Cats are always more interested in treats than they are in their cat food. But why do cat treats taste better than cat food?
Partially, cat treats taste so amazing because they are not designed to be balanced for your kitty. Cat treats are usually higher in protein, some of them contain up to 85% protein, which is significantly more than the protein levels in regular cat food.
Other treats have flavor enhancers which make cats like them more than their food.
However, cats love the extra protein and really appreciate the treat. This then begs the question, what makes a good cat treat and how much treats should a cat get in a given day?
Why Do Cat Treats Taste Better Than Cat Food?
Treats tend to have flavor enhancers like animal digest, poultry fat and other mystery meats that are designed to make the treats more attractive and palatable for cats.
What Is Inside Cat Treats?
There are several ingredients that are in cat treats and snacks that make them more tempting and appetizing than your kitty’s regular food. These ingredients range from fillers to vitamins and tons of stuff in between.
Here’s a short list of more common ingredients:+
- Carbohydrates (not essential to your cat’s diet)
- Tartar control
- Meat by products – also known as ‘mystery meats’ or the non essential parts of animals rendered to make human and animal food.
- Grains – usually used as filler
- Vitamins and minerals
- Plant based proteins
- Colors or dyes
- Animal digest
What ingredients appear in cat treats vary by the treat manufacturer. If you want to DIY your own consider making your own kitty treats (see below)
What to look for when buying treats?
Cat treats are hard to decipher. There’s usually no percentages of ingredients listed, and no calorie counts either. At a minimum, check to see if the treats are approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
Animal digest is common in treats and cats really love it. However, animal digest is not great for your cat in large amounts, so you’ll want to limit how much your cat gets because it is ultimately unhealthy. You will also want to avoid treats that have corn, petroleum derivatives, and zinc sulfate.
What Is Animal Digest?
Animal digest refers mainly to the process, a form of ‘digestion’ used in its production, not the actual ingredients. Animal digest makes the treat super tasty and palatable and is composed of animal proteins such as muscle and soft tissue.
Animal digest is used in small amounts for treats (which makes the treat taste awesome) and can sometimes be found as a spray to enhance any cat food.
How to best balance treats in my cat’s diet?
Yes; Wet cat food is about 70% – 80% water which helps your cat obtain 3 – 4 ounces per day from consuming one can of wet cat food. Cats need to consume about ½ cup of water per 5 pounds of body weight per day. Pate style cat food may have less water or “gravy” than regular cat foo
Ideally, your cat’s diet shouldn’t be more than 5% treats. Most treat bags have recommended serving sizes, but you might need to do some more math beyond that when compared to how much dry or wet food your kitty is eating on a daily basis.
Some cats are fussy eaters and only want to eat treats. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but it is also important to feed your cat a quality and nutritionally complete food that they will like in addition to the treats.
In the event that you are weaning your cat off of excess treats, or maybe you are switching foods, gradually change the percentage over a period of a couple of weeks so your cat will continue to eat and not protest starving itself.
Another thing to remember is that you should not give cats too much people food. Cats might like a piece of chicken or tuna, or even some cheese, but you need to moderate those into your kitty’s diet the same way you moderate their other treats.
Yes, it can cost extra to feed your cat each per month, but don’t give in to the begging!
One really good treat to include in your kitty’s life is catnip or cat grass. Both of these treats are low in calories and both can be grown in a sunny window.
If you have an overweight cat, removing treats entirely isn’t the answer. Instead, work with your vet to restrict all calorie intake in a safe and manageable manner so that your kitty doesn’t develop other health complications.
Sometimes mixing wet and dry cat food will give them the feeling of getting a treat, or just straight up give them wet cat food as a treat. It but they’re really getting good food.
When Is It Appropriate To Give My Cat Treats?
Cats should not have free access to treats all the time. It is usually best to keep them in a cabinet your cat cannot open. Then, you can control when your cats get treats and also why they are getting treats. Some good times to give cats treats are:
- When teaching them new tricks
- When your cat is doing agility exercises – this is especially good for indoor only cats
- After grooming your cat
- After medication
On the flip side, there are also sometimes that it is definitely not a good idea to give your cats treats. They are:
- When your cat is begging for treats, as this will enforce bad behavior
- As a replacement for not spending more time with them
How can I make my own treats?
There are plenty of recipes for cat treats on the internet. If your cat is on a special diet, check with your vet about what kind of homemade treats you can make for your kitty.
Generally speaking, here are some options for homemade treats from the food you already buy:
- Take a firmer pate canned food, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and cook on an ungreased cookie sheet for 30 minutes at 350
- Grind kibble in a food processor then mix with water to form a dough, you can then make cookies by baking in the oven at 350 for 25-30 minutes
As a reminder, even treats of this kind cannot exceed more than 5% of your cat’s diet.
For those of you looking to make different kinds of homemade treats to perhaps replace purchasing ones at the store, choose ingredients that don’t have any extra salt or unnecessary additives. For example:
- 1 ½ cups cooked and shredded chicken
- ½ cup chicken broth with no salt added
- 1 Tbsp. softened margarine
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup corn meal
Then, to make these treats:
- Preheat oven to 350
- Combine the chicken, broth, and margarine
- Slowly add in the flour and cornmeal, kneading into a dough
- Make fun shapes
- Cook for 20 minutes on an ungreased sheet
There are plenty of other ideas on the web for treats, just check with your vet to make sure it will work for your kitty.
Why Do Cat Treats Taste Better Than Cat Food…Conclusion
So the reason why cats like treats so much is because of their nutritional content, additives and flavor enhancers. The protein content is greater than it is in regular food. Some treats even add in extra flavor that doesn’t do your cats any good. So when buying treats, make sure you look for ones approved by the AAFCO.
If you don’t trust any treats, you can always make yours at home. Be sure to check with your vet about food content, especially if your cat is on a special diet. And the one thing to remember more than anything else when it comes to treats for your cats: always give treats in moderation alongside their regular food.
Related Article: Can I Give Wet Cat Food As a Treat!