A study has been published in a scientific journal claiming that cats fed on a plant-based diet were found to be generally more healthy than those on a meat diet.
The research, published online in journal Plos One, was carried out by a research team from the UK and Germany and was based on a survey of 1,369 cat owners or guardians – 70% in the UK, 20% in Europe and 10% worldwide – who fed plant-based or meat-based diets to their pets. In the study, a total of 1,242 owners (91%) fed their cats on a meat-based diet whilst 127 cat owners (9%) fed their cats on a plant-based diet over the course of at least a year. Researchers then examined seven general indicators of illness in the cats, after taking into account factors such as age, sex, neutering status and location.
The researchers examined the prevalence of 22 specific health disorders using reported veterinary assessments. They found that a total of 42% of cats fed on meat, and 37% of those fed on plant-based diets suffered from at least one disorder. Of these 22 disorders, 15 were most common in cats fed on meat, and seven most common in cats fed on plant-based diets. On average, cats fed a plant-based diet showed a 7% reduction in increased veterinary visits (consistent with illness); a 15% reduction in medication use; a 55% reduction in progression on to a therapeutic diet; a 4% reduction in cats reportedly being assessed as “unwell” by veterinarians; an 8% reduction in veterinary assessments of more severe illness; and a 23% reduction in guardian “opinions” of more severe illness, the report says.
The study was funded by food awareness campaign group ProVeg International with surveys taking place from May–December 2020 and respondents recruited through social media.
Lead author, veterinary Professor Andrew Knight from the University of Winchester, said: “Modern vegan diets produced by pet food companies use plant, mineral and synthetic sources to supply all needed nutrients. They also lack hazards such as animal-sourced allergens that occur within meat-based pet food.
“We therefore expect to see health outcomes as good or better, when cats are fed nutritionally-sound vegan diets, and that’s exactly what this very large-scale study shows. Our results are consistent with other studies in this field.”