CAT owners who feed pets a vegan diet could be breaking the law, the RSPCA warned last night.
One in six pet food suppliers now offer vegan or vegetarian food for animals as owners embrace a new craze for plant based meals.
But the RSPCA warned that cats fed exclusively vegan foods could become “seriously ill” and could mean land owners are breaking animal welfare laws.
The animal charity said cats need meat to survive, but dogs, as omnivores, could possibly survive on a well-balanced vegetarian diet.
An RSPCA spokesperson told The Telegraph: “Under the Animal Welfare Act the law requires an owner to take reasonable steps to ensure that all the pet’s needs are met.
“This includes a healthy diet as well as providing suitable living conditions, ability to behave normally, appropriate company and protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
“Cats are strict carnivores and depend on some very specific nutrients that are found in meat including taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acid so can become seriously ill if they are fed a vegetarian or vegan diet.
“If an owner is considering switching their pet’s diet they should consult with their vet to make sure that it will meet all their pets nutritional needs which will depend on many factors such as age, health and lifestyle.”
Marge Chandler, an expert on animal nutrition, told the paper: “Feeding an inappropriate or incomplete diet is a welfare issue — no matter what diet it is.”
Professor Chandler, from Glasgow University, had to hospitalise an animal which was severely underweight and had fur missing due to its diet.
She added it was “crucial” that cats are fed a diet with at least 20 per cent meat protein.
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Brands supplying meat free pet food use vegan and veggie friendly meals use vegetable protein derived from soya, wheat, maize, rice and beet pulp substituted with synthetic vitamins and amino acids found naturally in meat.
Veggie pet food supplier Benevo denied there were health concerns over feeding cats or dogs a plant-based diet.
Director Damian Eadie said he believed vets who disagreed were “suffering an unshakeable ideology”.