Is It Bad To Give My Cat Treats Everyday?

Are Daily Cat Treats Harmful or Helpful?

Giving your cat treats can be a great way to bond and reward good behavior. However, too many treats can lead to obesity and other health issues. This article explores the pros and cons of daily cat treats and provides tips for giving treats responsibly.

Pros of Daily Treats

Giving cats treats every day can provide some benefits when done in moderation. Treats can be an effective tool for positive reinforcement and enriching your cat’s life.

Treats allow cat owners to positively reinforce good behavior, like using the litter box or scratching appropriate surfaces. Giving a treat immediately after the desired behavior helps your cat learn. Treats can also be used in training, like teaching your cat to come when called or walk on a leash.

In addition to training, daily treats provide mental stimulation and enrichment for indoor cats. Cats have strong natural hunting instincts. Giving treats activates this “search and capture” drive. Treat puzzles and food dispensing toys offer mental exercise when your cat has to figure out how to get the treats.

Treat time also offers an opportunity for play, exercise and bonding. Interactive treat feeders encourage cats to move more. Handfeeding treats helps build trust and affection between you and your cat.

Cons of Too Many Treats

While treats can be an enjoyable part of your cat’s diet, too many treats come with some risks. The main cons of overindulging in treats include potential weight gain and dental problems.

Many cat treats are high in calories and fat. Giving too many treats on top of their normal food can quickly lead to weight gain or obesity if your cat does not burn those extra calories through activity (Purina). Obesity in cats increases the risk for other health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems.

Treats also present a dental risk. Hard treats like dental chews can help clean cats’ teeth. However, soft, sticky treats get stuck in teeth and promote tartar and plaque buildup. This can lead to gingivitis and other dental diseases over time if treats are overfed (Whiskas).

Ingredients to Avoid

When looking at cat treat labels, there are certain ingredients that should raise red flags. These ingredients provide little to no nutritional value and can even be harmful to your cat’s health if consumed regularly.

Added sugars like sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, lactose, corn syrup, and molasses should be avoided, as too much sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes, and dental issues in cats Even treats marketed as “low sugar” or “no additives” often contain sugars. Look for treats with under 2% total sugar content.

Preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are used to prolong shelf life but have been linked to cancer and organ damage. Avoid artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners as well. Cats’ livers are not equipped to properly metabolize these additives

In general, avoid any ingredients you don’t recognize or that sound too processed. Seek out treats with recognizable, natural ingredients.

Healthy Treat Alternatives

There are many healthy, homemade alternatives to store-bought treats that you can make for your cat using natural ingredients like meat, fish, and vegetables. These options allow you to control exactly what goes into your cat’s treats, avoid unhealthy additives, and provide nutrients cats need in their diet. Some healthy ideas include:

Meat-based treats like chicken, turkey or beef. Cook plain meat without seasoning, cut into bite-sized pieces, and bake or dehydrate into chewy treats. Lean meat provides protein and amino acids.

Fish treats made from canned tuna or salmon, which are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Drain and rinse canned fish to reduce sodium content before mixing into treats or baking.

Veggies like carrots and green beans add fiber, vitamins and minerals. Steam or boil to soften, then chop into pieces. Cats tend to enjoy strong smells like pumpkin and potato too.

Avoid onion, garlic, chocolate, grapes, raisins, yeast dough, artificial sweeteners, and other toxic ingredients. Check with your vet if concerned about specific food items.

Making homemade treats allows control over quality ingredients and portions. You can adjust recipes to satisfy your cat’s preferences and dietary needs.

Recommended Daily Amount

The general guideline is that treats should make up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily calories. For example, if your cat needs 250 calories per day, then treats should provide no more than 25 of those calories.1

The exact number of treats depends on the size and calorie content of each treat. Smaller, low calorie treats can be given in higher quantities. Larger or higher calorie treats should be limited to only 1 or 2 per day. Always check the calorie content on the treat packaging and follow serving size recommendations.2

For kittens under 1 year old, treat calories should not exceed 5-10% of their total daily calories since they require more nutrients from their main meals for growth and development.

Tips for Giving Treats

When giving treats to your cat, it’s important to keep portions small to avoid overfeeding. According to the experts at Purina, treats should make up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily calories.1 Breaking treats into smaller pieces can help keep portions under control. Cats also appreciate variety in their treats. Rotate through different flavors and textures to keep things interesting. This allows you to give tasty rewards for training without your cat getting bored.

Treats can be a great training tool when given as an immediate reward for good behavior. Use treats sparingly but consistently when training commands like “sit” or “come.” Just be sure to factor training treats into your cat’s daily calorie limits. With proper portions and monitoring, treats can add enjoyment and enrichment to your cat’s routine without negatively impacting their health.

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Signs of Overindulgence

Giving your cat too many treats can lead to overindulgence, which commonly manifests as weight gain and lethargy. According to Whiskas, “Too many cat treats can lead to obesity in cats, due to the high calorie content.” Cats who are overfed treats may become less active and gain excess body fat. The Quora article cites overfeeding treats leading to “overweight” and “poor or dull fur.” Monitoring your cat’s weight, energy levels, and coat health can help determine if you need to cut back on treats. Look for signs of weight gain like a loss of waistline or backbone prominence. Lethargic cats will be less playful and energetic. Overindulged cats may also have dry, brittle fur. Setting reasonable treat limits will help avoid these overindulgence symptoms.

Creating a Balanced Diet

While treats should only make up around 10% of your cat’s daily calorie intake, you can incorporate treats in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Focus on high-quality treats made with real meat, fish, or poultry as the first ingredient. Avoid treats with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. According to experts at Cornell University, homemade treats like bits of boiled chicken, cheese, or fish can also make healthy options. [1]

When portioning out daily treats, refer to your cat’s recommended calorie intake and the calorie count on the treat packaging. For example, if your cat needs 250 calories per day and a treat has 5 calories, then 5 treats would equal 10% of their daily intake. Spread treats throughout the day for the best results rather than offering them all at once.

Work treats into an overall feeding plan that also includes scheduled wet and dry food meals. Rotating different flavors and textures will help keep your cat interested in their balanced diet. With the right balance of treats, wet food, and dry kibble, you can give your cat occasional treats without compromising their health.


In moderation, treats can be a fun way to bond and train your cat. However, too many treats lead to obesity and other health issues. Focus on high-quality proteins, limit unnecessary carbs and sugars, and follow the recommended daily treat amount based on your cat’s size and activity level. If your cat becomes overweight or obsessed with treats, it’s time to cut back. Create a balanced diet with the right mix of proteins, veggies, and treats. The ultimate goal is keeping your furry friend healthy, active, and engaged.

The key takeaway is that treats should only make up 10% or less of your cat’s daily calories. Look for treats made with quality ingredients and minimal fillers. And remember, the best treat of all is your love and attention.

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