The Ghosts In Our Machine

Samantha and Chris’ Ghost-Free Journey: Day 3

Photo by Coach Rosemary of her 3 beautiful doggies.

Yesterday we discussed the use of medications as a vegan and the ethics around this subject. This is a complex issue and it was wonderful to have such open and honest reflections.

For Day 3, Samantha and Chris would like to discuss companion animal products and food. In Samantha’s words : “Our fur kids are the most important part of our lives. We want to include them in our Ghost Free Life as much as possible, but safely.”

Samantha and Chris – could you tell us a bit about your fur kids (how many, what kind, how old) ?

Coach Donna and Coach Rosemary

The opinions we express as GFJ Coaches are ours personally. We are not professional health practitioners.  Neither are we treating a specific health care issue.  That means we are not offering advice on health-care problems. If you  are experiencing a health-care problem, it is important to seek the advice of a health professional. However we are experienced, practicing vegans and we look forward to coaching you on your journey.


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  1. Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 9:13 am

    We have a pit-mix daughter named Luna who is almost 3 years old. She enjoys playing in the snow and loves her furry siblings. She is the baby of the family and has a tendency to be spoiled.

    We have cat kids that vary in ages from 4-12 years. They enjoy sleeping on laptops and textbooks. They also play games that make it sound like we live in a bowling alley.

    We have two ferret kids who are about 3 years old, named Shelbee & Dook.They enjoy supervised playtime with the cats and Luna and playing hide and go seek in our sofa.


    • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Luna is a beauty!!!!

      • Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 10:39 am

        Thank You! She will be pleased to hear that 🙂
        We like to say that she is a “Pretty Pitty”.

        Rosemary’s dogs are also stunning. Are they whippets? Three is a great number to have so they always have a friend to play with 🙂

        • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 11:25 am

          I am posting this for Rosemary who is having technical difficulties at the moment:

          What a wonderful family you have, Samantha and Chris!
          I have done some research about feeding dogs a vegan diet, and it seems to be alright as long as they get all the amino acids for complete
          protein. Cats on a vegan diet is more complicated, and I’ve read many conflicting opinions. Currently, my dogs are on Natural Balance (vegan) and
          are doing really well. I’ve tried a few others, including Dr. Harvey’s, V-Dog (in photo) and supplementing with homemade. Dr. Armati May is
          expert in this field.

        • Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 11:42 am

          Is there are reason that you switched to Nature’s Balance from V-Dog? Luna is currently eating her conventional dog food and a variety of fruit, veggies, and occasionally grains. She LOVES berries the most.
          When she sees me pulling out the juicer or hears me turn it on, she comes running. She often gets the juicer pulp mixed in with her food (provided I juice only things that she can safely eat). If she gets shut out of the kitchen while I am juicing, she has a fit.

          • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm

            Hi Samanthat – this is the reply from Rosemary about why she switched:

            I switched back to Natural Balance from V-Dog because two of my three dogs happened to have
            stomach issues. It was very difficult to determine what was causing the problem because at the
            same time, we had our yard fenced in, and the dogs were outside eating all kinds of things. Our
            vet recommended going back to the original food (NB) to see if it cleared up…and it did. This
            may have been a coincidence, but I’m not sure. I think both of these dog formulas are great
            quality, it may be a matter of what works best for each animal. If you call V-Dog, they are
            really wonderful with customer service, and you can even get a sample! Actually, I have some left
            so we can meet and you can try some with your Luna 🙂
            In addition to their kibble, I add flax oil once a day and various treats (carrots, apple, pear,
            or whatever I’m eating). I think it’s so cute that Luna is a juicer!

          • Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm

            It would be great if we could get some for Luna to try. She is a little on the picky side at times.

    • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Rosemary’s doggies are Italian Greyhounds. I love the photos of the 3 of them together.
      Yes, I agree – 3 seems to be a great number – if one doesn’t feel like playing, chances are that another one will. 🙂

  2. Nina January 9, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Wow – ferrets, cats and dogs! It’s amazing they all get along together in harmony!
    I have heard that you have to feed your dogs and cats meat (and what about ferrets?) and then I have heard others says that their pets are on vegan diets? Do any of you know what the facts are about this?

    • Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 9:40 am

      To my knowledge dogs can easily adjust to a vegan diet. We have yet to find a good vegan dog food for Luna. She has some allergies to ingredients in certain dog foods (we believe wheat) that result in dry itchy skin. I wanted to make homemade vegan dog food for her but just do not have the time with work and school. Does anyone have any suggestions for a vegan dog food that is low in wheat and is not too terribly expensive?

      I have heard that vegan diets for cats are tricky. I don’t want to risk their health or lives in order to change their diet. I would like to find a cat food that is not animal tested (other than oooh that’s tasty testing) and is not full of additives, meals, and that uses meat that has been raised as humanely as possible. Has anyone successfully switched their cat(s) to a vegan diet? If not, does anyone have any suggestions as to a cat food that is minimally cruel to other animals?

      Ferrets ARE obligate carnivores. They cannot eat anything high in fiber because they are not able to digest it properly due to the structure of their digestive systems. A meat based diet with a small amount of fruit/veg and little to no grains is needed for them. I would like to try to find the best food for them that is also minimally cruel to other animals.

    • Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 10:44 am

      It wasn’t too tricky to get them to all be friends. The cats came first. When the ferrets came home we slowly introduced them like one would introduce a new kitten. We tell the cats that Shelbee and Dook are also cats and they treat them as such. Ferrets are really a lot like eternal kittens, so they do live in their ‘house’ when we can’t directly supervise them (lest they make a playhouse in our boxspring).

      Luna was added to our family last when she was about 3 months old. She loves the others, especially the cats. She cleans them, naps & plays with them. The cats are definitely in charge though as older siblings usually are.

  3. Chris Beeney January 9, 2013 at 9:28 am

    We’ve had cats since we started dating. I grew up with dogs but we only had 1 cat in the family and so I was excited to get some of my own. These days we lounge on the couch and watch movies and out cats usually sit on us and sometimes watch too. Luna is the newest edition, she loves to run around outside and her favorite thing to do is run straight at a person and feint at the last second. If I don’t hold still, it hurts. 😀 Our ferrets get along surprisingly well with the cats, they do tend to be the aggressors but in a playful way. 2 of my cats that I love to pieces are Russian Blue’s, so even their noses are grey. All of our fur kids over the years have been rescues as well, whether from shelters, vets, friends, or craigslist ads

    • Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 10:51 am

      Luna came from Scottsville Veterinary Hospital/Adoptions. They are a terrific organization and are no-kill.

      The ferrets came from a friend who was moving and decided that they didn’t want them anymore (we are no longer friends lol). They where going to get dropped off at Lollypop Farms, a local kill shelter.

      We actually have found cats on craig’s list (that where brought to our attention) because they were getting put outside in the winter at less than a month old and one from a woman who said her husband was going to drown “it”.

      At one point we had rats that where scheduled to become snake dinner. They lived long (for rats) and happy lives instead.

      In case people are wondering, we have no remaining room in the inn 🙂

      • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 10:55 am

        wow!!! You and Chris are such amazing parents! What generous and loving hearts you both have.

        Are you constantly approached by friends and co-workers who know about all of yor rescues and ask if you can take another one in?

      • Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 11:12 am

        Yes, we are constantly approached to take in more “kids”. Sadly, we do not have the space, resources, and to some degree time to take more kids.

        I recently helped a friend re-home their dog by using my 6-degrees of separation technique. Cats have been harder to re-home. I have some contact with places that are no-kill that I can refer people to as needed.

  4. Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 9:42 am

    What an amazing family you have!!! I must admit that I know absolutely nothing about ferrets – other than that they seem to be adorable. What do they typically eat?

    As far as cats and dogs being vegetarian/vegan, there are many thoughts on this. The photo above shows Rosemary’s dogs with a bag of vegan dog food. I also know that Danielle’s dog, Arcot, is fed a vegan food. They are all very healthy.

