Are you on the hunt for cat treats that are healthy? With so many treat options, it can be difficult to assess which ones are best. If you’re doing any training with your cat (yes, cats CAN be trained), it’s especially important to find healthy cat training treats.
Finding a healthy treat can be a challenge though. Reading the labels on treat packaging can sometimes feel like you’re reading another language. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered with a list of what to look for in a training treat, along with our favorite healthy cat treat choices.
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What to Look For in Cat Training Treats
When picking out healthy cat treats to reward your cat with, there are a few things you want to check for. The goal is to find a treat that has few and simple ingredients, is low in calories, and is high in value.
As with anything we feed our cats, we want to avoid unnecessary ingredients, fillers, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Because cats are obligate carnivores (meaning they only require meat for survival), they do not need vegetables or any other plant-based ingredients in their diet. In fact, those kinds of ingredients don’t provide them much if any nutritional value at all.
Fillers are low-quality ingredients that are added to your cat’s food to help hold things together but provide no nutritional value – things like corn, wheat, and rice. Not only are those ingredients high in carbs and offer no nutritional value for cats (obligate carnivores), they can even trigger allergies.
A healthy cat snack is one that has meat as a primary ingredient, or even as the only ingredient.
Low Calorie Count
When training with your cat, it is assumed you’ll be giving your cat a steady stream of treats as a reward. If you’re giving your cat treats that are high in calories, you run the risk of your cat gaining too much weight. To avoid unwanted weight gain, make sure you pick a training treat that is low in calories.
You should also account for the calories your cat is consuming during training when you figure out their regular meal portions. If your cat is eating a lot of treats during the day, their regular meals should be cut back. If you need help making those calculations, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian.
A high-value treat isn’t necessarily one that is expensive. It is one that your cat views as extra special – a treat they are willing to work for. For each individual cat, that may mean something different. One cat may view a piece of kibble as high value, while another views only freeze-dried treats as high value.
What your cat sees as high value will also depend on how food-motivated they are. An extremely food-motivated cat may work for just about anything, whereas a cat who isn’t very food-motivated may only perform for a very specific treat reward.
Figuring out what kind of treats your cat sees as high value may take some trial and error. Once you find that extra special treat, make sure you reserve it only for training sessions and behaviors that warrant it. If you feed it too much, it will lose its value, and you’ll have to find a new one.
12 Healthy Cat Treats for Training
Now you know what qualities to look for in cat treats that are healthy, we can look at some specific types. Cat training treats come in several different forms and options. Remember too that you may need to use a combination of different treats and do some testing to figure out what kind your cat deems worthy of working for.
Kibble or any other sort of dry, crunchy treat can work really well for training. You can easily store them in a training treat pouch, and they aren’t messy. If your cat is highly food-motivated, even using pieces of their regular kibble can work.
If your cat will work for kibble, it is a great training option because one piece of kibble is typically going to be pretty low in calories. This allows you to feed several pieces during a training session without worrying too much about over-feeding.
Dry treat recommendations
Freeze-dried treats are excellent examples of cat treats that are healthy because they are frequently made from a single ingredient – chicken, salmon, etc. Though they are usually a bit bigger in size than a dry treat, their softer texture makes them easy to break off into smaller pieces during a training session with your cat.
Many cats view freeze-dried treats as something special too, so they tend to work well as a higher value treat – one that your cat will likely be willing to work for!
Freeze-dried treat recommendations:
- Orijen Freeze-Dried Treats
- Pure Bites Freeze Dried Chicken or Tuna
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Mixers
Puree / Squeezable Treats
If you are looking for a treat that is extra high value, the lickable cat treats that come in the squeezable tubes are perfect! Most cats go crazy for these things. Because they are high in water content, they are also great for keeping your cat hydrated.
If you’re looking for a special treat to keep your cat occupied during their Pet Health 5 checks, these are great for that too. You can easily spread them over a licky mat or even just on a plate, and your cat will be so busy licking it up, they (hopefully) won’t notice you taking their temperature.
Squeezable treat recommendations:
Whole Fish Treats
Did you know you can get actual whole fish to give as a cat treat? They are usually either air-dried or freeze-dried, so they are a 100% single ingredient treat. Whole fish cat treats also contain omega-3s, which help boost your cat’s skin and coat health.
While whole fish wouldn’t work too well as a treat for constant training, they are great as a reward at the end of a training session, or they could be used to encourage your cat to perform an especially challenging behavior.
Whole fish treat recommendations:
As you can see, there are so many options for cat treats that are healthy and suitable for training. Just remember that not every cat is going to like every option. You may have to try out a few different treats to find the “holy grail.” Once you find it though, you’ll know you have a treat that your cat not only loves, but that’s healthy too.
What is your cat’s favorite treat? Do you use it for training?
About the Author: Emily is “mom” to seven cats, one dog, and two sugar gliders. She has been writing in the pet industry for over 8 years, with a focus on cats, rescue, and adventuring. When she isn’t writing, playing music, crocheting, or working on her own entrepreneurial pursuits, Emily and her husband enjoy hiking, road-tripping, camping, and canoeing with their three cat adventurers. Follow her on her blog, KittyCatGo.