FLAWED! Vegan cat food study, Griffith University FAIL!

It’s a palm-in-face fail this week as the Gold Coast’s Griffith University shamelessly unleashed a new “fact” on the world about what’s good or bad for our cats.

If you’re a vegan yourself, I think you’ll be mighty pi**ed off at such a play on your beliefs.

If you’re a cat, and your owner has been sucked in by this research, from a University which should be more responsible, then I feel for you – and the pain you may suffer.

I will also discuss the results of the study, and how I interpret them based on real facts about pet food in general.

Do you want to know how stupid a University can be?

Let’s find out…

What’s new pussycat, modern science is here to f*ck you up

On the 14th September 2023, Griffith University gift-wrapped one of the dumbest studies I’ve ever read in an article called What’s new, pussycat? The benefits of a vegan cat food, that’s what.

The click-bait titled article from Griffith University, who apparently rank in the top 2% of Universities worldwide, tells us how a Professor Andrew Knight and his team surveyed 1,418 cat guardians. 1,380 of those cat owners responded with non-scientific answers.

The results of the study suggest vegan cat food is better than meat-based cat food, for your pet carnivore.

These clever boffins put the cats in two buckets – those fed meat-based cat food and those fed vegan cat food.

That’s where the research is so fundamentally flawed it’s an absolute joke.


Most cat food is not meat-based, it’s GRAIN-based!

To think this professor, someone who should be able to use their brain just a little bit, seemingly conducted research into cats eating a meat-based diet without realising those cats weren’t really fed a meat-based diet.

How’s that for missing the Elephant in the room?

This fact alone makes the study completely flawed from the start, and doesn’t prove in any way, shape, or form that vegan cat food is better than meat-based cat food.

Despite this incredible oversight, how many cats will suffer based on this illegitimate research being unleashed on the world?




Unleash the power of The Guardian’s army of fresh out of Uni click-hungry journos

We know the media of today loves to click-bait us, and I find The Guardian are always the first to capitalise on our emotions.

It didn’t take them long to publicise Griffith Universities findings-but-not-findings in an article titled Cats may get health benefits from vegan diet, study suggests.

You may note the last two words study suggests and also the word may”. Once you tune yourself in to wording such as this you’ll realise how many media articles are mere suggestions or hyperbole. They don’t state facts, merely suggest facts, of which readers take as fact because it’s in the paper.

Nevertheless, people trust what they read in the media.

This is how flawed research becomes fact

It doesn’t take long for journalists worldwide to regurgitate articles from leading media outlets, and over the week I’ve seen this alleged evidence regurgitated by many, reinforcing a belief vegan cat food is better for pet carnivores than “meat”.

I’ve seen it before, and I’ll see it again, but this steamroller of a ball will convince many that vegan cat food is healthy, and better, when it isn’t.

Including veterinarians and animal nutritionists.

When the University of Melbourne published a study which suggested raw chicken caused paralysis in dogs, based on finding around 50% of the dogs in the study with a very rare condition APN had the bacteria campylobacter, it convinced many veterinarians and pet owners worldwide that meat was bad for our meat-eating pets.

What they failed to say was around 50% of dogs in a healthy Australian dog population carried campylobacter, from shared water bowls or licking the butts of other dogs in the park.

Which meant they proved nothing.

Despite such an oversight, University of Melbourne, with funding from grain-based global pet food manufacturer Mars, contributed yet more misinformation to what we know about the nutritional needs of carnivorous pets.

When Mars brand Advance Dermocare, made mostly of corn, killed many much-loved Australian family dogs with a condition megaesophagus, Mars-sponsored University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Hospital were tasked to find the cause, yet failed to find the cause to be the corn.

It was only a subsequent outbreak of megaesophagus from a vegan dog food, also made of corn, where the cause was discovered. Mycotoxins from corn.

It took the manufacturer of the vegan dog food around a week to find the cause and announce it publicly. U-Vet failed over a matter of months.

You’ve probably heard grain-free boutique dog foods cause heart failure in dogs? Namely canine dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM?

Don’t get me started on this saga unleashed by a Tufts veterinarian on the payroll of multiple pet food manufacturers like Mars and Nestle, two manufacturers who make most of our Australian pet foods – Purina, Supercoat, Pedigree, My Dog, Optimum, Advance, Royal Canin, et al.

Misinformation fools the world, and this latest study to suggest vegan cat food is better for our carnivore cats is just the latest debacle.

Many studies into pet nutrition are funded by the pet food industry, but I’m not sure this one is – it’s too obviously stupid.

What were the real results of the study?

If you think about this research pragmatically, there are conclusions which should be drawn.

To quote the Griffith University article:

The team also examined the prevalence of 22 specific health disorders, using reported veterinary assessments. Forty two percent of cats fed meat, and 37% of those fed vegan diets suffered from at least one disorder.   

Of these 22 disorders, 15 were most common in cats fed meat, and seven most common in cats fed vegan diets.

Griffith University Queensland, on the “benefits of a vegan cat food”.

I don’t know about you, but neither 37% or 42% sounds good when you’re considering how many health conditions a cat is currently suffering.

They shouldn’t be suffering any.

The chart below shows the 22 most common health disorders found from both the vegan and regular-kibble fed cats:

Health disorders in cats fed a vegan diet versus meat-based diet
Health disorders in cats fed a vegan diet versus meat-based diet – Source: Professor Andrew Knight, Griffith University

None of the above findings prove in any way a vegan cat food is better than a meat-based cat food diet, but we can make educated assumptions working on the basis the “meat-based” group are fed commercial grain or starch based kibble products.

