Cat treat addiction is a real thing that afflicts thousands of households. Characterized by whining, meowing, and pawing the spot they know their favorite treats are stored, this behavior can be challenging to cope with.
Some well-intentioned pet owners will try to pacify their pet with added treats, which might make the house quieter for a few minutes, but will only serve to support their neediness for a food item that shouldn’t make up a substantial part of their diet.
Cat treats can be handy for reinforcing positive behaviors and for simply doling out when you want to spoil your cat a little. However, it is possible for cats to become a little overly fond of their treats. The incessant demand for their favorite treat can be obnoxious at best and, at worst, contribute to a weight problem cycle that can become difficult to get back on track.
So, how much is too much?
Cat treats should consist of no more than ten percent of your cat’s overall diet. Less, if your cat has existing weight problems or other health issues.
Treats are in no way meant to replace a nutrient-rich cat food, but if you gave your cat the choice, you know exactly which they’d pick.
So how can you lovingly curb this high demand for treats? What can happen if your cat consumes too many treats? What is considered “too many” in the first place?
This guide is going to dive right into the subject to answer all of these questions and more. We'll also discuss types of treats and bring you a few recommendations by our community members.
How Frequently Should a Cat Get Treats?
If you are training your cat to perform certain behaviors, treats are more than likely going to become part of the process. But that doesn’t mean that your cat should be rewarded with a treat whenever they do something good.
Most cat treat brands will have a recommended serving size printed alongside the nutritional information, but you should take a different approach from this one-size-fits-all kind of labeling. After all, certain high-energy cats might be able to have more treats than a chubby cat who lives in your lap. Overall, use the recommendations on the bag as the maximum and reduce the quantity if your cat is older, unhealthy or heavier than average.
And remember: Cats do not need treats to be healthy and happy, so there is no such thing as “too few” treats.
Some good times to feed your cat treats include:
When they’ve taken medicine
When they perform a behavior that you’ve been training them to do
When you're introducing them to another cat
What Behaviors Indicate an Addiction to Treats?
Most cats love treats. Some cats love them so much that they will completely ignore their full food dishes in pursuit of treats once they hear the bag shake. A simple love of treats is common and nothing to be concerned about. Over time, however, your cat might develop an addiction which could lead to some changes in their behavior.
One of the trademark indicators of cat treat addiction is incessant meowing that may gradually increase in volume – as if you can’t already hear them making their demands.
Rarely, a cat may also get physically aggressive by hissing, biting or scratching when treats are denied – especially if they can see the treats but not get to them.
What are the Consequences of Overconsumption?
We humans have to watch what we eat in order to ensure adequate nutrition and caloric intake, but that doesn’t mean that a bag of chips is going to cause your health to plummet – if enjoyed sparingly.
The same line of thinking can be applied to cats and their treats. While cat treats aren’t necessarily good or bad for your cat, they are not designed to be a replacement for healthy, high-quality cat food. Both humans and our feline companions should have well-balanced diets with our chosen treats thrown in on occasion to ensure optimal health.
Obesity is a real health problem for indoor cats. This is, of course, not solely because of treats or treat addiction.
Over-feeding can be a problem as well due to well-intentioned owners not knowing how to portion their pet’s food. Inactivity, which can be caused by a number of factors, plays a substantial role as well. But cat treats are sometimes a major contributing cause.
We get it, it’s easy to give your cherished cat companion too many treats when you’re compelled by those big saucer-like eyes and cute begging antics. It might also be challenging to consistently say “no” when they won’t stop insisting. No cat owner is trying to make their cat obese, but far too many of us wake up one morning and wonder, “When the heck did my cat get so… hefty?”
Obesity in cats carries with it many of the same dangers that obesity does in humans, including:
High blood pressure
Joint pain, including arthritis
Increased occurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Respiratory problems, like difficulty breathing
A shortened lifespan
This isn’t meant to scare you, but to simply inform you as a loving cat owner what is really at stake when you let your already-chubby fluffy overindulge in treats that have little to no nutritional value.
In fact, many cat owners will be recommended by their veterinarians to avoid giving their cats cat treats from here on in, as a means of helping to control their portions and reduce their weight.
How Can Owners Wean Their Cats from Treat Addiction?
The worst thing that you can do if your cat has become treat-addicted is to give them the treat whenever they demand it. It might simply feel easier to give in when they get annoyed about it, especially if they turn aggressive at being denied their savory morsels of choice. But it’s like teaching children proper behavior: You don’t give them what they want when they do something bad.
The same principle applies to cats. No matter what they do, even if they scratch or bite at you, do not give them treats when they are displaying bad behavior.
Cats quickly learn how much sway they have in our households. This becomes evident when they are demanding food – and especially treats. Fortunately, there are ways to get around their bossy behaviors and take control of the situation.
One commonly implemented solution for cat owners to curb their cat’s bothering humans for treats is an automated animal feeder. Certain models can be programmed to dole out treats at a specified time, thus taking the human out of the equation and (hopefully) prompting them to stop bugging their humans about it so much.