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    Choosing the Best Cat Treats

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    cat-sniffing-treat-in-hand

    Veterinarians get asked this question all the time, “Which treat is best to give my pet?” As a veterinarian who has formulated many diets and treats for dogs and cats, I can tell you that if chosen correctly, treats can supplement your pet’s health as well as be very beneficial to their overall well-being.

    Not to mention the training that often accompanies treating, or the mental stimulation of an interactive game.

    Because every pet is an individual with their own personality and preferences, some treats may be accepted readily whereas some pets require a little trial and error before you find the treats they love. With pet individuality in mind, let’s explore what sorts of treats are ideal for cats.

    Top Tier Treats for Cats

    Finding cat treats can be a chore. If cats were omnivores like dogs, a suggestion for fruit and vegetable treats would stand. Since cats have more carnivorous tastes, however, finding treats they will accept and are good for them, means meat treats are best. Make sure the treats are cooked, they should not have added salt or any preservatives or artificial coloring.

    It is difficult to find appropriate cat treats. The amount of carbohydrate needed to make a crunchy cat treat, is a carbohydrate level that is too high for cats. So finding cat treats that are mostly meat and are also cooked is challenging. Any treat that has that crunchy texture is high in carbohydrates and should be given in moderation — not as the sole treat option for your cat.

    One of my favorite treats for cats are these Salmon Bark Treats. This meaty treat is 80% meat, 20% yucca root – a hypoallergenic carbohydrate source that gives that chewy texture.

    salmon-bark-treats-for-cats

     

    Salmon Bark Treats for Cats
    Buy Here

    Another good cat option is Pet Greens Cat Craves. These treats have meat as the first ingredient, have recognizable ingredients and contain Omega 3 Fatty acids.

    pet-greens-cat-craves-tuna-treats Pet Greens Cat Craves Treats
    Buy on Chewy | Buy on Amazon

    Good Treats

    The treats selected for this category are treats derived from whole foods. Some of my favorites include:

    polkadog-bakery-chicken-littles honest-kitchen-wishes-fish-filets honest-kitchen-smittens-cat-treats
    Polkadog Bakery Chicken Littles 
    Buy on Chewy | Buy on Amazon
    Honest Kitchen Wishes Fish Filets
    Buy on Chewy | Buy on Amazon
    Honest Kitchen Smittens 
    Buy on Chewy

    Best Treats for Senior Cats

    The treats you select for your senior cat need to be appropriate for their age and body health. As cats age, they develop arthritis in their joints and back, they can have organ disease, or develop cognitive dysfunction (brain atrophy).

    Talk to your veterinarian about your senior cat’s health and see if they have any nutrient levels or requirements to be aware of when selecting their food and treats. Since some seniors will start to eat less than adult cats, getting treats into their bodies that can help support their body’s overall health is recommended.

    Joint Support: In general, pets who are aging will likely need joint support. Arthritis isn’t easy to spot at home. If your pet is getting up slower than normal, walking slower, exercising less often, walking stiffly, refusing to climb or descend stairs, is limping or not jumping normally, your veterinarian can perform a physical exam to determine if arthritis has started affecting your pet.

    There are a variety of treats that provide fish oil, type II collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, MSM and curcumin. All of these supplements help control joint inflammation and pain, in different but complementary ways. When given together, these supplements create a synergistic effect, and can help improve pain associated with arthritis.

    Here are some of my favorite treats that help with joint care. These treats each have a combination of joint supplements to help keep your pet comfortable:

    cosequin-cat-chews

     

    Nutramax Cosequin Chews for Cats
    Buy on Amazon | Buy on Chewy
    Dasuquin-Advanced-Soft-Chew-Cats

     

    Dasuquin Advanced Soft Chews
    Available from your veterinarian

     

    vetriscience-mobility-flex-chews vetriscience-vetriflex-supplements


    Vetriscience Mobility Flex Chews
    Buy on Amazon

    Vetriscience Vetriflex Chews
    Buy on Amazon

    Brain Aging: Another treat consideration for senior cats is choosing treats that can support their aging brain to keep them aware of their surroundings, minimize confusion, support the ability to problem solve, and otherwise enjoy life. The following treats are packed full of antioxidants and supplements to keep your pet interacting with their environment:

    feline-senior-vitality-pro-vetriscience

     

    Vetriscience Feline Senior Vitality Pro Chews
    Buy on Amazon

    Cat Treats to Avoid

    Raw food and treats: The high-value meat treats you select should not be raw. If the pet food store tells you differently, do not listen to them. Raw foods come with their own set of possible dangers, especially if your pet is young and does not yet have a fully developed immune system or in older animals with weakened organs, and immune systems.

