The Best Healthy Cat Treats For Training (And Spoiling) Cats & Kittens
Whether you’re training your cat or just can’t help but give her a little extra lovin’ in cat treat form, you’ll want something that she not only loves but is good for her.
But finding the best cat treats is hard…especially when you prioritize healthy treats and food!
Now, I don’t want to toot my own horn here too much, but we’re kind of experts when it comes to cat food.
That’ll come with 1000+ hours of research to figure out what cats want to eat, and then creating a database of 2000+ cat foods to find the best options (cat food link).
So rather than just give you a list of the most popular treats out there (most of which are full of low-quality ingredients, since big brand manufacturers think we won’t notice), I’m going to be doing a deep dive into what treats are ACTUALLY healthy and the best for your precious kitty.
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What Makes a Cat Treat Healthy?
The same thing that makes a cat food healthy.
High protein, low carbs (link to this page), and full of real meat.
That’s about it!
If you want to reward your cat for a job well done, or just show her your love, why not give her something she actually considers to be a treat? I’m talking about some delicious meat for her carnivorous tastes.
Most of the popular brands are full of junk like by-product meal (see here for a good rundown on dog food, but it also applies to cat food), corn, unnamed animal fats, carbohydrate ingredients, and artificial coloring additives.
You want your cat to know how much you love her, not how much you hate her, right?
So yeah, take a pass on the cheap, colorful, and downright disgusting options you probably see at the grocery store, and read our list below!
How We Choose the Best Treats for Cats and Kittens
First of all, I know some people are specifically looking for the following types of treats:
Well, rather than put together a whole bunch of different sections telling you that you need a specific treat for each category, I’m just going to tell you right now that every single one of our recommendations covers all of these bases.
They’re all healthy (biologically appropriate…meat, high protein, no carbs).
They’re all-natural (meat…nothing else…no artificial preservatives).
They’re all grain-free (cats don’t need/like carbs or grains!).
We’ll give you a heads up when our picks are also organic, or if they’re specifically good for cats with sensitive stomachs, for example. But for the most part, every treat we recommend meets the three criteria above.
So, how did we pick them?
Well, much like our cat food database, we went through and looked at a ton of cat treats.
We made notes on their ingredients and their protein content.
But honestly, when it comes to treats, it’s pretty easy to see which ones are going to be good or not.
If there’s anything other than meat in them, we didn’t include them in this list.
Pretty simple, right?
But there’s just no need to have any extra ingredients in a treat. You don’t want your feline friend chowing down on garbage every time you want to reward her.
If you don’t think a meat-only treat would suit your cat, that’s fine I suppose, but we certainly think it’s the best way to go!
Otherwise, we compared prices and any other information we have on the manufacturer from our previous research and came up with our reviews below.
A Note About Organic Cat Treats
As I was thinking about what categories of treats people always ask me about, I decided to look into organic options.
You can definitely feel free to choose organic if you’d like, but please know that organic does not equal good for your cat!
The ingredient mixture itself is much more important.
Most of the organic treats I found had organic meat in them, but then they were full of rice or protein-boosting vegetables that are not appropriate for your cat.
So just beware before buying based on the organic label alone!
Reviews of the Best Cat Treats
- Rating: 5/5 Stars
- Calories: 371/100 grams (3.71/gram)
- Ingredients: Chicken Breast
- Protein: 74% Guaranteed Analysis
- Size: 1.09 oz
- Price: $3.49 ($3.20/oz)
A no-nonsense, super basic, and super healthy option, PureBites has one of the best overall lines of cat treats out there.
If your cat ever gets sick of the chicken (and we do recommend changing up what you feed your kitty now and then), they’ve got at least another 10 flavors available.
This is a super high protein, very well priced option.
The treats are small and easy to eat, and literally only contain chicken breast, which most cats absolutely adore.
If you just want an amazing yet fairly cheap cat treat, PureBites has you covered.
- Rating: 5/5 Stars
- Calories: 357/100 grams (3.57/gram)
- Ingredients: Rabbit, Rabbit Liver, Rabbit Kidney, Rabbit Heart
- Protein: 50% Guaranteed Analysis
- Size: 0.9 oz
- Price: $4.94 ($5.49/oz)
One of the very few treats that has more than one actually good ingredient, Vital Essentials takes everything that makes their cat food so amazing (one of our few 5 out of 5-star picks) and turned it into a treat.
This particular flavor is great if your cat has a stomach sensitivity to a normal protein source like chicken. The “novel” protein of rabbit is one that most cats haven’t eaten before if they’re indoor cats, and will usually be better for kitty’s who struggle with poultry.
Actually, rabbit is the largest source of food for most outdoor cats in regions where they’re readily available, so this is incredibly biologically appropriate.
Not to mention it’s packed with important organ meats like heart, liver, and kidney.
Organ meat in cat food is a big bonus and helps us know that it’s usually a good quality food. Organ meat in treats is almost unheard of!
To ensure the absolute healthiest treat for your cat, we recommend Vital Essentials if you prefer a freeze-dried option.
