From freeze-dried nuggets to dental crunchies and soft chews, there’s a type and flavor to satisfy every cat.
If you look up the word “treat” in the dictionary, you’ll find several definitions, including “an item that gives great pleasure”; synonyms for the word include “delicacy” and “delight.” If you’ve lived with a cat for very long, you know your feline views delicacies and delights that give great pleasure as his rightful due.
Manufacturers understand that cats love treats and cat owners love to indulge their pets. A variety of tasty little nuggets waits for you on the shelves at your local pet store. Norm Shrout, co-owner of Long Leash on Life in Albuquerque, N.M., categorized the types of treats available as follows:
- Freeze-dried. “These are real-deal meat treats with very little processing,” Shrout said. “They are low carb and very appropriate for an obligate carnivore.”
- Shrout said the benefits of these types of treats include their palatability, ease of use, low processing and excellent nutritive value.
- Soft chews. “These are good for interactive treat-dispensing toys,” Shrout said, noting that they are also good for older cats with fewer teeth and typically cost less than other types of treats.
- Dental treats. As the name implies, these treats “contain ingredients for better oral hygiene,” Shrout explained. He also noted that these treats have a “super crunch factor.”
- Functional treats. Shrout views this type of treat as one that provides some type of health benefit, such as a daily vitamin supplement. “Health benefits vary by chew,” Shrout said, noting that his store carries formulas for hairballs, urinary tract, skin/coat, hip/joint, stool odor reduction, weight control, digestive upset and more.
- Extruded crunchy treats. The benefits of these types of treats include price, crunch factor and good ingredients, Shrout said. “They are also good for interactive treat-dispensing toys.”
Caitlin Sullivan, marketing manager of the four Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies in New Jersey and a former store manager, includes bonito flakes, grain-free and limited-ingredient varieties on her list of treat types.
“Grain-free treats are free of all grains such as wheat, oats and rice,” she explained. “Limited-ingredient treats are great for cats with allergies and sensitive stomachs…. Bonito flakes can be used as a treat or an appetite stimulator for finicky cats.”
Just a Taste of Tasty Treats
With such a variety of treats at their disposal, you might be tempted to feed all the treats all the time (and many cats would encourage that course of action). However, like almost everything in life, treats are best in moderation.
In fact, veterinarians recommend that cat treats make up no more than 10 percent of a cat’s diet. If you are adding calories with treats, you might need to slightly reduce the amount of cat food you offer at your pet’s regular mealtimes.
Beyond just simply making your cat happy, however, cat treats can actually encourage your cat to be active and healthy.
“We advocate the use of treat dispensing cat toys as a major way to control weight, provide enrichment and give the cat something to do besides sleep,” Shrout said. “We also recommend clicker training for cats (with uses cat treats) as yet another way to stimulate them and enrich their lives.”
And of course, offering your cat a treat can help strengthen the bond you already share with your feline friend. With such a range of treat types, you’re sure to find one both of you love.
Stacy N. Hackett is an award-winning writer with more than 25 years’ experience in the pet industry. She is the former editor of Pet Product News and a former staff editor with Cat Fancy, Cats USA, Critters USA and Ferrets USA. To learn more about her work, visit stacynhackett.vpweb.com.