Should Your Pet Be Vegetarian Too?

If you are a vegetarian, does that mean your pet must be as well? Should our own moral choices about not eating other animals be visited upon our dogs and cats? Do our pets have the right to eat other animals? Do we deprive our pets by making them vegetarian? Are we denying the fact that they are carnivores? How do you keep them from hunting, if that is their nature? I don't really know the answers to those questions, but I bet our readers have pretty strong opinions about the subject.

Dogs are, in fact, omnivores as anyone who has ever owned one can attest. I once read a poem that someone wrote about their dog, which I have never been able to find again, so unfortunately I don't know the writer's name. It goes like this:

Are you going to eat that?
Are you going to eat that?
Are you going to eat that?
Are you going to eat that?
Are you going to eat that?
I'll eat that.

Which pretty much sums up a dog's mind. While your dog can certainly exist on a vegetarian diet with few or no problems and without dietary additions, your cat cannot. Cats are obligate carnivores which means they require meat to survive. They must have an amino acid called taurine which they get from animal sources. To deprive a cat of this will result in blindness and degenerative heart problems. There is now a synthetic taurine which makes it possible for a cat to subsist on a vegetarian diet, so you must ensure that your cat receives it.

A case can certainly be made against feeding your dog or cat commercial pet foods. The tainted food scandal of 2007 opened a lot of pet owner's eyes to the garbage being sold under the guise of healthy, premium food. I suspect that a lot of people radically changed their views of pet food at that time and altered their animal's diet accordingly.

But what about their natural instincts? Our cat was only 10 weeks old when we first took him to our cottage which is in a fairly untamed landscape. He was young, with extremely fast reflexes and was a relentless killing machine. We kept him inside because he was so little, but he killed every mouse in the place. Now he is seven and slower but is still a relentless killing machine. And yes, he eats the mice.

I've read a few things on the internet suggesting that some vegetarians avoid this conundrum by not having dogs or cats at all. Personally, I can't imagine a life without animals (although my husband can). I'm really interested in what readers think about this, and I want to open up the discussion.

Challenge of the Week: Bake your dog some vegetarian dog biscuits.

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Tags: Pets | Vegetarian