- Rating: 5/5 Stars
- Calories: 5/serving
- Ingredients: Dried Bonito
- Protein: 76% Guaranteed Analysis
- Size: 1 oz
- Price: $7.99 ($7.99/oz)
Does your kitty love fish?
Then try out some dried bonito flakes for a light, but SUPER tasty treat.
We don’t recommend feeding cats fish, since they don’t typically eat them in the wild (plus, they deliver a much higher chance of illness from mercury poisoning or other toxins).
However, this is a very high-quality dried tuna from Japan, and since the flakes are so very small, a couple now and then won’t hurt your cat in the slightest.
For the cat who loves fish but doesn’t get it very often, this is one of the best treats you can give for training purposes since it’s so distinctly flavorful.
It truly is a “treat” in the best sense of the word!
If you’d like to experiment with a fish-based food, this also works great as a meal topper for a bit of extra protein, or to entice your cat to eat her food if she’s become picky.
- Rating: 5/5 Stars
- Calories: 471/100 grams (4.71/gram)
- Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Heart, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Liver
- Protein: 40% Guaranteed Analysis
- Size: 1.76 oz
- Price: $9.99 ($5.68/oz)
Feline Natural is one of the absolute best cat food brands available, so we weren’t surprised to see them at the top of the pile when it comes to cat treats.
We love their chicken treats, which are just straight-up chicken, but I thought we’d include the lamb bites since they are packed with amazing organ meats, like heart, kidney, and liver.
One of the few with so many good organs (similar to Vital Essentials, our #2 pick), this is potentially one of the healthiest and biologically appropriate treats for your cat, and it’s surprisingly middle of the pack in terms of price.
We trust them so much due to their absolutely amazing wet foods and are excited to see they’ve carried it over to these.
One thing I love is that these are not “over-proteined”, by which I mean the other cuts of meat in this allow for a lot more fat to be included. Remember, protein is only one part of the battle, as cats usually eat 35-50% of their calories from fat in an ideal setting.
While a few calories of straight-up protein here and there is amazing for your cat (especially if they aren’t eating the absolute best cat food), it’s nice to keep their entire diet well-rounded by having treats that follow a similar nutrient profile.
How To Use Cat Treats
While you may just like to give your kitty something special now and then, we figured we’d break down the variety of ways you can use treats effectively with your feline friend.
Did your cat do something you are super happy with? Perhaps you have a new cat and she used the litter box for the first time. Why not give her a tasty treat as a reward?
Cats respond VERY well to positive reinforcement, and any attempts to punish them are likely to backfire.
Therefore providing treats for a job well done is one of the most effective ways to create a bond and ensure she continues doing non-destructive things.
Similar to the positive reinforcement aspect above, when you’re specifically training your cat to do something, one of the best ways of ensuring she sticks with it is by providing a treat.
Get Kitty Out of Hiding
If you have a cat, you’re almost guaranteed to know what I mean here. Sometimes you just really need your cat to come out of hiding!
Shaking her favorite bag of treats is one of the most sure-fire ways to get her back out into the open.
I remember my grandmother had a cat called Sassy, and every time we shook her treat tin she’d dart into the kitchen, stand in front of the sink, and vibrate her tail expectantly. It works!
One of the more unpleasant parts of being a pet parent is having to give pills. It’s not like your cat will put it in her mouth, take a drink of water, and swallow it.
In fact, cats (and dogs) are ridiculously good at spotting pills, even in some of their favorite foods!
So yeah, this isn’t 100% foolproof, but hiding a pill within a treat is a pretty useful trick to get her to take her medication.
Finally, sometimes the treat is more about us, the cat parent, isn’t it?
Sometimes you just really need to give your kitty a bit of extra love, and treats are a definite love language to your cat!
Treats as Part of a Healthy Diet
One of the most important things to remember – and also one of the easiest to overlook – is that treats form a part of your cat’s diet.
Now, whether you give one or two treats per week or multiple treats per day will inform how much of a part of the diet they are, but they’re important to factor in, nonetheless.
Too many treats can lead to an increase in calories, and weight gain in your cat, which can lead to negative health side effects.
Depending on the macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs), treats can also throw your cat’s diet out of whack.
If you choose one of the recommendations above, they can actually be a healthy addition to the diet, so we highly recommend choosing one of our top picks.
But if you have treats that are full of corn and other low-quality ingredients, feeding a few per day can seriously skew your cat’s nutritional intake.
Make sure that you keep in mind that you’re adding more calories and potentially altering the macronutrients of your cat’s diet when you feed treats!
Ingredients to Avoid
Basically, anything that’s not meat.
I mean, honestly. We discussed it above, so I think I have stated my position fairly clearly, but just in case, here’s a bit of a list (taken from our “Worst Cat Foods and Ingredients” list):
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- Glucose / Dextrose
- Glyceryl Monostearate
- Iron Oxide
- Meat & Bone Meal
- Meat By-Products
- Red, Yellow, And Blue Food Coloring
- Sodium Nitrite
- Sodium Tripolyphosphate
- Titanium Dioxide
- Wheat Gluten
Treats can be an absolutely amazing way to give your cat some love or to train him. Just make sure you’re feeding one of the best, which we cover above!