Used wisely, cat treats offer a number of benefits – a happier, better behaved pet, and a stronger bond between feline and owner.
Treats aren’t just for pets of the canine variety – cats love them too! If used correctly, they can be a great way to reward your feline, show love and encourage good behaviour. The realm of cat treats can be a bit of a mystery to some, so for the sake of good kitty adoration, we bring you a few simple tips.
Cats are small and don’t need a huge amount of food, and it can be easy to overfeed them if you’re adding treats to their regular diets. Make sure that you’re not providing more that 10 percent of their daily calorific intake in treats, or you’ll need to reduce their meal sizes. Alternatively, you could simply use a portion of their daily biscuits as treats. This is helpful in maintaining a balanced diet, as treats often lack the nutritive value of formulated pet food.
When looking for treats, go for quality, natural ingredients. Meat should be the first ingredient listed on the back, and there should be no by-products, artificial preservatives or flavours. Low-calorie options are best.
Be wary of treating cats with human food, especially from the table, as this can encourage ‘begging’ – your kitty won’t be so cute when it’s disturbing a peaceful dinner! Make sure that what you’re giving your cat isn’t unsafe for it to eat, like chocolate, onions, garlic, raisins or grapes.
Treats are a great way to lure cats into practicing good behaviours, such as going through a cat flap, snuggling with you on the couch, or coming in when called. Once these behaviours have been learned, however, the treating should stop – otherwise they will come to expect it every time. Instead, reward with praise and a good ear-scratching.
It’s important to give treats in moderation, as over-treating cats can result in weight gain, or the feline turning its nose up at its regular kibble. Stick to occasional treats, about two to three times per week (unless you’re using food from their regular kibble).
Some people have success in using treats to teach their cat tricks, as you would a dog. Not all cats will play ball with you here, but if you do have a cat that is receptive to training, remember that treating needs to happen as soon as the desired behaviour is displayed, in order for it to connect the action with the reward.
Treats can also be used to ‘apologise’ to a cat, or make a bad experience a little better. Consider treating your kitty after administering a pill, bath time or
claw trimming, and it may be quicker to forgive you.
Giving treats does help with bonding, but remember that other shows of affection are just as effective. Whether chin-scratching, head-stroking or offering a good belly rub, find out what your cat likes and use it your advantage – unlike treats, these can be dispensed at any time!