I would hope any researcher worth their salt will take these considerations and act on them for the real benefit of our pets:

Dental health concerns

You will note dental/oral health is the most common condition in both groups of cats. Given poor dental health remains undiscovered in many pets, and often missed in veterinary check-ups, I expect this issue to be much more prevalent than this chart suggests.

I see this as an issue with commercial pet foods in general, whether kibble, wet, or BARF. Most pet owners fail to prevent dental disease, which is addressed by similar animals in the wild from chewing or gnawing on the bones of prey. In a domestic setting we have alternative options for chewing, or brushing, yet many believe treat products such as Greenies or Dentastix cover these concerns.

The fact dental health is the most common health issue in these cats is a clear indicator neither vegan/vegetarian cat food or alleged meat-based cat food is preventing dental disease.

Dental disease, or periodontal disease, is a precursor to numerous health conditions which harm both us and our pets.

Body weight concerns

Only us and animals fed by us suffer weight issues such as obesity.

With the assumption most cats in the study are fed a kibble diet, it is worth considering if this is the reason body weight is the second most common condition.

There are other factors to consider with this, such as feeding amounts, lifestyle of the cats (indoor/outdoor), age, and so forth.

What percentage of cats not fed a kibble diet would be in this category? What percentage of raw-fed cats with a diet absent of carbohydrates or sugars, suffer this condition?

Gastrointestinal / Skin & Coat concerns

The difference in this respect is more noticeable, with both gastrointestinal and skin/coat issues being more common on cats fed a commercial “meat-based” kibble over those fed a vegan cat food.

Gastrointestinal and skin/coat issues as the 3rd and 4th most common health conditions should not be overlooked as an issue with commercial cat foods in general.

I expect these gastrointestinal and skin/coat issues are caused more from dietary sensitivities and intolerances to grains and other starches. After all, cats should not be fed these ingredients.

Grains and other starches are likely more common in regular cat foods than plant-based vegan or vegetarian cat foods.

I urge you to consider this strongly, as I see poor dental health, weight issues, gastrointestinal issues, and skin & coat issues a direct result of feeding species-inappropriate diets through processed pet foods.

Note all four of these known diet-related issues are common in all cats, but worryingly the conditions I consider more detrimental to the longevity of a cat are more common on vegan cat foods. Let’s consider them next:

Most common health conditions affecting vegan/vegetarian fed cats

You will note the above chart is skewed against meat-based diets (which I reiterate aren’t even meat based).

If you view the data with the most common health conditions affecting the vegan fed group of cats, you will see they’re in this order:

  • Dental/oral
  • Body weight
  • Lower urinary tract
  • Kidney
  • Ears
  • Eyes

Viewing the results in this more accurate way is concerning, especially when you consider lower urinary tract, kidney, and eyes being more common in vegan fed cats.

These issues are detrimental, and kidney disease happens to be one of the most common killers of domestic cats.

Eye health issues, connected with renal issues, are known to be diet-associated, such as taurine deficiency – meat is a rich source of taurine.

My view is species inappropriate ingredients cause all the above issues, and are not specific to vegan cat food or otherwise. Merely inappropriate diets.

Other health concerns

To wrap up this overview of my thoughts on the study findings, let’s consider the remaining conditions.

It must be said these conditions will have more variance depending on the set of cats in the study, and all may be related to inappropriate diet rather than being vegan cat food or grain-based cat food specific.

We can ignore injury as a pointless inclusion, unless the type of cat food specifically injured the cat while eating it. Revenge of the Kibble?

Cancer/tumours and other musculoskeletal issues were only reported in cats in the “meat-based” category.

Behavioural issues were more common in cats in the vegan category.

Allergy issues were also more common in the vegan category.

Final thoughts on vegan vs meat-based cat food

What are your thoughts having read the above?

Does this study suggest cats suffer almost as much on a vegan dry cat food as they would a meat-based cat food formulated mostly from cereal grains, potato, tapioca, or other non-species appropriate ingredients?

That’s what it suggests to me.

To me, the results of the study do not suggest vegan cat food is healthy in any way, and I expect the results would be far different if the meat-fed cats were actually fed a meat-based real food diet.

Given most cat foods sold in Australia (and around the world) are convenience products designed to profit from your cat, and not necessarily formulated for the health of your cat, all this research suggests is processed convenience food is generally bad for your cat as a pet carnivore.

The research doesn’t prove vegan cat food is healthier for your cat.

I feel it is poor form for a University, more so a reputable Australian university such as Griffith, to allow studies such as this to be conducted without real consideration, or to be publicised worldwide to contribute to fundamentally flawed misinformation on the nutritional needs of factually carnivorous animals.

What do you think? All views are welcome.

Calling Aussie pet lovers – join the mailing list!

David D'Angelo

David D'Angelo has worked as a scientist since graduating with a BSc (Hons) in 2000. In addition, David holds a CPD accredited Diploma in Pet Nutrition as well as being CPD accredited VSA (Veterinary Support Assistant). However, his experience and involvement in the pet food industry for 15+ years has given true insight into pet food, formulations, science, research, and pet food marketing. Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram | Pinterest

1 Comment
  1. Haha talk about click bait! Pet meat is actually grain? You are an embarrassment

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