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Published Aug. 13, 2021

Cats are definitely creatures of habit, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get bored by doing the same old cat stuff day in and day out. The best cat treats are a great way to offer an exciting new taste experience without changing up regular meals and can be a delicious incentive to coax your cat to move beyond just bed to bowl. Here’s how to pick the right treats for your pet, whether you’re looking to add occasional snacks as part of a balanced diet, stimulate their prey drive, or get them to take the prescribed medication with a minimum of complaints.

What to consider when searching for the best cat treats

Cat accessories of all kinds have flooded the market as pets have increasingly become treasured family members. With so many options to choose from and clever marketing that plays to pet parent’s fears about what’s healthy just like in human diet culture, deciding what the best healthy cat treats are for your beloved feline can seem overwhelming. 

Dry and crunchy treats may be the first thing most people think of in terms of cat snacks, but treats can be anything from homemade freeze-dried meats to lickable purees, cat grass, pill pockets, and catnip. If your cat has any underlying health conditions (like diabetes or kidney disease), it’s a good idea to check in with your vet first to see what’s appropriate.

Once you’re clear on your furry pal’s dietary restrictions and any ingredients to look out for, consider your cat’s age, activity level, and interests. Cats need plenty of attention and stimulation as part of a healthy lifestyle, so you’ll want to incorporate treats into play routines and maybe even try teaching your kitty some tricks. With so much variety on the market, there’s likely a type of treat even the pickiest cats will love — and you’ll love to give them. 

Related: Encourage your kitty’s attention and activity with the best cat toys.

Crunchy cat treats are great for puzzles and play

Cats need regular play sessions where they can show off their skills as apex predators without actually harming live birds, mice, or your fingers. However, trying to entertain a cat with toys can sometimes be a frustrating endeavor when your cat refuses to do more than bat lazily before slinking off for another nap. But if your cat is motivated by food, treats can become part of the game.

The consistency of dry and crunchy treats makes them an ideal choice over purees in terms of mess. Tuck these tidbits into interactive puzzle toys or dispensers shaped like mice and hide them around your home to engage your cat’s hunting skills, or toss them down a hallway one at a time to get your cat to run and pounce. 

Even though these treats appear tiny, it’s important to be aware of how many calories they have in the context of your cat’s overall caloric intake. Just like potato chips or candy for humans, treats are designed to be an occasional tasty indulgence, not a meal replacement. When reading ingredients, be aware of pet food trends that aren’t rooted in science, like the grain-free trend veterinary blog PetMD illuminates as an extension of the human low-carb craze. Your veterinarian will always be the optimal resource for advice on ingredients that meet your cat’s specific health needs.  

The best cat treats

Best crunchy cat treats: Wellness Kittles Grain-Free Salmon & Cranberries Recipe

Scrumptious Shapes

Make your cat work for these tidbits of meat, fruit, and veggies with an ideal texture for playtime. Wellness Natural Pet Food

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These heart, star, or triangle-shaped Wellness Kittles contain under two calories each and are suitable for kittens and adult cats. Available in chicken, salmon, and tuna flavors with a resealable bag you can shake to motivate your lazy feline to run into the kitchen. 

Lickable cat treats are delectable for all ages

Hydration is important for every cat, but it can be a struggle to get cats to drink from a traditional water bowl. Some felines prefer sticking their face under the faucet of your kitchen sink, and others can be coaxed with fountains designed especially for cats. While dry food is more convenient for pet parents to serve since it can be left out for longer, wet food has a superior moisture content that can help address your feline’s hydration needs. 

Lickable cat treats have more moisture than dry treats and are lots of fun to give to your cat. Similar to squeezable applesauce pouches for kids, a small amount of food emerges at the top of the tube when you compress it, and you can continue to squeeze the tube a little at a time until all the food is gone. 

Since your cat doesn’t have opposable thumbs, you’ll have to do all the holding and squeezing, which can be messy. However, the unique texture combined with lots of flavor can help you administer medication to an otherwise stubborn feline. Older cats with dental issues that make dry food problematic can also enjoy this type of snack. 

Best lickable cat treats: INABA Churu Lickable Purée Natural Cat Treats

Tasty Tubes

Delivers moisture in addition to flavor. INABA

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This variety pack of Churu cat treats features five flavors of tuna and chicken including chicken with cheese and tuna with salmon. Each lickable tube contains six calories, with purée that can be served directly from the package or used as a topping on regular food. 

Catnip is a natural and versatile treat for many kitties

If you’re looking for an easy-to-find natural cat treat, consider catnip. First, find out if your cat responds to the plant’s active ingredient: nepetalactone. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the allure of this plant to your feline comes down to genetics, with the required trait emerging between three and six months in kittens, and limited to about half of the feline population. 

