Listening to Your Cat’s Needs
Here’s a story of a cat who was about to fall under the waves of conventional medicine, but was instead saved by a diet change. A change to something that fit her species. A disaster averted by a perceptive owner who said “No more drug insanity! This can be mended with appropriate food!”
Patrice in Australia writes in the comments section, in an earlier article,
I have just taken on a foster cat that was rescued from death row. She was spayed, vaccinated, wormed and given flea and heartworm treatment,(even though we do not have heartworm in this area)
She has had two previous homes in two months and I was told that she was suffering from chronic diarrhea that no-one had been able to correct. One carer had her on vegan Cat food, which consists mainly of soy and corn.
The day before Grace came to me she was due for further vaccines and also antibiotics in an attempt to stop the diarrhea that was occurring within half an hour of every meal. ‘Dr. White Coat’ suggested that if the antibiotics didn’t work cortisone would be the next line of treatment. We requested that no treatment be given that day.
Grace was so hungry, I have fed her a variety of raw meat with probiotics and a reputable brand of ‘Cat Mix’ Multi-Nutrient Formula. After one week her condition is already so much better, her fur is becoming shiny and the diarrhea has stopped.
I have been a Vegetarian for 30 years and I also found it hard to give my cats meat but they are ‘true carnivores’ and deserve to have a diet that will not only sustain them but set the groundwork for excellent health, wellbeing and longevity.
I have seen so many cats suffering health problems due to the modern day invention of ‘dry cat kibble’. As someone said: ‘If you don’t want to feed a cat a species appropriate diet, then get a rabbit or a guinea pig’.”
On Feeding Who’s in Front of You
Patrice rightly set her own dietary preferences aside (long term vegetarianism) and fed Grace food appropriate to her species: a water conserving, obligate carnivore.
And magic happened.
The magic of recovery with proper “fuel” in the form of food aligned with her species.
As I’ve written earlier, even the healthiest kibble is not appropriate food for the cats in your life. It doesn’t fit. And Texas Ray showed us what a difference it made to get off “health food kibble” and dig into real food.
Imagine if Grace had landed with a caretaker who simply blindly followed Dr. WhiteCoat’s recommendations:
- More vaccinations (immune system destined to further confusion).
- More antibiotics (immune system loss, further gut upset from killing beneficial flora).The final straw, if the above didn’t work (which hadn’t to date, and showed no sign of working in the future):
- Steroids (pure suppressive therapy, which, while suppressing the inflammation everywhere in Grace’s body, would also suppress her immune response, and could set her up for diabetes)
No, don’t do this, please. That’s such a stretch of putting human values on another species that I cringe whenever I hear those two words in the same sentence. We shouldn’t even go there.
Luckily, I’ve never seen a cat fed a vegan diet. But my colleagues have, and the outcomes haven’t been good:
I had an assistant some years ago, and her husband and she were staunch vegans and animal rights people. …They had several cats and dogs and tried to feed them vegetarian. I don’t even think vegan. And the animals looked terrible. Dry dry coats, dandruff, itchy, not healthy. Finally I got them to change the food and what a difference it made.
– Don Hamilton, DVM
I’ve worked with a few clients whose dogs were vegan. They all had, or developed, various skin, coat and gum issues. In two cases, resolved with the addition of a few organic local eggs a week, and some fish oil. No other changes. The only vegan cat I saw was pretty messed up until put on a balanced raw meat diet, everything resolved and needed very little homeopathy after.
– Anne C. Hermans, DVM
I had clients who went vegan and did the same for their dogs. Constant unrelenting otitis and smelly gross skin.
– Jessica Levy, DVM
So, even dogs, who’ve adapted much more to our starchy diets and are far more omnivorous, have had issues with vegetarian diets, let alone vegan ones.
Is it possible to feed cats vegan? It may be. I just don’t think it’s a responsible move. Better to take in a rabbit or guinea pig, at Patrice suggested earlier.
