The use of vegetarian cat food critical review
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The main aim of this thesis work was to introduce the use of vegetarian food for cats and to review the pros and cons of that use, since cats are strict carnivores which evolved to consume an all meat diet. Vegetarianism is becoming more and more popular as a lifestyle for many different reasons, such as religious, health, ecology, ideology, ethics, finance and personal preferences. Many vegetarians choose to expand their lifestyle to the feeding of their pets. The reasons for doing that are usually the same as those that made them become vegetarians, but mainly ideology and health. Different studies of the effect of vegetarianism on human health have shown several beneficial effects. Vegetarians have been shown to have lower mortality rates, a certain (but yet unknown) protective mechanism against some cancer types, lower prevalence of ischemic heart disease, type II diabetes mellitus, gallstones, osteoporosis and obesity. Cats are strict carnivores, and as such are “designed”, considering their digestive and metabolic systems, to consume an all meat diet and acquire their needed nutrients from their prey. One of the most important such nutrients is the taurine. Taurine is an amino acid which is found only in animal tissues and is synthesized in very limited amounts in cats. Therefore cats fed on a vegetarian diet will develop taurine deficiency if their diet is not supplemented with at least 0.1 % taurine. Taurine deficiency manifests as central retinal degeneration, dilated cardiomyopathy, developmental and reproductive disorders as well as compromised immune function. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets the needed nutritional requirements which the different pet food manufacturers must follow. This work shows that most reviewed vegetarian cat food meet the AAFCO’s requirements and are therefore suitable for feeding cats with a minimal risk of development of any nutritional deficiencies. It should be noted that the long term effect of feeding cats on a vegetarian diet is still unknown and should be furthered explored.