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November 2006
The Compromise
By Maureen C. Wyse


Vegan Cats Urinary Problem Prevention Advice

Unless you are committed to maintaining your cat’s pH levels, increasing your cat’s water consumption and monitoring your cat’s bathroom tendencies, Jed Gillen of recommends that customers “mitigate the risk of urinary tract problems by feeding male cats only a 25-75 percent vegan diet and female cats a 50-100 percent vegan diet.” Females, because of anatomical differences, have less of a risk of urinary tract problems, although both male and female cats can develop crystals in their bladders.

Because males have a greater tendency to develop urinary tract problems, and are harder and more expensive to fix, it is recommended that some canned meat—in particular, a veterinarian prescribed pH balancing formula—is ideal to normalize pH levels. The same recommendation is made for female cats that display a tendency for chronic urinary tract problems. –M.W.

Some basic rules of prevention:

1. Even those cats who have never
had problems may need as much as half to three fourths of their food to consist of meat in order to completely mitigate the risk of urinary problems.

2. Make sure your cat gets as much
water as possible.

3. Feed cats wet food over dry food.

4. Soak kibble in water prior to serving.

5. Avoid a strict kibble diet.

6. Add pH enzymes to every meal to
aid in digestion and reduce metabolic tax on the feline body (pH enzymes contain vitamin C and cranberry extract which help acidify urine and soothe the urinary tract).

7. Have your vet check your cat’s
urine for pH levels and make sure it is in the range of 6.0-6.5.

“ He’s vegan?” the vet asked disapprovingly as she rotated her gaze from my six month-old feline friend, Newman, and back to me. “Do you want him to die?!”

The second time Newman visited the vet we kept the vegan secret to ourselves. “We notice that last time Newman was in here, he was being fed an insufficient and inappropriate vegan diet. Has this changed, Ms. Wyse?” “Oh of course,” I lied and winked to my fuzzy grey pal. “Well, that’s obvious, his health looks to be improving. His weight is on the up, his muscles, reflexes, gums, coat, everything looks to be developing well. It’s a good thing you changed his diet before it was too late.” “Oh I know,” I emphatically replied, still lying through my teeth.

After that dramatic fallacy at the vet, I was even more convinced that feeding Newman a vegan diet was the right choice. That vet didn’t know what she was talking about, after all, she was being paid by those awful meaty companies to sell their food, right? It did not seem like there was any science to back her opinion—she told me the cat looked fine when in fact there was no change in his diet at all. And wasn’t this the same rhetoric I was told when I went vegan? I had read all the information on the website about nutrition and I was convinced this was the right choice.

Then along came Taco Bella, my one year-old female rescued kitty who taught me a valuable lesson—cats are biologically carnivores and veggies don’t always cut it. After being on an all-vegan diet, my beloved had developed a severe urinary tract infection and started urinating blood. After a week of antibiotics, Taco was well again, but relapsed a month later. This time she was unable to move and had to have quarter size crystals and blood clots removed from her bladder. It was one of the worst cases the vet had seen, especially in a female cat. Although Taco experienced extreme discomfort, if left long enough, internal damage could have occurred due to blockages. This especially happens in male cats and results can be fatal. The cure? Meat-based prescription pH food for the rest of her life. And so the compromise began.

Where’s The Meat?
As vegans and vegetarians, we abstain from consuming the bodies of other animals. Vegans don’t eat, drink or wear any animals. And yet, in the fridges and cupboards of many of our herbivorous kitchens are cans containing the contents of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of different animals. And why? So we can care for our companion animals. We substantiate the equation: save one animal by killing thousands. How do we justify having animals as friends when we must kill others to care for them? When we save animals, who are we saving? If you’re like me, you’re facing the real vegan’s dilemma.

Jed Gillen, owner of, creator of Vegecat vegan cat food and author of Obligate Carnivore, presents the case for the animals, all the animals. He believes that it is never right to increase suffering where it is not due. Therefore, even if we must feed our cats meat, as in the case of Taco, there should be a dramatically lowered amount given. Jed has studied the biology of cats and discusses in his book why meat is thought to be so crucial, natural and right for our felines. Yet Jed believes that cats can be vegan and live healthy—if not healthier—lives.

The one massive myth Obligate Carnivore dispels is in regard to taurine, a sulfur containing amino acid important in the metabolism of fats that occurs naturally in animal tissue. Yet according to Jed, synthetic taurine has been produced on a large scale since 1930. And when eating a vegan diet, cats are shown to have ten times as much taurine as meat-eating cats. In fact most naturally occurring taurine is washed away during the rendering process and most meat-based pet foods contain synthetic taurine to meet nutritional requirements anyway. Cats can derive all necessary nutrients from a vegan diet Gillen argued. The problem is urine. Because of the relative acidity of meat to vegetable protein, many vegan cats suffer from urinary tract problems.