When Diet Does Make a Difference
I pointed out earlier that sometimes a natural diet just doesn’t go far enough to cure chronic disease. So be it, but Grace’s example shows what’s possible.
Her chronic diarrhea clearly resolved and her coat became shiny in a mere week of a diet befitting her species. And she’d been through the “steer in a chute” brand of veterinary medicine, so common to rescue and shelter cats:
- flea pesticides
- even heartworm pesticides
So, the bottom line that I think we can learn here is this:
Never shirk on diet. Make it the best, most species appropriate you can. Odds are, you’ll do a whole lot of good for that waif in your care.
And, if chronic symptoms remain, after all your careful efforts, get a veterinary homeopath on board (see the AVH list on that page).
Have you seen similar miracles in the animals you’ve taken in who’ve been down on their luck? Tell us in the comments. Your experience helps others to do good things for their animals.
That’s what this Vital Animal community is all about. Knowledge is power. Share yours, and help others help their animals.
Funnily enough, humans on a bad vegan diet will get a load of health problems too. Vegan doesn’t equal healthy. Vegan can be very unhealthy. You can find vegan food that is highly processed, high in protein and fat, devoid in nutrients. Just as you can for cats.
They might see an improvement in health from eating organic meat and some vegetables or something, but would see a vast improvement from going high carb whole vegan food. But they don’t go that far, they just think then “meat good, vegan bad”.
I’m not saying we have perfect vegan diets for cats. I’m saying cats are naturally vegan but their original food source is missing and whatever cat food you have tried hasn’t replicated it sufficiently. Just how the ignorant human who eats vegan junk food then eats meat gets healthy and thinks meat is healthy and what humans need, the ignorant cat feeder will see their cat suffer on bad vegan cat food, get healthier on some sort of meat, and think meat is healthy and what cats need.
Cats will all die from meat-consumption. They simply will. If you crack the vegan cat formula they will live for a good bit longer, grow larger and be healthier, and die of something else.
I have a companion rescue dog – a German Shepherd who has had an allergic response so far to beef, chicken, lamb, duck and venison – also can not tolerate raw. Working with a canine dietician she is now doing extremely well on a vegan diet.
One of the principles of wholistic treatment is that you treat the individual – while it may be species appropriate for dog to eat raw meat not all dogs can tolerate it because of various dis-ease in their system.
Time will tell whether this diet will manifest health problems but for now I know she is getting all the nutrients she needs – she is not a fussy eater and consumes any food with relish.
I have been a vegetarian all my adult life and for the last 3 years have adopted a vegan lifestyle. I initially researched vegan diets for dogs and was horrified by the amounts of truely terrible vegan diets for dogs that people where recommending. It is hard to bring meat into your life when it goes against your ethical world view BUT I always put my dogs needs first – if she could eat raw she would. I continue to work on strengthening her immune system using homeopathy, herbs and supplemts and who knows one day she may get to use those massive canine teeth on a bone 🙂
These multiple allergy guys are tough, but I think it’s important to have a broad perspective, like a 10,000 foot view, which is: this allergy state is curable with professional homeopathic help. It’ll take time and attention to detail, but it’s curable. You feed what you can while working with your homeopath, and the time comes when foods once allergy producing can again be eaten. What you’re seeing now is the chronic disease speaking. It needn’t rule her life forever.
On my Resources page, you’ll find the AVH link. That’s a good place to start to find someone capable of getting this dog to cure.
Thanks for stopping in and sharing your perspective. I wish you all the best in getting to the other side of this.
I was just paid the highest compliment EVER by dr. Whitecoat, who told me IN PERSON, for the first time; “I am amazed at what you have done for this cat [Pookie] with what you’re doing.” How about that, doc! Her blood work has greatly improved over last year and she’s put on weight! Normally I don’t even see the vet, just her technicians. This time she came in with the results HERSELF and discussed embracing my more holistic approach, agreed that old Pookie was too fragile for surgery and dental procedures, and wanted to know how I was shrinking that old tumor! I about fell out! I never expected that!
