The words “pet treats” often conjure up images of pet parents rewarding their dogs with a cookie or another tasty tidbit. But cats love treats too.
However, just as humans and dogs can eat too many snacks, so can cats. While these snacks are generally okay in moderation, overindulging can lead to significant health problems and affect their overall diet. The following guide to cat treats can help pet parents choose the right one for their cats.
General Cat Treat Guidelines
Much like dog treats, cat treats aren’t balanced or complete. Providing too many can throw off a cat’s overall nutritional balance. Deficiencies and excesses can increase a cat’s risk of heart, liver, or kidney issues.
Giving a cat too many treats may turn them into a “fussy” eater, and they may turn their nose up at their usual, well-balanced food.
Treats add extra calories to a cat’s diet. Like humans, consuming too many calories can lead to weight gain. Being overweight or obese increases a cat’s likelihood of developing diabetes, urinary issues, joint problems, and liver disease.
These issues don’t mean pet parents can’t give their cats treats. Treats just shouldn’t make up more than 5% to 10% of a cat’s calorie intake.
Here are a few additional tips for pet parents to keep in mind when it comes to cat treats:
- Read the ingredient labels carefully.
- Avoid giving treats in response to unwanted behaviors.
- Cats can be picky eaters, it might take time to find what flavors and types of treats work for a cat's palate.
Types of Cat Treats
Pet parents have plenty of options to choose from, making it easy for them to find something their cats are sure to love.
Soft treats come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and flavors. They’re great for cats who enjoy moist food, as well as those who have sensitive or missing teeth. They also provide great motivation for training.
Like soft treats, dry treats come in a range of sizes, shapes, and flavors. However, they offer a crunchy texture many cats enjoy. That texture may help reduce plaque on a cat’s teeth.
A dental chew is an oral hygiene product that doubles as a treat. These specially formulated treats do more than taste good. They reduce plaque and tartar buildup on teeth and freshen a cat’s breath.
Dental chews are a safer alternative to bones. However, they can cause intestinal blockages if a cat doesn’t chew them well or swallows them whole. Pet parents should monitor their cats when feeding them.
Freeze-Dried Treats and Jerky
Freeze-dried and jerky treats undergo processes that remove water from them. They generally consist of one ingredient like liver, chicken, or seafood.
To make freeze-dried treats, companies freeze the ingredient and place it in a vacuum to extract the moisture, transforming it from ice to vapor before sealing it in airtight packaging.
Making jerky involves dehydrating the meat with gentle heat. It removes moisture but doesn’t cook the item, and the final product tends to be softer and chewier than freeze-dried treats.
Homemade Cat Treats
Making homemade cat treats requires more time, but pet parents have the satisfaction of knowing what their cats are eating. Pet parents can combine safe human foods to create healthy, tasty morsels. However, they should consult with a professional vet, feline nutritionist, or another credible source for ingredients and instructions.
Catnip provides no nutritional value, but some cats enjoy its sensation. Placing some in a clean sock or toy may bring out the feline’s playful side. When ingested in moderation, it may help reduce anxiety.
Cats may be carnivores, but the occasional bit of cat grass or wheatgrass treats can provide some significant benefits. It can aid overall digestive health, reduce hairballs, and provide additional nutrients. Some anxious cats may also find it soothing.
What To Avoid
In addition to chemicals and dyes, there are a few items pet parents should avoid when it comes to cat treats:
Animal bones can cause intestinal blockages or perforations. Cooked bones are particularly dangerous as they splinter easily.
Human foods like garlic, onions, seasonings, grapes, raisins, and chocolate can cause digestive issues and are toxic. While some human foods are okay, pet parents should know what to avoid.
Milk and dairy products can cause digestive upset. After weaning, cats don’t need milk, and most are lactose-intolerant.
Can Cat Treats Be a Healthy Addition to a Cat’s Diet?
Just like humans, there’s nothing wrong with cats enjoying a treat every once in a while. Ingredients matter and moderation is key. While too many can lead to health problems, a few can be a great motivator for training or a reward for a job well done. High-quality treats are a must. Pet parents can always consult with the Fuzzy Veterinary Team if they have any questions or concerns.