There’s a joke that goes: “How do you know if someone’s vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” Truth be told, I am one of those vegans. Not that I try to be annoying or whatever, I’m just very proud of living my life this way. I think there is real beauty and a lot of joy that comes from making choices that say no to animal cruelty and yes to a kinder and healthier planet.
I also have a cat and I feed him meat.
I’m sure to a lot of people that might seem like a major contradiction. How can someone who’s so out and proud about their veganism still buy meat?
The truth is I can understand the criticism. At face value it seems hypocritical. But here’s the thing: the world is not a perfect place, and my veganism is not about perfection. It’s about doing the best I can.
Unlike humans, cats are obligate carnivores, which means they have to eat meat in order to survive. Left to their own devices in the wild, feral cats hunt and eat smaller animals such as mice, rats, birds, etc. This is natural for them. As someone who has promised to care for a cat, I have an obligation to make sure he is healthy and thriving. To impose my ethical views on my cat would not only be ridiculous, it would be dangerous.
I want to acknowledge that there are companies out there making vegan cat food that they claim is healthy. But honestly, I strongly question that claim. I know this is anecdotal, but over the years I have had friends who tried to switch their cats to a vegan diet and it ended with the cats getting very sick. These people had the best intentions of course, but they wound up regretting it in the end – and their poor cats.
I’ve also had fellow vegans challenge me on living with cats – telling me that I should reconsider adopting cats in the future. Fuck that. I love cats. I have been living with cats since my childhood and I adore them. Some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve had in my life have been with the animals I’ve lived with. As long as there are cats languishing in shelters, I will do my part to give them a loving home.
And yes, I will continue to feed them meat. Does it make me sad that animals were slaughtered for my cat? Yes. But at least they’re not being slaughtered for me – which is more than I can say for a vast majority of the human population.
For those of us who are vegan and live with cats, there is some good news on the horizon. A Canadian company recently announced that they are working on clean meat pet food. That is, cultured meat grown specifically for companion animals. The company behind this, Because Animals, says they could have a product to market as early as next year. Could you imagine being able to feed your cat meat knowing no slaughter was involved? It would be a damn miracle!
Until that time, I’ve made peace with the fact that my cat is my family and my responsibility. If that makes me a hypocrite in your eyes, so be it. I’m doing my best as an imperfect person living in an imperfect world.