Is a vegetarian diet good for cats?

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Is a vegetarian diet good for cats?

I’m a vegetarian (OK, I do eat seafood) for many reasons, health being one. And I want my cats to be healthy, so is a vegetarian diet good for cats? Turns out I’m not helping them by making them eat what may be healthy for me, but isn’t for them. In fact, a vegetarian diet for cats can be detrimental. Cats like meat, probably because their bodies are designed to digest meat and have nutrional needs requiring it. In fact, not only are cats carnivores they are obligate (biologically essential for survival) carnivores.

Sources of protein in a vegetarian diet

Legumes and beans often provide adequate protein in a typical vegetarian diet for humans. That’s because beans and legumes are high in fiber, folate, iron (when eaten with a source of vitamin C), and complex carbohydrates, plus they’re low in fat.

legumes in vegetarian diet

lentils are a legume
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

A legume

is a type of food that comes from a specific type of plant that is also called a legume. Legumes come from the family Leguminosae, and a trait all legumes share is that they grow in a type of pod. Lentils, soy, peanuts, split peas and clover are all legumes. Legumes are high in protein and not very fatty, so they are generally considered healthy.

is a vegetarian diet good for cats

can of beans
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

and beans

are a seed you can eat. You might love garbanzo beans but detest large, green lima beans. When you order rice and beans at a Mexican restaurant, you get a plate full of deliciously spiced, slightly mashed pinto or black beans. You might plant beans in your garden, vine-like climbing plants that grow pods with beans inside. Coffee and chocolate are both foods that start out as beans.


Phytates and lectins (lectins are sticky proteins) are naturally found in legumes. For cats, this is a problem because cats lack phytase, the necessary enzyme to process phytates. Phytates are also known to bind to minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and therefore depletes them from your cat’s body. This occurs during a meal containing phytates, not subsequent meals that do not contain legumes. But if your cat is fed a steady diet that does use legumes for protein, you should expect health risks.

A large proportion of the total protein in most cheap processed cat food is from plants, not animals. These ingredients artificially boost the total percentage of protein in cat food by manufactures.

cat food labels

cat food labels
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2016


Although manufacturers are required to list ingredients in order of precooked weight, you must read the labels carefully, and learn: how to interpret cat food labels.


Another major problem caused by using plant proteins as the protein source for cat food is that taurine, an amino acid, is missing in plants. Taurine must be consumed by cats, since their bodies can not produce it, and taurine deficiency causes cardiovascular disease and blindness.

Some cat owners believe they can feed their pet a vegetarian or vegan diet, and add a taurine supplement. In my opinion, this is the equivalent of eating nothing but iceberg lettuce and taking a synthetic multivitamin. That vitamin can’t possibly make up for all the nutrients missing from an iceberg lettuce-only diet.

Dr. Becker, DVM

Taurine is the amino acid found in animal muscle meat, especially in heart and liver.

The biological value (BV) of a protein is an important measurement, since it measures the bioavailability of its amino acid content. Proteins from animal muscle meats typically have high BVs, because it’s easier for cats to digest, absorb and use properly. Whereas proteins from snouts, beaks, feet and tails have 0 biological value (BV) because they are basically indigestible.

cat eats animal protein

Toby eats animal protein
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

So my fellow vegetarians, respect that cats are by nature meat eaters, and are designed to hunt and consume animal meat and organs. Corn, soy, rice, beans and legumes benefit the profit of cat food manufacturers, to the detriment of your cat.

Love your cat and feed your cat what is referred to as a “species appropriate” diet.
That means animal protein.
Let’s keep our cats healthy!

Kids & allergies to cats

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Why some people are allergic to cats

I had been wondering about this, especially since I am quite allergic to cats. I didn’t find out until I was an adult that I was allergic to cats at all. Which, coincidently, was when the first of our cats entered my life. Turns out, it may not be a coincidence.

The journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy published a study about kids and allergies to cats, conducted in 2011. The study followed over 550 kids from birth to 18 years old, by regularly collecting data from the families of the kids about the presence of cats in the home. Once the data was gathered and the study ended, blood samples were taken from each kid to test for allergies to cats.

