Treats - if it were up to your cat they’d make up the entire cat food pyramid, just ask the ancient Egyptians. While a bit of self-control is important, treats do have a place in even the most health-conscious household. They are an excellent means of encouraging positive behaviour, such as using a scratching post, walking on a leash, or obeying simple commands. That’s right, it is possible to train your cat, instead of just the other way around!
However, many commercially available treats are made from poor quality cat food ingredients, and get their appeal from artificial flavouring and salt. Worse still, recalls are common, and not without serious consequence for your furry friend. Fortunately, we have a few healthy and tasty suggestions for spoiling your furbaby rotten. Well, hopefully not rotten! We still recommend only using treats as a reward (or an apology, if you will) and not giving them away willy-nilly: moderation is key. Here are our favourites:
There’s no cat food your little carnivore loves more than a lovely piece of meat - so why settle for anything else? Ditch the carbohydrates of commercial treats and make your own protein packed morsels. Here’s how:
- Slice your cut of choice into meowth-sized portions. Chicken is perfect, but any meat or organ meat will be a hit!
- Spread the pieces on an elevated rack. Make sure there is plenty of air-flow in all directions so that they can dry properly.
- Put the rack in your oven on the lowest possible setting, wedging the handle of a wooden spoon in the door so that it’s slightly ajar.
- Check on your handiwork every hour or so. The pieces should take 6 to 8 hours to dry completely. They should look like dried jerky when they’re done.
- Let the treats cool, and store them in an airtight container. They should keep for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.
- Treat your cat.
- Receive gratitude.
Cats and fish are not the cheese and crackers match that stereotypes would have you believe - some cats don’t much care for fish! The ones that do more than make up for it, though; what we like to call fish fever. We recommend sardine treats for the fish-feverish feline, as long as you promise to keep them off our pizza. The unsalted type is best, as salt is bad for your cat’s kidneys, although you can get away with thoroughly rinsing salted or flavoured sardines as long as you treat your cat sparingly.
The risk of heavy metals in fish is overstated when it comes to sardines - they are very low in the food chain and perfectly harmless in small doses (unlike, say, tuna). On the contrary, sardines can be a great supplement to cat food, being rich in calcium and omega 3.
The most infamous resident of this list is also the most groovy. This relative of oregano and basil (now that’s a pizza) will send your cat into a state of bliss. Don’t be surprised to see your cat rolling on the floor in ecstasy, but also don’t be surprised if it instead becomes aggressively playful, or unbelievably mellow. Who would have thought cats could be unpredictable? This bliss lasts all of 10 minutes, after which your cat will not respond to catnip treats for about 2 hours. Indeed, only about half of cats respond to catnip at all, and even then only after about 6 months old.
Although it is sometimes referred to as ‘cat drugs’, catnip is not even slightly addictive. You can even grow your own! It is a fantastic way to make a new toy, bed or scratching post more appealing - simply spritz the desired object with some catnip-infused spray and watch kitty bond with it like never before.
Eggs have been subject to so much misinformation in terms of human nutrition, that we would understand if you thought they were utterly unfit for cat food (they’re fine for humans, by the way, and much tastier from your own chooks!). Although some cats can be allergic, for most, egg treats are a fantastic source of essential taurine and protein. We recommend serving them cooked, to avoid the possibility of e-coli or other nasties. Also, because of their enormous calorie content, be careful with overfeeding - one egg for a human is ten eggs for a cat. And we reckon you probably wouldn’t dream of eating ten eggs for breaky.
No, that’s not a typo. Cats are bananas about melon. Some owners even report their kitty raiding the rubbish for rinds. What could possess your cat to have a taste for tropical fruit? They can’t even taste sweetness, the poor things! Studies suggest that the allure may be due to certain amino acids responsible for the melon’s distinct aroma. These same amino acids are found in - you guessed it - meat. So go on, treat your cat with some seedless melon, and try to forget about what we just told you the next time you have yourself a slice.
Does your cat have a tendency to overindulge? It might need a bit more exercise!