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The Trick to Treats: How to Use Cat Treats to Enrich Your Kitty's Life

Category: Cat Ownership

Meowtel

Meowtel

Last updated: October 3, 2022
The Trick to Treats: How to Use Cat Treats to Enrich Your Kitty's Life
Photo by Vecteezy

If you are a new cat parent, you may find yourself wondering if treats are suitable for your kitty and how you should use them. As in the case of all things kitty-related, the best thing to do is ask a vet first (especially when making a dietary change!). But unless they say no or your kitty has been prescribed a special diet that precludes them from being provided treats, then your kitty says, "Go for it!"

From hard treats, soft treats, soft-and-crunchy treats, and soupy treats… it seems there are endless cat treats options these days! However, it's no excuse to go overboard just because there are so many to choose from.

Treats are best used as a reward for reinforcing positive behavior and motivating your kitty to be active rather than something for them to consume regularly. Think of treats as candy for cats. So, just in time for Halloween, here are some "tricks" for best using them!

Make Them Work for It

Why just hand your kitty a treat or put some in their bowl for them to consume by themselves? You can use puzzles or treat balls to reserve treats for playtime or use them as an enticement to teach your kitty how to sit, stay, or use a leash. (Yes, cats can be trained to do these things, and since most kitties are highly food motivated, treats work perfectly as a reward!)

Try Treats, and then… Try More Treats

There seems to be a never-ending variety of kitty treats on the market these days. Picking them can be pretty hit-and-miss. For example, if your cat likes fish-flavored food, there's nothing to say they will enjoy fish-flavored treats. Trial and error is the best way to find out which your kitty prefers, and it's totally doable since many treats come in small packages for very reasonable prices.

Lickables to the Rescue

A relatively recent type of treat called “lickables” is extremely popular. Lickable treats are a great tool to diminish anxiety at a vet's visit. Even your veterinarian or veterinary assistant can provide them while still achieving their examination and treatment objectives. They are a great distraction during unpleasant things like getting vaccines or having blood drawn. You can also give them as a treat during or after a stressful event, such as nail trims.

An A-okay Ulterior Motive

Licakables are also helpful as medicine delivery methods for cats who need liquid, powdered medications. Even if your cat takes their medication without help, you can reward them for taking it or getting the lousy medicine flavor out of their mouth. (Remember that spoonful of sugar for taking meds when you were a kid? Think of this the same way!)

An Enticing Addition

If your cat isn't feeling well, you may also use treats as a topping to encourage them to consume their regular food. Lickables are also ideal, as are other "appetizer" brands. These are prepared in highly palatable formulas such as broths and gravies. They can be added to your cat's usual food if they seem tired of their standard fare or if you need to entice them to eat for another reason, such as a decreased appetite due to normal aging.

Keep Treats as Treats

One of the reasons people run into trouble with treats is that sometimes cats get "spoiled" by them and start turning up their noses at their regular food. You don't want your kitty to get so hooked on the enticing flavor or aroma that they stop eating typical food. This situation is especially likely with lickables since they are similar to canned food. But, they're no substitute. (Serving only lickables over an extended period can change vitamin levels and mineral balances in your cat's system. They don't have enough calories to sustain a kitty, either.) Remember, moderation is key!

Be a Savvy Shopper

If you're focused on label reading for your foods, you're likely to want to pay the same attention to your cat's treats. If you'd like to choose the highest quality treats for your kitty, use the same rule of thumb you use for shopping for healthy foods for yourself: If you can't pronounce or identify everything on the ingredients label, don't buy it. If you prefer not to give your kitty processed treats, you can provide them with dried fish, tuna, or even small portions of freshly baked chicken breast instead.

The Takeaway

Remember: treats should never be substituted for an actual meal. Treats are just that - something to give your kitty as something special versus a way to provide the sustenance they need. Otherwise, treats are a fantastic way to bring enjoyment and enrichment to your cat's life, diet, training efforts, and activity level. Unless your cat's vet says they're a no-go, indulging them in moderation will surely be purr-leasing to your furbaby. Happy treating!

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