Here’s the biggee; she admitted vaccines cause injury, and she signs a waiver for her own vaccines…what does that tell you? She was more than a little embarrassed by the fact that she gives vaccines in her clinic. This is the whitecoat who recommended euthanasia for Pookie!
Of course I don’t really deserve the credit here, perhaps for reading and applying your common sense ideas I deserve some, but really you are the one who is shaking up the veterinary world, or perhaps I should say getting it back on the Natural Path! You rock, doc! I did agree to putting Pookie on an antibiotic briefly for her bad gum infection because of her liver inflammation and bladder infection, but my no-carb, wet, organic diet for Pookie was heartily endorsed! She had stopped going in the box, and I felt it was needed. I can only mop up so much… I’m giving pre and probiotics, to reseed her gut flora.
It’s impressive when a die hard Allopath sits up and takes notice, eh? I didn’t even have to be pushy…evidence speaks for itself that a raw, clean diet heals the immune system, which then works like it should to take care of all ailments better than whitecoats can. (Hey, your kid is pretty handsome, too!:) Kudos, Dr. Falconer!
Wow, Nora, that is really an accomplishment! Kudos to you for all your efforts. Pookie is a living testament to this entire Natural Path, and a true ambassador for others. When you get a conventional vet to notice and congratulate you, you’ve really crossed a wonderful line.
Who knows where those seeds, now well planted, will sprout? One would hope for an overhaul of her vaccine recommendations at the very least.
My thoughts exactly! Wouldn’t that be wonderful? How many cats (and owners) would benefit from stopping the vaccine insanity!
I cannot imagine why anyone would want to impose human virtues (vegetarianism) into an animal (cats) who are in every way obviously carnivores. Cats were made to eat meat!
I have 6 wonderful cats who are healthy, vital animals fed a species appropriate diet of meat! I did not always understand this important detail of having cats as pets.Consequently I had a kitty who developed diabetes. We did insulin and the whole bit and I started learning in depth about cats. I learned that diabetes in cats is 100% preventable when they get a proper diet. I was lucky that I was able to switch her and my other kitties to a raw meat diet and her diabetes cleared in a month or two! She lived another 8 years with us dying at 16 from other issues.
My cats have awesome coats and no dander that is visible anyhow. I have not smelled cat poop in years because their digestive systems are as nature intended them to be. I do not even get many hairballs anymore as their systems have become vital and alive!
I do use Transfer Factor supplement with two who are farm cat rescues and prone to respiratory gunk. I have not seen any issues with it this year.
I also use a Wysong supplement to provide live bacteria for their guts just in case.
Fed an inappropriate diet, cats will get by for a time. Some have stronger immune systems than others and they can get by but that does not mean they are thriving. Eventually it will catch up in the form of disease. They can be propped up with drugs and the like but this is not a good road for them at all.
I too have to give credit for anyone who prepares a homemade diet for their animals but it needs to be the appropriate diet. Cows are obviously foragers and we would not feed them meat. Why, when cats are obligate carnivores would we expect them to eat cereal (grains) and fruits and veggies?
Please do your research about cats a little deeper and reconsider the notion that they can be vegetarians and thrive.
Some good points, and your diabetic kitty really made diet appropriateness clear to you: diabetes is entirely man made disease, and nowhere is that more clear than in the cats, many of whom will “spontaneously” become free of diabetes when given an appropriate raw diet, balanced like prey.
Hi Dr. F,
Back in college when I first started a vegan diet, I foolishly thought that I would feed that to my pets, too. Vegans can be quite critical of other vegans when you don’t follow the rules. I look back and see how that could have negatively affected my pets at that time and I am happy that the years have brought education and insight into their appropriate species diet. The raw journey has been a good one! I know that when my animals are happy and healthy, year after year without any medical interventions.
