Just as we humans have our guilty pleasures—chocolate chip cookies, anyone?—our feline companions also have their own indulgences. Enter the world of cat treats, the equivalent of our midnight snacks, but for cats.
But, are they really “just” a treat? Or can they serve as something more, maybe even something healthy? Let’s talk about that!
Cat treats are essentially small, palatable food items that are typically used as a reward or supplement to a cat’s main diet. They are the secret weapons of cat owners worldwide, helping to bribe, motivate, and sometimes simply spoil their feline friends.
But, much like our favorite snacks, not all cat treats are created equal.
Sure, every kitty has its preferences, but some treats are particularly effective for creating that special bond between you and your furry pal.
Enter lickable cat treats, the unsung heroes of the cat treat world. Take, for instance, Vitakraft’s Lick ‘n’ Lap Snacks. Unlike your standard dry or soft treats, these lickable goodies offer a unique bonding opportunity.
As any cat owner will attest, cats usually prefer a bit of personal space when dining or snacking. But these lickable treats? They’re the cat’s meow.
Lets take a deeper look into the amazing world of cat treats:
Just as your local supermarket overflows with human snack options, the variety of cat treats on the market is equally dizzying. Let’s claw our way through this.
The cat equivalent of potato chips, these treats are small, dry, and come in a variety of flavors. They’re great for cats that enjoy a bit of a crunch, but they should be given in moderation due to their often high carbohydrate content.
These are the cat world’s candies. Moist and chewy, they’re a hit with older cats or those with dental issues.
Like minty toothpaste for humans, these treats are designed to help maintain oral health by reducing tartar and plaque buildup.
These treats are the feline equivalent of astronaut food—meat or fish is flash-frozen, then dried to preserve nutrients. Great for cats on a high-protein diet.
These are the ‘fun and games’ of the cat treat world. They’re often used in puzzle toys to stimulate your cat’s mind and body.
Cat treats can be a powerful tool in a pet owner’s arsenal. They’re typically used for training, rewarding, or encouraging certain behavior—think of them as the carrots to your cat’s proverbial stick. Cat treats can also be a great way to administer medication or to ease your furry friend into accepting a new diet.
Treats can do more than simply delight your cat. When used correctly, they can aid in training, improve dental health, provide additional nutrients, and strengthen the love between you and your feline companion. Think of them as small, tasty nuggets of love and care.
Cat Treat Nutritional Breakdown: A Closer Look
The nutritional profile of cat treats can vary as widely as the selection at a gourmet bakery. In general, you want to opt for treats that are:
Really High In Protein & Low Carb
Cats, as obligate carnivores, require a meat-based diet. Their bodies are finely-tuned machines that best process animal proteins.
Unlike humans or even dogs, cats lack specific metabolic pathways that allow efficient processing of plant-based proteins and carbohydrates. Over time, a diet high in carbs can lead to obesity and other health problems like diabetes.
Remember, when it comes to the percentage of protein, the higher, the better. But don’t be fooled by percentages alone. Quality matters, too, so be sure to check that the protein source is animal-based, not plant-based.
Additionally, treats can have varying levels of fat. While some fat is necessary for your cat’s diet (it helps in vitamin absorption and provides energy), too much can lead to weight gain. So, like protein, look for treats with animal-based fats like chicken fat or fish oil rather than vegetable oils.
Lastly, keep an eye on the fiber content. While cats don’t require a lot of fiber, a little can aid in digestion and help control weight.
Cat Treat Ingredients to Look For: The Good, The Purr-fect, and The Nutritious
As you saunter down the treat aisle, treat bag in hand, what should you look for on those ingredient labels? Here are some tips:
High-Quality Animal Proteins
The first ingredient should always be a recognizable animal protein—chicken, beef, salmon, and so on. Avoid treats where the primary protein source is a by-product or “meal.”
This is an essential amino acid that your cat cannot produce in sufficient quantities, so it must be supplied in the diet. A taurine deficiency can lead to serious health issues, including heart disease.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These are beneficial for your cat’s skin and coat health. They can also support kidney health and joint function. Common sources include fish oil or flaxseed.
Added Vitamins and Minerals
These can help support your cat’s overall health. However, they should not replace a balanced, complete diet.
Remember, the shorter the ingredient list, the better. And if you can’t pronounce it, your cat probably doesn’t need it.
Just as there are ingredients to look for, there are also those to avoid. When examining the ingredient list, be wary of the following:
Grains, Corn, Wheat, and Soy
These are often used as fillers in cheaper cat treats and can contribute to a high carbohydrate content. Some cats may also have allergies or intolerances to these ingredients.
Artificial Colors, Flavoring, and Preservatives
These can cause allergies and digestive issues in some cats. Plus, your cat doesn’t care if their treat is neon green, as long as it tastes good!
Just as in human food, sugar in cat treats is unnecessary and can lead to obesity and dental problems.
By-Products and ‘Meals’
While not always harmful, these ingredients can be inconsistent in quality and may not provide the best source of protein for your cat.
By knowing what to look for and what to avoid, you can make sure that the treats you give your cat are not just tasty but also contribute positively to their overall health.
So Are Cat Treats Healthy?
Like any food, the healthiness of a cat treat depends on its ingredients and how it fits into your cat’s overall diet.
High-quality treats can provide additional nutrients and health benefits but should never replace a balanced cat diet. Treats should be seen as the “cherry on top”—a little bonus rather than the main event.
Remember, treats are extras, not staples. As a general rule, treats should take up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily caloric intake.
If your cat’s a bit of a Garfield, you might need to be even more sparing. When in doubt, consult with your vet—they can provide guidance based on your cat’s age, weight, and overall health.
Absolutely! If you’re a whizz in the kitchen, making homemade cat treats can be a really fun and rewarding way to show your kitty some love. Plus, it lets you control the ingredients, ensuring your cat gets the best.
There are many recipes available online, from baked salmon bites to catnip-infused goodies. Just remember to avoid ingredients that are toxic to cats, like onions, garlic, chocolate, and certain artificial sweeteners.
In conclusion, cat treats can be a wonderful addition to your feline friend’s life. They add variety to their diet, help in training, and provide an opportunity to strengthen your bond. But remember quality and quantity matter. So, choose wisely, use sparingly, and your cat will be purring with delight.
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.