CATS might be better off eating a vegan diet, a new study led by an academic from the University of Winchester suggests.

The vegan versus meat-based cat food study, was authored by professor Andrew Knight, a visiting lecturer at the University’s Faculty of Health and Wellbeing.

The study concluded: “The pooled evidence to date from our study, and from others in this field, indicate that cats fed nutritionally sound vegan diets are healthier overall, than those fed meat-based diets.”

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With the help of their owners, the scientists surveyed more than 1,300 cats throughout a year and compared the health of those on a traditional meat diet to the nine per cent which were eating a vegan alternative.

The researchers looked at seven general indicators of ill-health in cats - including unusually high numbers of visits to the vet and whether medication was needed. Owners were asked to report their own opinion of their cat's health as well as what they believed their vet's assessment to be.

After making allowances for the cats’ age, sex and neutering status, the study found that average vegan cats were:

  • 7.3 per cent less likely to visit a vet with unusual frequency, indicating treatment for illness
  • 14.9 per cent less likely be on medication
  • 54.7 per cent less likely to be on as special therapeutic diet.

The teams also examined the occurrence of 22 common cat health disorders, using reported veterinary assessments, and found that 42 per cent cats fed meat suffered from at least one disorder compared to 37 per cent of those on vegan diets.

The findings come a year after Professor Knight published a similar study with dogs.

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The cat owners from the latest survey said their pets’ health and nutrition was the top priority when choosing a diet. Fifty-one per cent of them said they would reconsider the cat food they buy.

With approximately 400m domesticated cats around the world, the findings could help reduce the environmental impact of the protein-consuming pets.

Professor Knight believes a switch to vegan diets for pets could have enormous benefits for the planet.

He said: “There could be major savings in greenhouse gasses, land and freshwater use, and food energy.

“There is no evidence to suggest that cats suffer in any way from a nutritionally-sound vegan diet.”

He added that regardless of ingredients, pet diets should always be formulated to be nutritionally complete and balanced.