But Why are Vegans Telling Us to Feed Our Cats Meat?
You can imagine my surprise when logging on to early this year and finding a disclaimer on their Ordering/Product Info section: “Sadly, we can no longer endorse our product.” Wait, what? This is the guy who wrote the book and told people that thousands of cats are healthy vegans. What happened? Well, in light of the influx of urinary tract infections occurring, Jed and his team had to issue the disclaimer. And although Jed fully stands by his product, he is selling the company to Vegan Essentials and also encouraging people to feed their animals other animals, but the least amount possible.

When asked, Jed’s response is “if this suggestion were followed by all vegans we could collectively minimize animal suffering more effectively than if we were to stick with an all-or-nothing mindset.” It is Jed’s thought that if Taco, like many urinary problematic kitties, had been on a 50/50 meat to vegan diet in the first place, she wouldn’t be on a permanent meat diet and thus a reduction in the consumption of meat over Taco’s lifespan. Jed admits that “consistent with my goal as a vegan activist to do my part to minimize the amount of animal suffering that exists in the world, I had to accept, paradoxically enough, I could actually save more animals by recommending that people give their cats some meat than by insisting they try to make them completely vegan.”

Jed “still whole-heartedly endorses Evolution, Harbingers of a New Age brand cat food” and products sold on his site, but after “much soul-searching,” he has decided to change his official recommendations for certain cats because most customers have not been following the copious advice has been supplying with each purchase. (See Sidebar.)

So What is Most “Humane?”
Because my little Taco now eats her prescription pH food, I had to take Jed’s advice on my other two males at home before they faced a similar problem. But what to feed them? I stood in the aisle of my natural food market dizzy with the different types of meat-based foods. Turkey Dinner, Chicken Feast, Lamb Stew…I was overwhelmed. Especially knowing that a high percentage of all fish caught and killed in the U.S. are for pet foods. I couldn’t choose the fish based foods. I couldn’t stand seeing my feathered and four legged friends ground up into a mush either… I couldn’t choose. So I stared. Finally I decided on something that I now regret, but realize was the easy answer “Premium Feast.” Why did I choose it? For the same reason people can eat a hamburger over something called “Dead Cow’s Flesh Burger.” The premium feast had no names on the front of it, but instead a smiling happy cat, saying, “Yes! This is the food I want my mommy to feed me!” So I chose it, and sure enough my cats loved it. However, before I threw away the can, I looked at the ingredients: lamb, chicken, fish, beef. Everything and everyone. I was disgusted at the amount of carnage in the one can. But my cats looked up to me, licking their lips for more. I was torn. So I decided to do some homework.

In speaking with Jed about the kinds of “better” options and which meat is more ethical for animals, his response was, “when it comes to meat, as many of us already know, the superiority of free range or organic meats is nothing but an illusion or a marketing gimmick. And for cats and dogs, it is actually worse. Whereas cheap, generic brands are made from low-quality, scrap meats that could not be sold for human consumption, the more expensive, ‘premium’ brands use meat that could otherwise be made into people food. So in an attempt to be more ‘humane,’ the purchasers of these products are actually increasing the total amount of animals that must be slaughtered to feed the demand for meat and causing more animal suffering than they would be if they were to stick to the lower quality meat foods.”

I still opted for higher quality. So, here I was, Newman’s Own Organic Cat Food in one hand and PetGuard Natural Cat Food in the other. Nearly equal amounts of carnage, but in comparing ingredients they all matched up, no chemicals, preservatives, by-products, antibiotics, steroids, additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, colors or dyes. I bought them both.

I have come to learn it’s an ongoing compromise. What is the best kind of killing is not a question I would like to confront, but I face the numerous bodies in cans every time I make a purchase for my loved ones. One alternative to consider exploring is buying body parts directly from a meat counter, so I know exactly one animal has been sacrificed, or Wysong’s Au Jus cat foods that are nearly 100 percent of one type of animal in each can—rabbit, turkey, venison, etc.—rather than multiple species. But like I said, it’s still a process.

Whereas Jed Gillen used to say that prescription pH control food was a sham, he now feeds his large orange kitty Jude a small amount of meaty prescription food in addition to vegan wet food to “keep his urinary tract problem symptoms at bay.” I think the lesson to be learned is a reduction in suffering. There are still thousands of healthy vegan cats living today, yet, as vegans we have to always accept what is the least amount of suffering, make the most ethical decisions, and protect lives. When looking at the conditions of “humanely raised” cat and dog food we have to see faces, the same as the ones we reject for our own consumption. Because cats can live without an entirely meat based diet, we must be more deliberate in weighing our choices and help our furry friends do the same. Make the compromise.

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