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Straw-Eating Lions and Vegetarian Cats

from the April 14, 2009 eNews issue

A cat in Tasburgh, England, has become relatively famous for his peculiar cuisine choices; he refuses to eat meat. Since his owner Becky Page rescued the starved kitten from an alley two years ago, she has only been able to get him to eat fruits and vegetables. Cat experts are befuddled by this vegetarian feline, but kitty Dante may not be so strange after all. Perhaps Dante is simply a genetic throwback to the days before the Flood and a precursor to what carnivores will be like in the Millennium.

After Becky Page, 21, brought home little Dante two years ago, she proceeded to try to fatten him on chicken and fish and tuna. Dante just turned up his nose at the stuff. Instead, he chowed down on a dish of leftover vegetables he found near her kitchen garbage. Now Dante only eats fruits and vegetables, which Page raises herself. He won't touch canned cat food.

Dante's tastes go beyond mere finicky feline syndrome; he simply should not exist. Cats do not usually have the choice to go vegan because they are obligate carnivores.  That is, they must eat meat to survive. Felines have a high protein requirement, and they need certain nutrients like taurine and cobalamin (Vitamin B12) which come from meat. Cats are the only mammals incapable of synthesizing the organic acid taurine and must obtain it from animal flesh or supplements. Without sufficient taurine, cats can eventually lose hair and teeth, develop heart disease, and go blind. While meat is its best source, Vitamin B12 can also be found in eggs and milk, and is necessary for the healthy functioning of the brain and nervous system.  A cat simply cannot thrive on a vegan diet.

Dante is therefore an aberration in the Cat Family. "I admit he has a very, very unique appetite," Page acknowledged, "but he's certainly healthy."

Sarah Medway, who runs a web site dedicated to cat behavior, said "I have never heard of a purely vegetarian cat. Nutritionally cats need to eat meat to survive.”

Yet, Dante is not absolutely alone. Many years ago, Georges and Margaret Westbeau of western Washington adopted a newborn lioness they named Little Tyke. When it was time to wean her, the Westbeaus were surprised that the growing cub refused to eat meat. She'd reject milk if it had even a drop of blood in it

At first, the Westbeaus were deeply concerned because Little Tyke absolutely would not touch meat. For four years they tried every which way to get protein down her in the form of flesh, and she would not accept it. Then one day somebody said to them, "Don't you read your Bible? Read Genesis 1:30, and you will get your answer."

"And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so." -Gen 1:30

That verse helped the Westbeaus to stop worrying. They fed Little Tyke various grains, milk and eggs – a diet she thrived on. The milk and eggs would have provided Little Tyke with some of the B12 she needed, but not the taurine. Yet, Little Tyke lived strong and healthy for years. She would go out into the field and chew on grass stalks every day to condition her stomach. She also had no predatory nature, and lived in peace with the chickens and sheep and peafowl and kittens on the Westbeaus' ranch. A famous picture was taken one day when a lamb, Becky, curled up between Little Tyke's front paws, bringing to mind the picture from Isaiah 11:6-7:

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox." - Isaiah 11:6-7

Dante and Little Tyke are not freaks of nature; they are reminders of how nature was meant to be.  The world at the Creation looked quite a bit different than it does today. Thousands of years of genetic deterioration have left all creatures with bodies prone to illness and disease and early death. It isn't the same world in which Adam died a young man at 930 years. The Flood apparently changed a lot of things. Lifespans split in half after the Flood, and after the Flood God gave man permission to eat meat (Genesis 9:2-3). We don't know all that changed and weakened during that time, between animal bodies and the nutrients found in plant life.

Cats may not have originally needed meat to survive. Certainly saber-toothed tigers used their massive teeth to rip through the flesh of their prey, yet God's original purpose for those sabers might have been something far more peaceful, like splitting open melons. (If your cat adores cantaloupe, you know what I mean.)

The picture Isaiah 11 paints of the Millennium is of a world that has returned to Eden. Jesus will be ruling, and things will be as they should. The wolves and lions will dwell peacefully with lambs. No wild animals will do damage. Humans will once again live to be great ages (Isaiah 65:20-25).

We are not there, yet, but kitties like Little Tyke and Dante give us the tiniest breath of that fresh air, a whiff of the loveliness that will once again fill the earth once the Son of David takes the throne.   Even so, come Lord Jesus.


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