    The last dogs that my family has had have been from a Great Pyrenees Rescue group. We did not feed them vegan dog food. This is something that I struggle with. My husband feels that it is trying to change who they are and their nature by feeding them a vegan diet. Because they are so very wolf-like, I am uncertain and I’m not sure of how healthy it would be for them as opposed to a smaller type of dog. At the same time, I don’t feel right about feeding them other sentient beings.

    From what I know – it can be trickier with cats. Some people find it not to be an issue, some people have tried vegan diets for their cats and switched back due to some health issues (that may or may not have been due to the diet).

    I am very interested in hearing what others think about this issue, too.
    This is the dog food that is in the above photo-

    • Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 10:30 am

      This is a link to the American Ferret Association that talks about ferrets and their dietary limitations. Our ferrets are currently eating a dry ferret food by EVO. I don’t feed them wet food and thankfully they are not interested in eating meat chunks or raw food (my father is very pro-meat and tried to get them to eat it and they declined…lol). There are not a TON of ferret foods on the market, and even fewer are properly balanced. I can feed them a high-quality non-vegan cat food if it meets the requirements.

  5. Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Here is an interesting article about vegan cats –

    • Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 10:36 am

      Well it sounds like it can be done…but very carefully. Having multiple cats, I am unsure as to the practicality of monitoring the pH of the individual cat’s urine. Also the majority of our cats are male and it sounds like the risk of illness is a lot higher in male cats than female.

      • Debra Roppolo January 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm

        Just weighing in quickly here — sorry I missed yesterday’s conversation. I did quite a bit of research on veganism and cats when I first became vegan, and after all my reading, the conclusion I came to was that cats are obligate carnivores. My first responsibility has to be to the animals in my care, and I’m not comfortable feeding my cats a vegan diet (I think I’d feel differently about dogs, though). We live in an imperfect world, and for the sake of my cats, I’ve chosen to accept that.

  6. Jennifer January 9, 2013 at 10:05 am

    My dog eats Natural Balance’s vegetarian formula (which is vegan) and she loves it, and is very healthy.

    • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 10:14 am

      Thank you for joining in the conversation, Jennifer! Has your dog always been fed a vegan diet – and have you tried any other vegan foods for her ?

      • Jennifer January 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm

        Not always. I tried a few different brands and formulations to help with her dry skin, but nothing seemed to make that much difference. In the end I couldn’t see supporting a cruel industry when there were healthy vegan alternatives for her. I read about other vegan brands, but went with Natural Balance because it seemed like the best combination of high quality and easily obtainable.
        She’s been eating it for.. probably three years or so, and she’s five now. She also loves fruits and vegetables as snacks. 🙂

        • Jennifer January 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm

          Here’s my Ivy.

        • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm

          Ivy is such a sweetie pie!! And she sure does look super happy and healthy! What are her favorite fruits/vegetables snacks? My recent dogs have had no interest in any type of vegetable or fruit other than potatoes.
          I had a dog many years ago who loved so many veggies – she totally surpised us one day by going crazy over grapefruit!

          • Jennifer January 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm

            She gets carrots and green beans every day, but she also loves apples, pears, tomatoes, celery, bananas are a favorite, sometimes even the stems off spinach leaves, though she doesn’t like the leaves. Basically, if she hears anyone bite into something that crunches, she comes running to beg for some!

        • Coach Rosemary January 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm

          Ivy is gorgeous! Have you tried a little flax oil added to NB? My three IG’s are on NB and I add the oil which help with dry, itchy skin issues.

        • Nina January 10, 2013 at 5:59 am

          Where’s the ‘Like’ button for that Ivy?

  7. Chris Beeney January 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    My triplets actually like eating bread and chips or at least want to try everything I’m eating. If I know it’s not going to hurt them, I give them just a bit each but I think it’s funny that they are interested in these non-meat foods. I saw one eat some lettuce that I dropped on the floor the other day too.