    We don’t know what kind of sickness-causing bacteria is lurking on these raw products. Some of the potential bacterial contaminants include E.coli, salmonella, and listeria, amongst many others. Cooking the meat reduces/eliminates this risk. If you have ever had food poisoning, you will understand this concern. In general, cooked treats are safer for you, your family, and your pet.

    Freeze-dried raw treats like this one, Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Minnows, are popular, though.  They are whole ingredient (like some of the rest of their product line that includes heart and liver treats, and chicken giblets), so they have high nutritional value. If the treat is grown, harvested, and packaged in the US, which is super important from a product safety standpoint, then honestly, I would rather feed a treat with these whole food ingredients, then some of the amorphous blob treats available online and in pet stores.

    Jerky Treats: Beef jerky, or any jerky, generally has seasonings, added preservatives, or coloring, which is not recommended for your pet’s optimal health.

    Not made in the U.S.A: We prefer treats made in the United States because of our country’s quality control standards and labelling standards. Treat ingredients that have been processed and packaged in other countries do not necessarily have the same standards for ensuring bacterial contamination is minimized, there are no heavy metals contaminating the treats, and ingredients like melamine don’t end up in our cat treats and causing illness in our pets.

    High Fat Content: Be mindful of the fat content of any food or treat you are giving to your pet. Your cat does not want to experience intestinal upset any more than you want to clean up their diarrhea or vomit. Unfortunately the pet food label itself doesn’t tell us much about fat level. Here’s how to determine the fat level in a food or treat:

    How to Calculate Fat Content in Cat Treats (grams of fat per 1000 kilocalories)
    What's a "kcal"?
    The terms kilocalories (kcal) in pet foods and Calories in human foods are interchangeable! For example, a large apple is 120 human calories which, if fed to a cat, is counted as 120 kilocalories.
    Source: K9 Weight Challenge

    On the treat label, find the fat % and the energy of kcal per kg of food (kcal/kg)

    1) Add 1% to the fat % on the label.

    2) Take the kcal/kg of the food or treat and divide by 10,000

    3) Divide the answer to step 1 by the answer to step 2. This should give you the number of grams of fat/1000kcal. Note: Use the number from step 1, not the percentage. For example, if the fat % was 7%, use 7 not 0.07)

    4) Compare your result against the chart below.

    Cat Treat Fat Content

    Grams of fat per 1000kcal

    Low fat

    Less than 30

    Moderate fat

    30–50

    High fat

    Greater than 50

    If you do your calculation as described above, and you find that your pet’s treats are high in fat, it’s time to switch treats. (Note: this calculation only works for fat as is. If you want to calculate a high, moderate or low protein level, then you have to add 1.5% to step 1 instead of 1%.)

    Here’s an example of the calculation using a Zuke's dog treat label:

    Zukes-puppy-naturals-food-label

    • Step 1: 6% + 1% = 7

    • Step 2: 2,947 kcals ÷ 10,000 = .2947

    • Step 3: 7 ÷ .2947 = 23.7

    • Result: Low fat!


    Poor-quality cat treat ingredients
    : Treats that contain artificial coloring, artificial preservatives, or ingredients that you yourself would not eat (or don’t recognize) are not recommended for your pet. If those ingredients don’t serve a nutritional value, then what are they doing once they get inside your pet?

    If your cat loves a certain brand of treats, share it with us in the comments below!

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    Book of Cat Health and Safety Tips

    Topics: Cats, Cat Treats, supplements for cats, Cat nutrition

    Photo Credit: Preventive Vet

    Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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