What Sets the Best Cat Treats Apart From the Crowd?

The best cat treats are absolutely delicious. Here’s why the irresistibility factor is essential.

Cats are highly food-motivated, and when you offer them an irresistible treat, they’ll be willing to work to get it. If you’re interested in clicker training and dream of a day when your cat will jump through hoops and shake paws on command, it’s essential that you choose a scrumptious treat that your cat is willing to work for.

Even if training isn’t your goal, delicious treats make your cat’s life more exciting – and who wants a treat that doesn’t make their cat’s pupils dilate?

The best cat treats are also healthy.

Some people dismiss the low nutritional value of certain treats by saying, “It’s a treat. It’s not supposed to be healthy. Don’t worry about it.”

But why shouldn’t cat treats be just as nutritious as they are delicious? Cats love eating the things that are best for their health. As natural carnivores, fresh meat, organs, and bones are some of their favorite things to eat.

If your cat is currently obsessed with a less-than-nutritious treat like Temptations, remember that they’re probably not thrilled by the unsavory parts of the ingredient list. They don’t want corn. They don’t want rice. They don’t want Yellow 5 or Blue 2.

The thing that’s making your cat meow and claw at the bag is a vaguely-labeled additive called “natural flavor”.

In cat food, natural flavor typically refers to hydrolyzed animal tissue. This is a highly-concentrated animal flavor additive. It’s intensely flavorful and most cats absolutely love it. Other crazy-delicious treats contain animal liver, which is also a concentrated source of the rich, meaty flavor cats long for.

So knowing that your cat craves meat, skip the sugars, artificial colors, and carbohydrates.

Look for treats that are made from high-quality, simple ingredients, like chicken liver, beef meat, and perhaps a little salmon. Avoid treats that contain corn, wheat, soy, added sugar, and other unnecessary additives.

In small quantities, treats made from 100% meat are appropriate for most cats, including those with health conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, and sensitive stomachs.

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What about cat treats for dental health?

Most treats marketed for dental health capitalize on the premise that crunchy food can scrape off plaque, preventing continued dental decay. Current veterinary knowledge suggests that dry food and wet food are equally incapable of cleaning your cat’s teeth, so most of these special treats are useless.

If you’re passionate about promoting good dental health, give your cat raw meaty bones like chicken wings and necks. Alternatively, you may give your cat treats infused with bacteria-consuming enzymatic cleaners.

Top 5 Best Cat Treats on the Market

Best Cat Treats that Double as a Food Topper: Cat-Man-Doo Extra Large Dried Bonito Flakes Cat & Dog Treats

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Also known as skipjack, bonitos are medium-sized ocean fish related to tuna. Bonito flakes are simply dehydrated pieces of this fish’s flesh – but don’t let their unassuming appearance fool you. These straightforward treats are absurdly appetizing.

Bonito flakes are well-known in the cat community as an appetite stimulant and ideal food topper, especially for cats who need an extra nudge to eat.

These ultra-appetizing flakes are high in protein and offer omega-3 fatty acids to support your cat’s skin and coat health.

Problematically, bonito flakes are paper-thin and it’s difficult to give a single piece as a traditional treat. Also, beware that the treats are likely to crumble to dust at the bottom of the bag. Many reviewers recommend transferring the bonito flakes to a jar to prevent crumbling.

Pros

  • Cats go wild over these fish flakes
  • Just one ingredient – perfect for sensitive cats
  • Low-carbohydrate
  • Doubles as a food topper and appetite stimulant

Cons

  • These flakes are easily crumbled

Best Simple/Limited Ingredient Cat Treat: PureBites Chicken Breast

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You could feed your cat pieces of unseasoned chicken breast from dinner, or you could give them these freeze-dried pieces of chicken packed into a convenient bag.

These single-ingredient treats retain the nutritional properties, texture, aroma, and flavor of raw chicken, but a delicate freeze-drying process make them safe to handle and store. Because they’re made from just one ingredient, these treats are perfect for cats with GI sensitivities, allergies, or who are on a restricted diet for any other reason.

Each treat is small enough to use for training and contains approximately 2 calories.

For cats who are sensitive to chicken, Purebites offers a selection of freeze-dried limited ingredient treats made from duck, turkey, ocean whitefish, and beef liver.

Pros

  • 100% pure, human grade chicken
  • A single-ingredient treat ideal for sensitive cats
  • Rich in nutrients

Cons

  • The treats tend to crumble in the bag

Best Cat Treat for Dental Health: Virbac CET Oral Hygiene Chews

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Unlike most cat treats marketed for dental health, these treats aren’t crunchy or extruded products. They’re free from corn, wheat, and other high-carbohydrate ingredients cats don’t need.

Clinical testing has proven that these treats can naturally improve your cat’s dental health. Instead of relying on dubious abrasive action, these treats contain naturally antiseptic enzymes that actively consume bacteria and freshen your cat’s breath.

Each treat is about the size of a wine cork, forcing your cat to dig their teeth into the treat before consuming it. To make the treats ultra-palatable, the ingredient list includes natural flavor and poultry digest, which are concentrated sources of the meat flavor cats crave.

These treats are available in fish and poultry flavors, so you can provide the taste experience your cat prefers.

Pros

  • Intensely flavorful and enticing
  • Clinically proven to improve dental health
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives

Cons

  • Not ideal for training
  • Expensive

Best Novelty Cat Treat: Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Minnows Cat Treats

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Isn’t there something fun about handing your cat an entire freeze-dried minnow as a treat?

These treats have definite novelty appeal, but they’re not just about looking cool. These  single-ingredient minnow treats are rich in protein and free from all of the nasty ingredients common among standard crunchy treats.

Thanks to low-heat processing, these treats contain all the nutrients found in a raw minnow. Every part of the small fish is intact – eyes, internal organs, and tiny bones.

They’re easy to feed and, if your cat likes fish, these treats are insanely appetizing. One reviewer on Amazon said that “I had to call the company to see if he could overdose on them, lol, he ate the whole bag in one day.”

Pros

  • Single-ingredient treats
  • Wild-caught minnows from natural bodies of water
  • Free from high-carbohydrate additives
  • No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Highly appetizing for cats who like fish

Cons

  • If your cat doesn’t like fish, they probably won’t care for this treat
  • Relatively expensive

Editor’s Choice: Orijen Tundra Freeze-Dried Cat Treats

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Business Insider names these meat-heavy treats from Orijen the “best freeze-dried cat treats” and they were selected as the overall best cat treat of 2018 on Reviews.com.

Made with fresh regional wild boar, goat, venison, and arctic char, these treats rely solely on freeze-dried muscle meat and organs to deliver protein, fat, and deliciousness. Although crunchy extruded treats usually beat freeze-dried treats in taste tests, these treats do surprisingly well. Cats seem to love them. Maybe it’s because three different types of fresh liver feature prominently on the ingredient list.

The freeze-drying process makes these treats safe to handle and store, but it doesn’t destroy the delicate nutrient profile of raw meat, making these treats as nourishing as chunks of raw flesh. Unlike other freeze-dried treats, Orijen’s Tundra treats are quite cohesive and don’t disintegrate in the bag, meaning that you don’t have to worry about buying a bag of meat powder.

While some treats, especially those marketed for both cats and dogs, are ever-so-slightly too large to use as a training tool, these treats are small and low in calories.

Pros

  • Made with exotic proteins, meaning that these treats are likely appropriate for allergic cats
  • Manufactured by a trusted leader in the pet food industry
  • Made without any artificial ingredients or added sugars
  • Not crumbly

Cons

  • Considerably more expensive than the average treat

About the author


Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.