Forgive a (possibly) silly question - but I have a cat as a pet, and of course I purchase cat food for him and feed it to him. Being a pretty recent participant of Buddhist thought and practice, I also understand that eating meat (something I admittedly still do myself) is frowned upon, but the thought occurred to me the other day - is it also frowned upon to buy my pet meat-based products? By doing so I participate in the killing of animals. On the other hand, cats are pretty much carnivores by nature, and trying to get a cat to go vegetarian would likely harm him.

  • There are many questions here about meat eating, it does vary from tradition to tradition, I also see as personal preference like Sankha said, you can look for those questions here if you want.
    – konrad01
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 14:31
  • Can domestic cats be healthy as vegetarians?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 5:18

5 Answers 5


Looking more critically at karmic web is good, but the whole point is to reduce/diminish and ultimately end suffering, however it manifests in the world...

That said, it doesn't hurt to look into where you get your cat food from, getting it from more ethical sources.

We could go out and try and prevent every lion from eating a gazelle, but that would kill the lion and the gazelle, because the gazelle would overgraze and run out of food, and the lion would starve.

When synthetic meat is plentiful and cheap, then maybe we can have no ethical qualms about our feline's meals having meat in them, but until then, try and make the best decision with the information you have available.

Meat is not really the problem, the main issue is what happens to obtain the meat. In whatever way we can minimize or avoid that, so much the better. So perhaps you get cat food that's chicken from chickens that only ate corn instead of eating worms. Honestly I do not know if such products exist or are at that level of transparency yet, but it's possible, depending on where you live.

Don't sweat it. The intention you have to keep your furry roommate friend alive is more valuable than the other side of the scale.


I also understand that eating meat (something I admittedly still do myself) is frowned upon

It depends on the tradition and personal beliefs. If you follow Theravada Buddhism, you wouldn't have any issue with feeding yourself or your cat with meat products. In Theravada Buddhism, the word of the Buddha is valued higher than personal opinions. So you or your cat is less likely to get frowned upon, just for eating meat. :) Vegetarianism is usually treated as a personal food preference.

  • 1
    If i might kindly add to Sankhas answer. It is also important to look at the intention behind the action. Do you have any intention to kill or to harm living beings when you buy cat food? If you can answer "no" to that question then you have done nothing wrong. If you want to go deeper into the ethics about where the meat is comming from then you can do that but it is the intention behind the action that is the key here.
    – user2424
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 14:20

As noted elsewhere, it's pretty much only Mahayana Buddhism (especially Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese Buddhism) where vegetarianism as an ideal is the norm. So I'm answering from that standpoint.

The Upaseka Precepts Sutra* does have something to say about pets. They essentially promote divesting of your animals, specifically singles out carnivores as unallowable animals to own, and suggests releasing them back to the wild. In practice, some lay followers donate the animals to temples, which let the animals live out their life on the monestary.

I'm a vegan, but out of accident of family history I own a cat, who kills mice in my apartment and eats cat food from a bag, the label says it is 20% plant matter, so which is 20% more than a cat would eat in the wild. Obviously I'm a pragmatist and prefer harm reduction over harm rationalization.

A random observation is that my cat loves corn. Some of the cat food brands he has eaten use corn gluten as the source of protein and he really likes the flavor of corn.

  • An Upsaksa is a lay person, this sutra is for lay people who takes on more than the 5 precepts, but fewer than the Bodhisattva Precepts or the vinaya precepts, which are for monastics.

ref: http://www.sutrasmantras.info/sutra33c.html

(16) If an upāsaka who has accepted this precept raises animals, such as elephants, horses, cows, goats, camels, or donkeys, and refuses to give them away to someone who has not received the [upāsaka] precepts, he has committed the sin of negligence.

ref: http://www.ic.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/bns/bnstext.htm

  1. On Harming Sentient Beings A disciple of the Buddha must not sell knives, clubs, bows, arrows, other life-taking devices, nor keep altered scales or measuring devices. He should not abuse his governmental position to confiscate people's possessions, nor should he, with malice at heart, restrain or imprison others or sabotage their success. (82) In addition, he should not raise cats, dogs, foxes, pigs and other such animals. (83) If he intentionally does such things, he commits a secondary offense.

May be you could feed your cat egg products ? It minimizes the negative karma yet may also be a nutritionally complete meal. I don't have any cats and not sure they would consume eggs, but you can try feeding the cat part of your omelot. You can also try try tuna which may have less of a karmic repurcussion than something higher up on the food chain. It's been said the difference between killing a plant and killing an animal is that you can't hear the plant scream. Keeping this in mind you may want to choose a diet that minimizes the withdrawl from you and your cats karmic accounts.


Vajra Yana Buddhism ( Ref-Wikipedia) allows the followers to take meat and the Preachers ( Acharyas) to get married .
It came as a variant of Buddhism in India ,firstly as an attempt to combine Tantra System of Hinduism with Buddhism and later around 7th-8th Century AD to justify the use of Violence for Self-Defence and for protection of Buddhists from opponents of Buddhism --mainly Islam which justified the use of Violence for spread of Religion.
This form of Buddhism spread to other parts of the World and is known by different names in different regions.

  • That is interesting information. Seems pretty relevant in today's world. Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 17:47

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