We all like the occasional treat and our cats are no different! However, while most cats will love the odd extra, the majority of their nutritional needs should be provided from the balanced, complete diet that makes up the main part of their diet. Overall treats should not comprise more than 5-10% of your cats daily diet.
There are now many treats on the market and both the commercial and homemade varieties each have their own pros and cons that need to be taken into consideration.
The main plus point with feeding your cat treats is that they will love them, and therefore you! Treats can be ideal training aids, used to reward good behavior such as coming when called or tolerating being groomed. If your cat is a rescue, treats can also be used to build their trust and help create a bond between you and your pet.
If your cat is on medication you may be able to hide their tablets in a treat – although some cats will spot this! Alternatively you can use treats as a reward after you’ve given them their tablets to win them over again.
Of course, cat treats are no longer just about flavor. There are a huge range of treats available these days, with certain brands designed to help remove tartar from teeth, help prevent hairballs and even to help keep your cats joints in great condition.
One major downside with feeding your cat treats is the fact that they can cause weight gain. Obesity in cats is a big problem, just like it is in people. Our cats no longer hunt for their food and are living more sedentary lives than ever before.
Cat treats can be very unhealthy as they can be high in fat, or contain fillers which are generally carbohydrates. These fillers have hardly any nutritional value for cats who do best on a low fat, high protein content. As cats are unable to break down the carbohydrate it is instead stored as fat which contributes to obesity problems.
Feeding your cat milk, cream and cheese is common practice, but again should be avoided. Cats are unable to break down the lactase these foods contain, and it can result in them vomiting or having diarrhea.
Finally, remember that your cat is likely to love any treats they are given. However do not let them then get fussy with their food – if they go on a hunger strike and refuse to eat their normal food do not let them train you! Take a step back from giving treats until they are eating normally again.
What are the best treats for your cat?
As mentioned low fat, high protein treats are the best to feed to your cat. Look at the ingredients list, and avoid treats that are high in carbohydrates as these are the fillers you want to avoid. Treats with a high meat content plus no artificial preservatives or additives are the healthiest choice.
If your cat suffers from a medical condition such as arthritis, there may be certain treats that can be fed to help alleviate the condition. Just remember that the addition of treats should not replace veterinary advice if you are concerned about your pet.
How many treats can I feed?
As stated, the commercial food you use should provide all the nutritional needs for your pet cat. Make sure treats do not exceed 5-10% of your cats daily food allowance. One to two treats morning or night should be adequate.
Most cats love getting treats and it can be rewarding to feed them. Just remember to pick a healthy option and to feed in moderation; despite any protests you might receive!