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Dogs and Cats Can Be Healthy, Happy Vegans, Research Shows

From Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today / Animal Emotions
October 2023

Plant-based diets are good for our companions and good for the planet. Exploring the sustainability and environmental benefits of plant-based meals for dogs, cats, and humans.


Can cats be healthy, happy vegans? Many people categorically say "No!"—end of story. Others say things like, "Maybe, but I'm not sure, and I remain skeptical," whereas still others are happy to learn what research tells us is possible and say, "I'm happy to try."

To help provide more information on this "hot" topic, I went right to the expert on these matters, veterinary professor of Animal Welfare Andrew Knight, who has been studying feline and canine diets for many years.

I'm pleased Andrew could answer a few questions that focus on two recent open-access data-driven seminal studies, the first that shows the health and behavioral benefits of vegan diets for cats and dogs—"Vegan versus meat-based cat food: Guardian-reported health outcomes in 1,369 cats, after controlling for feline demographic factors"—and the second that shows the sustainability and environmental benefits of plant-based meals for dogs, cats, and humans—“The relative benefits for environmental sustainability of vegan diets for dogs, cats, and people." All in all, data show that moving toward plant-based diets is not a fringe "radical" move but rather one that has a sound foundation in solid science. Outdated myths need to be put to rest.

Marc Bekoff: Why did you do this most important research, and how is it related to your background, interests, and expertise?

Andrew Knight: We’ve long known the food system was important for environmental sustainability, and that transition toward plant-based diets was essential, if we’re to slow climate change and environmental degradation. However, we’ve always assumed this applied only to human diets. We’ve rarely considered such diets for our dogs and cats. As a veterinarian, I wanted to explore the potential benefits for environmental sustainability, of nutritionally sound vegan diets for dogs and cats. My related research has also explored health and behavioural outcomes.



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