Genetically lucky cats may lick, eat, or roll in the minty green leaves—catnip is actually part of the mint family—and to humans, appear as high as if they’d had marijuana. (In case you were wondering, we can report that “kitty pot” does not have the same effect on humans.) 
For cats who love the leaf, catnip makes an incredibly versatile treat. You can grow it yourself from catnip seeds in an outdoor or indoor garden, or purchase it in tubs already dried and ready to use. In addition to sprinkling a pile of catnip on the floor and capturing an adorable video when your cat decides to indulge, catnip can be used to make a new bed feel more like home and encourage the use of scratching posts. Crafty pet parents will find an array of patterns online for fabric mice that can be filled with catnip to increase the likelihood your cat will be captivated by the chase.

Best catnip: KONG – Naturals Premium Catnip

High Quality

Adaptable choice you can pack into a toy or serve straight up or to influence good behavior. KONG

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This reusable metal tin of KONG – Naturals Premium Catnip contains a total of 2 ounces of catnip sourced in North America. The tin also includes a bonus toy for your furry friend. 

Pill pockets can make medicine more tolerable

One of the hardest parts of cat ownership (or perhaps being owned by a cat) is treating our feline forever friends for an illness. When your kitten or adult cat isn’t feeling well, it’s hard to watch them endure the stress of a vet visit even though being examined by a pro is critical to diagnosis and treatment. 

If your vet has prescribed medication, it’s crucial to your cat’s wellbeing to ensure they receive the right dose at the right time, though this can prove challenging for many pet parents. Pill pocket treats (like Greenies for cats) are a clever solution that appeals to food-motivated pets and can be much easier than prying open your cat’s mouth or attempting to disguise the taste of liquid medication in a bowl of food. 

This type of cat treat features a small inner hollow to tuck a pill, and a moldable outside that can be pinched shut. If your cat has a strong sense of smell and refuses to touch food with medication mixed in, consider that pill pockets may disguise a medication’s odor more successfully. 

Best pill pockets for cats: Feline Greenies Pill Pockets Cat Treats

Sneaky Solution

Give medication without getting bitten, scratched, or shunned. Greenies

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Outsmart feline rebels with Feline Greenies Pill Pockets Cat Treats, which can be shaped to conceal tablets. Made from a formula including chicken, wheat, and rosemary extract to mask the taste of medication.

What to expect with budget cat treats

Budget cat treats generally will contain more animal by-products and additives than more expensive treats like freeze-dried meats. (Think chicken by-product rather than chicken.) As an alternative to processed commercial treats, you may be able to save money by making treats at home from DIY recipes, or growing your own catnip or cat grass.

The ASPCA recommends that pet parents keep treats to 5 percent or less of your cat’s daily diet. This means that while the price of cat treats can vary widely between brands if you have one or two cats and are using treats judiciously, splurging on high-end treats may not have a huge impact on your budget for pet supplies. 

Whether you purchase budget treats from a major pet brand or expensive treats from a boutique brand, you’ll always want to be on the alert for recalls. The FDA keeps a database of current pet food recalls for consumers and helpfully displays when the information was last updated. News media will often report when there are widespread issues and offer links to check brands and lot numbers. 

Best budget cat treats: Temptations Classic Crunchy and Soft Cat Treats

Value Pick

Stock up for a multi-cat household at minimal cost. Temptations

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This affordable tub from a popular brand, Temptations Classic Crunchy and Soft Cat Treats is packed to the brim with 30 ounces of dry cat treats featuring a dual texture that’s soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

FAQs

Q: What are the best treats for cats?

The best treats for cats will help you and your pet bond and enjoy life together. As part of a balanced diet, dry treats can enhance playtime, lickable treats can be deliciously fun, and catnip can provide hours of entertainment for cats and humans alike. Because every cat is different, it’s important to ask your vet about what treats are safe and healthy for your treasured pet.

Q: Are treats good for cats?

Treats can be good for cats as long as they meet your cat’s specific dietary needs and restrictions. While some treats have more nutrients and less additives than others, there can be a place for less healthy treats if they make it possible to administer medication or help your cat get more exercise. Just like with junk food and snacks for people, moderation is key, and treats should never replace meals. 

Q: What can I feed my cat as a treat?

Many pet parents prefer the convenience of commercial pet treats, which have been engineered and tested for the unique preferences of the domesticated felis catus. However, some foods marketed to humans like bonito flakes, puréed pumpkin, meat, and fish can also be appropriate treats depending on your cat’s health, as long as your vet gives you the go-ahead. It’s important to note that just because something is safe for you to eat doesn’t mean it’s okay to feed your cat as a treat. For example, it’s definitely a bad idea to give them scraps from your table. Fetch by WebMD has this helpful list of common foods to avoid, though it’s by no means exhaustive. 

Related: At the end of the day, fulfill your cat’s dream for comfortable slumber with the best cat beds.

Final thoughts on the best cat treats

The best cat treats are part of creating pawsitive experiences rather than just an occasional snack to stave off boredom. With so much variety to choose from, including treats for kittens and adults, there are plenty of opportunities to try new flavors, textures, and even make up games with tasty rewards for playing. You may never reliably train your kitty to give you a high five in exchange for a treat, but if that were the point you’d probably have a dog. 

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