Your cat loves her treats. You can tell because she scampers across the house when she hears you open the cupboard. Then she winds between your feet, meowing impatiently until you kneel to give her a goody.
If your veterinarian can tell your cat loves and frequently receives treats, that's not a great thing. Just like humans, an unhealthy weight can lead to health concerns, including diabetes, heart problems and osteoarthritis, says Vetstreet. However, your cat certainly doesn't understand the need to cut back.
So how can you properly give your cat healthy cat treats without compromising her weight health?
Moderation Is Key
Just like your human doctor will tell you, moderation is key. You don't have to give up treats entirely, just make sure you are doling treats out in the best way and for the right reasons. For instance, cat parents may automatically give their cat a treat when they get home from a full day of work.
Are you giving your cat tasty nibbles because you feel guilty about being away all day? Because you feel like you haven't been spending enough time with her? Instead, give your cat a treat as a training tool, to reinforce good behaviors, or to help her overcome a fear, not to make yourself feel better! Give her a pat on the head or tease her with a feather toy for five extra minutes instead.
Smart Ways to Treat
Here are five ways to treat your cat without packing on the pounds:
- Use food instead of calorie-dense treats. Just a few of her regular kibbles hand-fed to her during a cuddle session may be enough to get her motor purring. Remember, if she is quick to her cat bowl when you feed her, it means she probably enjoys her dry cat food. Unlike humans, cats don't mind eating the same thing more than once, so a few kibbles here and there outside her normal meal time will still feel like a treat.
- Cut treats in half. By dividing treats into smaller pieces, you're still giving your cat a taste she craves without the full caloric intake.
- Trade your traditional treats for a green snack. Catnip and cat grass are fun alternatives. Keep an eye on her while she's enjoying it, because ingesting a huge pile of nip may give her an upset stomach.
- Switch store-bought treats for homemade options. Homemade treats don't have to be complicated. With just a few minutes of prep time and a quick bake in the oven or microwave, you can whip up a batch of homemade healthy cat treats that will last for a week.
- Combine treats with exercise and play. Teach your cat tricks or send her on a scavenger hunt to satisfy her taste buds and burn calories at the same time.
No Table Scraps
Another important reminder regarding treating your cat: please don't feed table scraps or human food. Everyday foods like raisins, caffeinated drinks, chocolate and onions, among others, are toxic to cats. This also needs to be known throughout the household. Just because you are being compliant and avoiding giving your cat treats in excess, does not mean everyone in the house is following your lead. This can be especially true of young children, so help them understand to only give her treats when you are there to supervise to ensure you can manage your kitty's treat intake.
You love your cat and want her to live a long, happy and healthy life. Keep those goals in mind when deciding what and when to treat your cat. If nothing else, some cuddle time and scratches behind the ears will be more than enough of a treat, just knowing your love for her.
Kara Murphy is a freelance writer in Erie, Pa. with a cat named Olive.