Kids who had a cat in the house during their first year of life were 50% less likely to be allergic to cats than the children not exposed from birth to one year. Therefore, It was exposure during infancy that is significant. In the study authors own words, they concluded,

“The first year of life is the critical period during childhood when indoor exposure to cats influences sensitization to these allergins.”

Researchers also discovered that exposure to cats for kids a few years older didn’t make much of a difference.

kids and allergies to cats

photo shari smith dunaif ©2015



So here we have yet another great reason for families to enjoy cats in their home ESPECIALLY if you’ve got a baby! Your infant’s exposure to cats will enable your child, once they’ve grown up and have their own home, to be able to choose if they want to have cats, rather than allergies preventing them from having the option.

So now I know at least one reason why I’m allergic to cats.



cat art the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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cat art at The Metropolitan Museum

Last week, my friend Jenny and I went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in New York City,  Although we didn’t seek out cats in art, we happily found two excellent examples. The first one is a sculpture by Giacometti. I really like most of his work, but hadn’t seen this particular cat sculpture in bronze. Turns out the only other animal sculptures he did was one of a dog, two of horses.

Giacometti (1901-1966) cat bronze, 1954

Giacometti bronze cat

Giacometti cat
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017


Giacometti remembered that his brother Diego’s cat “passed just like a ray of light,” squeezing it’s lithe and predatory form close to objects without ever touching them.

from The Metropolitan Museum

The other wonderful surprise was because Jenny wanted to track down an artist she likes: Balthus. Luckily for us, when asking for directions from a Met guard, he steered us to the painting Jenny wanted to see, then generously directed us to Balthus paintings scattered in other collections, around the museum. That’s how we came upon Thérèsa Dreaming, a 1938 painting by Balthus.

Balthus Thérèsa Dreaming

Thérèsa Dreaming
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

Being that Jenny is a cat person too, we were both delighted by the cat in the painting.

cat in Balthus painting Thérèsa Dreaming

the cat in Thérèsa Dreaming
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017


Thérèsa Blanchard, who was about twelve or thirteen at the   time this picture was made, and her brother Hubert were neighbors of Balthus in Paris. She appears alone, with her cat, or with her brother in a series of  eleven painting between 1936 and 1939.

From The Metropolitan Museum

Jenny and I had a fabulous day. Can’t wait to return to The Met to discover more cats in art.


Why you should adopt two kittens: reason one

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It’s so much fun watching kittens play. And here’s

Why you should adopt two kittens:

They rassle, pounce, do all kinds of entertaining things. They also help each other learn. The mother cat is the primary teacher for the social and survival skills kittens need to learn,  in order to behave as adult cats. But it’s not unusual for kittens in a shelter to have lost their mother. So what happens if young kittens don’t have their mother? For siblings who don’t have a mom, at least they have each other.

reason one

let’s talk about biting
According to Rita Del Rey, Operations Cat and Volunteer Coordinator at ARF, kittens who are deprived of their mother, and siblings, are more likely to bite. That’s because a kitten raised alone has no one to learn from.

why you should adopt two kittens

kitten alone in shelter
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2017

When kittens play together, they are learning to communicate, including how hard to bite.  If kittens are playing, and one kitten bites the other too hard, that kitten will certainly let the biting kitten know to not bite so hard. For alone kittens, how are they going to learn the difference between play biting from biting when hunting?

Why you should adopt sibling kittens

adopt sibling kittens photo by shari smith dunaif ©2017

so adopt two kittens:

  • Twice the love
  • Twice the cuddles
  • Two kittens can entertain each other while you’re busy or away at work
  • There’s not much added cost to having a second kitten

amazing maze for cats

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Cats will play!

These cats Cole & Marmalade, love their new funhouse created by pet parent Chris Poole. He created a maze for his cats that provide entertainment for them and us.

Find some boxes, a lot of boxes, and cut out openings in most of them, and you’ll have what these lucky kitties have – an amazing maze for cats.

Love this!