Cats are aloof and not as responsive to training as dogs. But offer a cat a treat they love and they’ll be as eager to please as any pup. Cat treats are effective training tools, and they help calm anxious cats forced into uncomfortable situations. These include introductions to an unfamiliar environment, or even worse, a bath.

fat catsToo many treats, however, can have a detrimental effect on your cat’s health, just as they do for humans. According to a report from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 57% of cats are overweight or obese; and unlike popular cartoon cat Garfield, they suffer from very real consequences.

In general, cat treats constitute a small proportion of your cat’s diet – only about 10%. The other 90% should comprise nutritious, vet-recommended cat food. It helps if you opt for healthy cat treats over the commercial brands you get at supermarkets, as those contain a lot of additives that really pack on the cat calories. For the most part they’re poorly labeled, making it difficult to understand the ingredients and calories.

If you must purchase your cat treats from a store, looking for one with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) seal of approval. Catnip is a great low-calorie treat that most cats adore.

Make your own cat treats

The best way to ensure that food doesn’t contain unhealthy additives is to make it yourself, and cat treats are no different. Some cooked liver, chicken and eggs are healthy cat treats that are easily prepared, affordable and ambrosia for cats. You can buy organic ingredients for that additional feel-good boost.

Positively.com recommends this easy-to-make cat treat recipe containing 100% chicken. It’s a high source of protein and a cost-effective alternative to high-quality organic cat treats. You can find the recipe here. Remember that as good as it is it’s still just a treat, not a substitute for cat food.

Here are some more examples of homemade healthy cat treats:

open salmon sandwiches

  • Kitty Bruschetta. Cubes of toast with fish oil and fish flakes sprinkled on top.
  • Tuna Balls. Cats love tuna, and these tuna ball cat treats made with tuna in oil, milk, flour and eggs freezer-safe.
  • Oat and Salmon. These are similar to tuna balls but include catnip.
  • Cheese Bites. These contain cheese, flour, yoghurt and cornmeal. Imagine the confusion on Jerry’s face when he realizes Tom ate all the cheese before he could.
  • Ham Cat Treats. The recipe uses ham-flavored baby food, but you can use whatever flavor your cat likes.

Key facts to keep in mind regarding cat treats

  • Always give treats in moderation.
  • Don’t use treats to reward begging at the table.
  • Stay informed on which foods are toxic to cats. Find out more about toxic human foods for cats on the ASPCA website.
  • If your cat is overweight, don’t just assume that too many treats are the source of the problem. Be sure to have her checked out by a vet to ensure there are no other factors at play.

Always consult a veterinarian if you’re unsure what product to feed your cat. You can’t rely on store labels to give you the full story, and you may not always have the time to prepare your own cat treats. But whether you prefer homemade cat treats or store-bought varieties, your vet can help you determine what products will be best for the long-term health of your particular feline companion.