1) How were the respondents sampled?

    1. The questionnaire was made available online and publicized through plant-based and conventional pet food retailers, as well as on social media to pet-centric groups. Respondents self-selected to participate in the study, so it is likely that there is some bias that pet parents who are more interested in pet health and wellbeing were more likely to participate.

    (2) Was there a bias such that the plant-based respondents were more attentive to the needs of their cats?

    2. It’s quite possible that pet parents who feed their cats plant-based are more attentive to their cat’s needs.

    (3) Why was health status based only on self-report rather than medical evaluation?

    3. Medical evaluation would certainly be a more objective measurement, but there are two issues a study of this scope would face: 1) if we went back and pulled records from veterinary visits we would have a bias that we are only seeing animals visiting veterinarians, so there may be a skew in how healthy or unhealthy they are, and the reporting of diet is often poor in the medical record so being able to compare plant-based to meat-based would be a great challenge; 2) if we decided to perform a prospective study and enrol cats fed plant-based or meat-based and perform a veterinary examination and investigate for disease processes we would not be able to obtain a large enough sample size without a very large financial investment – it would need a six-figure grant, and that type of research funding is exceptionally hard to come by in an independent research setting investigating pet health.

    (4) Was this based on anyone reporting that they feed their cat a plant-based diet or was there a specific diet or criteria?

    4. The survey was open to all pet parents in North America, there was no criteria for any particular diet. To avoid leading participants (e.g.: if people are asked first about diet they may feel they need to justify their diet choice by answering the health questions a certain way to make their diet choice seem preferential, particularly if what they feed may be perceived as unconventional) , the question asking about diet was at the end of the questionnaire. It was worded the same way as out diet history form in the clinical nutrition service in order to capture as much information about diet as possible, and was an open-test answer so the pet parent could describe the diet and not be restricted to choosing between categories.

    (5) Was there any correlation between the kind of plant-based diet and the reported longevity?

    5. There was no significant correlation between the kind of plant-based diet fed and longevity. The sample sizes for each ‘kind’ of diet (i.e., different brands, homemade vs commercial, etc) were too small. Despite the request for detail, many respondents would simply answer “vegan kibble”, giving no indication of what kind of food it was, other than being plant-based and commercial.

    (6) Will a controlled study be done ( on the most medically conscientious plant-based and comparable meat-based diet), to make sure like is compared with like?

    6. Having performed this study we have now identified possible differences between cats fed plant-based and meat-based foods, which could be used to guide future studies in which a diet trial or cohort study could be performed with more precision and target the health conditions that were found to be significantly different in this study population. There are no studies currently funded to do so, but it is an area in which more research is desired.

    (7) For the 20+ aged cats, is there any verification that they were fed the plant-based diet all their lives?

    7. Duration of feeding of the current diet was captured, though the previous diet(s) were not described, so it is possible that they had been fed plant-based but of a different type (a different brand, homemade vs commercial, etc) for longer than reported. The duration of feeding could be reported for each individual cat, but of more interest is to look at the population, not at individuals, and in general cats were fed their current diet for a number of years prior to the survey being taken.


  • Trudi McConnell

    As a vegetarian 🌱 Sphynx Mom I’m making the switch from Green pea venison to this Company Vecado, they offer vegan brands. I have 2 Sphynx cats that seem to be allergic to all meats, but venison. I was so happy when they sent me samples and they both approved and love it. I ordered Ami kibble & Benevo kibble, also going to try the litter they offer too. They deliver, perfect, it’s going to make life a lot better for me and my naked girls. Thank you 🙏


  • MJ

    I’d sure like to see the actual study, and refer it to the coordinator of our rescue. It’s valuable research that could save many lives.


  • Sharon brink

    Wow, Good news for the planet, thankyou


  • Stevan Harnad

    I’d like to believe it, but I have some questions about methodology. (1) How were the respondents sampled? (2) Was there a bias such that the plant-based respondents were more attentive to the needs of their cats? (3) Why was health status based only on self-report rather than medical evaluation? (4) Was this based on anyone reporting that they feed their cat a plant-based diet or was there a specific diet or criteria? (5) Was there any correlation between the kind of plant-based diet and the reported longevity? (6) Will a controlled study be done ( on the most medically conscientious plant-based and comparable meat-based diet), to make sure like is compared with like? (7) For the 20+ aged cats, is there any verification that they were fed the plant-based diet all their lives.


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