The cat who refuses to eat meat
Published: 28 April 2009 (GMT+10)
Living as we do in a cursed, post-Fall world, it’s hard to imagine a cat that would refuse to eat meat—and whose palate cannot even be tempted by fish.
Some previous articles of ours (see below) have covered such things as lions brought up on non-meat diets like pasta, cheese and eggs—which highlights that even today, some animals that are believed to be “obligate carnivores” do not actually need to eat meat after all. But Britain’s “veggie cat” seems truly unique.
Called “Dante”, the black and white feline was found by Miss Becky Page, abandoned and starving, as a fluffy kitten. A tasty bowl of chicken was rejected. Dante also turned his nose up at a serve of fish. But when he spied some leftover vegetables, the starving youngster hungrily devoured them.
Now two years old, Dante has resolutely stuck to his vegetarian diet ever since, despite many offers of even the finest canned cat food. His owner grows most of the organic delights he savours—both fruits and vegetables. His favourites include brussels sprouts and asparagus, melon and rhubarb, and he “has been known to raid the fruit bowl for bananas”.1
Miss Page insists that Dante does not supplement his diet with wild prey. Not only has she never seen him stalking anything living (only bits of string) but, she says, he hates to even go outside. Also, Page keeps “three chickens, a rabbit, two guinea pigs, a rat, a hamster and fish at her home”, but Dante is not even remotely interested in adding them to his menu.
Veterinary experts advise that cats (unlike humans, or even dogs) absolutely cannot get certain nutrients from any source other than meat. Even vegetarian cat foods contain synthetic versions of these vital ingredients. So Dante’s owner tries to smuggle the occasional scrap of meat into his food. When he spies this, though, Dante studiously leaves the meat behind.
The nutrients concerned are arachidonic acid,2 which cats need for wound healing3 —and also taurine,4 without which the retina is supposed to deteriorate gradually so that the animal goes blind, and also suffer heart problems.5 But Dante is as healthy as ever. Whether that is the result of Becky’s efforts to get the odd scrap past the gatekeeper or not, vets appear to be uniformly puzzled about Dante’s situation.6
Which tempts one to speculate about the origin of meat-eating in the cat kind (see the Creation Answers Book, chapter 6, “How did bad things come about?”) Perhaps loss mutation was somehow involved, with cats now no longer having the ability to synthesize some of the ingredients they now need to obtain from meat?
Could Dante be an example of a “reverse mutation”, restoring the ability to synthesize the necessary ingredients? If so, this may have caused him to also lose the “drive” to obtain those ingredients via meat, something which is otherwise “normal” for all cats, regardless of size. Of course, this is speculation in the absence of more information, but speculation based on known examples in nature (see for example At last, a good mutation?). But at least we see once more that even in this fallen world, something we have come to see as “normal” is not “inevitable”. And speaking of “normal” it was fascinating to see that at the foot of the UK Daily Mail web article from which most of this information was gleaned, there was a comment from a Russian reader, Elena, saying:
“That’s how it should be!
It’s natural for all the living beings not to eat each other.”
Well, Elena, we agree that “That’s how it should be”—or rather, that’s how it was meant to be—originally, before Adam’s sin messed things up. Back in Eden, it really would have been “natural for all the living beings not to eat each other.” It’s because we’ve become so accustomed to living in a post-Fall world that we tend to see rare examples like Dante as decidedly “unnatural”. It is also likely not the way it will be (Isaiah 11, 65)—see also The carnivorous nature and suffering of animals.
It’s interesting though that when there are such rare, occasional “glimpses of Eden”, even unbelievers would find it generally “good” for Dante to be cozying up to his carrots than to be tormenting some hapless mouse prior to tearing it apart for lunch. This, for Christians, is very much relevant to the whole issue of the age of the earth. If the fossil record really was laid down over millions of years, rather than being largely related to the global Flood of Genesis, that means that most of the fossils predate man. But the fossils show evidence of not just death and diseases including gout7 and cancer, broken bones and infections, they show evidence of things eating each other (including coprolites with remains of animals killed for food).
Which means that all those things we naturally see as “bad” must have been part of the world that God calls “very good”, and the whole idea that the Fall can explain the “bad things” in nature is gone. God must like death, suffering and carnivory! We can see once more the mess one gets into by trying to harmonize man-made ideas like “millions of years” with the obvious, straightforward outline of world history God gives us in Genesis.
- Meet Dante: Britain’s first vegetarian cat who refuses to eat meat or fish, MailOnline, 14 April 2009 Return to text.
- Arachidonic acid = all-cis-5,8,11,14-eicosatetraenoic acid, C19H31COOH, an omega-6 fatty acid. Return to text.
- “Arachidonic acid is necessary to produce an inflammatory response. In many cases, such as in allergies, the goal is to suppress the inflammatory response. But in other cases, the response is a necessary means by which the body can protect itself. Arachidonic acid also helps to regulate skin growth, is necessary for proper blood clotting, and is necessary for the reproductive and gastrointestinal systems to function properly.” Feline Nutritional & Special Health Issues FAQs. Return to text.
- Taurine (after Latin taurus, bull/ox, where it was first found) = 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid NH2C2H4SO3H. Return to text.
- “Taurine deficiency causes feline central retinal degeneration (FCRD), eventually leading to irreversible blindness, dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) & reduced fertility in female cats.” Taurine and Cats, Catworld. Return to text.
- Note that even the non-meat-eating lions discussed in our previous articles may have been able to get these from e.g. eggs and cheese (egg yolk contains arachidonic acid, and milk contains some taurine). But Dante appears to prefer a totally vegan (i.e. no eggs or cheese, even) diet. Return to text.
- B.M. Rothschild, D. Tanke and Ken Carpenter, Tyrannosaurs suffered from gout, Nature 387(6631):357, 22 May 1997. Return to text.
I well remember visiting friends in the highlands of Irian Jaya (Indonesia) in the middle 1980s. They had a cat there which had never eaten meat, because meat was very hard to get. Instead it had lived for years on boiled rice and vegies.
In all respects it appeared to be quite healthy, except for the fact that it didn't have so much as one tooth left in its mouth. It seems that lack of chewing on its food had led to the gradual loss of its teeth, until none were left. Naturally it was now completely dependent on its owners to provide food, which they were happy to do as it was a very friendly and companionable animal.