    • Coach Rosemary January 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      Another way to provide treats for dogs is to make them in a dehydrator . Although I don’t have one, I hear that this works great. I guess you can slow bake some sweet potatoes or other veggies and fruit with similar result. I’ll find some homemade treat recipes and post.
      Coach Rosemary

    • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      I can’t even imagine how your cat chewed the lettuce! Those tiny little teeth – lettuce has such a tricky texture. I would love to see a picture of this 🙂

      • Chris Beeney January 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm

        I heard a crunching noise and saw him on his side chewing and it was the lettuce, he just munched it down. If I toss a piece down, I’ll try to get a picture and at least post it to your facebook page.

  8. Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Since the cat in question is about 17lbs, the teeth aren’t very tiny. 🙂

    • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      17 lbs. !!! Well, I suppose that she can eat an entire head of lettuce!

      Samantha and Chris – have you found the discussion/information to be helpful ? I know that this issue is more complex than 1 day’s worth of posts and there is a lot to consider.
      Shall we continue with this topic or would you like to move on to something else ?

  9. Samantha Beeney January 9, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    I was really hoping to hear from people with cats. I also was hoping for information about which pet food companies test on animals.

    • Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      Hopefully, we may still hear from some people who have cats ! I did find this link from Peta’s website that lists companies that don’t test on animals – it seems that they all have either vegan or vegetarian options. I will also look around for a list of companies that do test.

    • Coach Rosemary January 9, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      I’ll contact some vegans with kitties to see if they can join the conversation. Donna and I have some friends that can lend their expertise!

  10. Diane L January 9, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    I’m afraid I don’t have much to add. My cats get sick from food that is mainly grains, fruits and veggies. Usually diarrhea and increased vomiting. I have experimented with many different foods over the years. I have one cat who has something similar to colitis and must be on a limited ingredient diet which is heavily meat-based.
    I did find one brand of food that was made from non-factory farmed animals. The food was of course more expensive for good reason and I was more than willing to pay. But, unfortunately the company went out of business. It was the only brand I could find that at least stated the animals were humanely raised. I have never found another brand that made that claim.

    I feed my cats brands like Natural Balance, Wellness and Solistic. They are a few of the better brands that don’t contain by-products and other garbage.

    I wish I could feed them a vegan diet, but as their guardian I must do what is best for them.

  11. Lorena January 9, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Hi all, I am a cat person…actually I am one of the featured Crazy Cat Ladies in the Crazy Cat Lady Calendar 2013 🙂 The issue of vegan cats is complex and poses a conundrum for many of us who are vegan in life, but live with felines. In 1999, I watched as cat rescuer friends of mine turned their multi-cat household vegan and saw many of their male cats develop crystal problems and other urinary tract problems. I also watched as other of their cats became anorexic from not eating. I decided at that point not to try to convert my cats to a vegan diet. I know that was a long time ago, and there are more vegan cat foods available and more research done. However, all of my cats are rescue cats with varying health issues as a result, and I am not willing to risk their health at this point through experimenting with their diet in this way. With 1 or 2 cats, it is different. You can monitor more carefully. But in a rescue situation with multi-cats, it can be very risky to stay on top of things. I would love for people who are living with vegan cats successfully to pipe in here. I would advise, go carefully. Always do research. What feeding a meat centered diet to my cats has meant for me, a vegan and animal rights person, is that I am more adamant about my own veganism and activism to try to counter-balance the fact that I support the meat industry in some way because of my cats.

    • Coach Rosemary January 9, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      Thank you, Lorena and Diane. I have heard how difficult it can be for cats, and personally I do not know anyone who feeds their cat a vegan diet. Do you know of anyone who does successfully?

      • Diane L January 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm

        Unfortunately I don’t know of anyone Rosemary.

  12. Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Yes, thank you Diane and Lorena.

    I think that a vegan veterinarian who I know (but rarely get a chance to see) feeds his cat(s) a vegan diet. Since he is a veterinarian, it is much easier for him to monitor, etc. For rescue people like Lorena – or any other cat companions, it seems like it can be quite tricky.

  13. Coach Donna January 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    A friend of mine (who has cats living in her house and also helps to maintain a feral colony outside of her house) just sent a link to this article –