I have a wonderfully sweet, “Vital” Smoke Grey Persian who turns 15 this week. His name is Jordan, named after Michael Jordan because in his youth, he was quite the jumper 🙂 He is very healthy. I give him the Immune supplement you recommend along with some high quality fish oil, joint support and Probiotics.
As he ages, is there anything different you would tweak with his diet or his supplements?
I notice he sleeps a lot these days but when he is awake he is affectionate and playful.
He has eaten raw for the past 12 years and no vaccinations for that long , either :
Thank you and take care,
Nice work, Lori. He sounds like a rare example for his breed, though I’ve probably seen too narrow a sampling as a doctor.
I’d get a senior blood panel run at 15, just to see what’s what with his organs. Then you’ll have more room to make determinations of how he may need help. That, along with a consult with a homeopathic vet who goes over all of his symptoms would be the best prevention for a guy his age. Likely, with some probing, you’d find more than just sleeping extra time.
I couldn’t imagine feeding a cat vegan! I am sure a dog *could* live on a vegan/vegetarian diet only because they can process fruits/vegs — but cats cannot! I remember reading an article about a vegan cat who almost died – but meat saved it. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/24/kitten-vegan-diet-nearly-dies_n_3644213.html
PS. Not sure how to repsond to the Grass Eating post of the weekly email. I have been giving both my dogs Spirulina powder (1/8 tsp per 10 lbs OR 1/4 tsp per 20 lbs). It is packed with so many vits and minerals and they no longer much on the grass anymore 🙂
Ah, very interesting! See, they’ve not suffered through a lackluster Winter diet. They were getting nutrient-dense greens daily! Nice work, Destiny.
i feed my cats vegan – i make their food myself and they are thriving. i also have a friend who has had vegan cats for 15 years, of various ages and they were all vegan and never had any health problems. i’m sure there are vegan kibbles and canned foods out there that are not good for cats, but if you do extensive research and make homemade, fresh, nutritionally balanced meals – i believe cats can in fact be vegan and healthy and thrive, because i’ve seen it for my own eyes <3
Julie, one way of telling what is species appropriate, is
taking a look at the teeth. Cats and dogs have very sharp
pointy teeth for cutting and tearing meat.
Long canines for grabbing a hold of prey.
Nature made them this way for a reason.
They also lack enzymes for digesting plant matter.
Take a look at any cat in the wild, and you will never
see it grazing on corn, feasting on beans or lentils.
They gorge on freshly caught prey of their choosing.
While I admire your commitment to make a home based diet, and I can see you’re dedicated, I still hope you change your mind, and will give a prey model style, species appropriate diet a chance.
Best of luck to you and your cats.
Well done Joyce. The teeth are the main indicators of the diet, but also the saliva, the length of the intestines, the claws, even the profile of the head – in felines – all indicate obligate carnivores. Cats are built to hunt efficiently. They are lone hunters so only have themselves to make it or break it. They have evolved on having super light bones and organs to make stealth easy. This unloading of unnecessary complicated organs means they cannot digest many plant based foods, which contain alkaloids. NO cat is happy or healthy on a vegan diet. And I am a vegan myself.
Good points, both of you. I hesitated to include this link, but there are clear biochemical risks for this carnivore being fed a plant based diet as well. Here are the main points that are known to date.
I am vegan and feed my dogs a raw meat, prey style diet. Just wanted to point out that teeth aren’t necessarily good indicators of types of diets. Gorilla look like they should severe some flesh with those chompers, but they don’t.
Aside from that, good article Dr. Falconer. Being vegan, I sometimes have an internal battle with their diet and wonder how well they would do on a vegetarian diet. However, those battles are happening fewer and fewer. Its not something I enjoy doing, but you can’t argue facts and science. I mean, you can, but you’re not going to get anywhere.
I get it, Adam, a vegetarian myself for a long time now. Teeth, digestive enzyme types, length of GI tract, and always most important to me, what the ancestors and wild cousins eat have kept the boundaries quite clear to me.
Thanks for sharing your perspective.