The Best Cat Treats Vets Recommend for a Healthy, Happy Kitty


Cat treats have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to show affection and offer rewards to our feline companions. However, not all treats are created equal. When choosing treats for cats, pet parents must be mindful of ingredients, calories, and health risks. Overfeeding treats or choosing unhealthy options can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other problems in cats.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in 2022, 33.9% of cats in the U.S. were classified as overweight or obese. Obesity can shorten a cat’s lifespan and lead to diseases like arthritis, cancer, and more. By thoughtfully selecting treats made from quality ingredients and monitoring portion sizes, we can show love for our cats while also keeping their health a top priority.

Get Vet Approval

Always consult your vet before introducing new treats. Consider pet’s health conditions. Bringing a few treats to your cat’s checkup is a great way to get your vet’s opinion on which ones are best for your feline friend ( Your vet will be able to review the ingredients and provide tailored recommendations based on your cat’s health and dietary needs. For example, cats with food allergies or sensitives may need to avoid certain proteins and grains. Diabetic cats need low carb treats, while kidney disease calls for reduced phosphorus. Your vet will guide you to the healthiest treats that align with your cat’s condition.

Read the Ingredient List

When choosing cat treats, it’s important to read the ingredient list closely. Look for quality ingredients like real meat, fish, or poultry as the first ingredient. Avoid treats with a lot of filler ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, and artificial preservatives (BetterVet). Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need a high protein diet with meat. Treats with meat meals, chicken, turkey, salmon, or other real meats are best. Stay away from by-product meals and meat by-products, which have very little nutritional value.

Also check for unhealthy preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, which can be harmful to cats over time (The Spruce Pets). Look for natural preservatives like mixed tocopherols (vitamin E) instead. In general, avoid artificial colors, flavors, and other unnecessary additives. The fewer extra ingredients, the better.

Treats free of corn, wheat, and soy are ideal since cats have a low tolerance for carbs and gain little nutrition from these fillers. Prioritize treats with more protein and as few carbs or fillers as possible (Happy Cats Haven).

Choose Limited Ingredients

Limit your cat’s exposure to unnecessary ingredients that can cause sensitivity problems or allergies. One of the biggest trends within the cat treat industry is limited ingredient cat treats made with fewer, high-quality components. The fewer ingredients a cat treat contains, the easier it is for pet owners to identify and avoid specific allergens and sensitivities if they arise.

Many limited ingredient treats only contain one novel or protein source such as rabbit, duck, venison, or salmon. Limiting the protein source reduces risk of exposing cats to ingredients that commonly cause allergic reactions. Brands like Sassy Cat Treats keep the ingredient list extremely short and avoid inflammatory items. They use USA-sourced ingredients like rabbit, pumpkin, cranberries, and beans in treats that are free from grains, fillers, and artificial preservatives.

Avoid Too Many Carbs

It is best to select cat treats that have more protein than carbohydrates. Treats high in grains and starches can lead to weight gain and insulin spikes in cats according to veterinarians. Look for treats made primarily with meat, fish, eggs or dairy as the first ingredients over grain-based options.

As noted by veterinarian Dr. Joanna Paul, cats are obligate carnivores that thrive best on high protein and low carbohydrate nutrition ( She recommends choosing treats like Blue Buffalo’s BLUE Bursts made with salmon, chicken, turkey or egg as the first ingredients over fillers like corn, wheat or soy.

Look for Natural Preservatives

When choosing cat treats, it’s important to avoid chemical preservatives like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and ethoxyquin, which can be toxic for cats.[1] Instead, look for treats with natural preservatives like vitamin E and rosemary extract, which are safer options.

Both BHA and BHT are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in many cat treats. However, studies have linked them to cancer, organ damage, and other health issues in animals. Ethoxyquin is another concerning preservative that’s banned from use in human foods but still allowed in some pet foods. It’s been associated with liver and kidney problems.

The best cat treats will leave out these chemical additives and use natural preservative alternatives like vitamin E and rosemary extract. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that naturally prevents rancidity. Rosemary extract contains compounds that stop oxidation and bacterial growth. These natural options keep treats fresh without endangering your cat’s health.

Whenever possible, avoid treats with BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, or other unnatural preservatives on the ingredient list. Instead, look for vitamin E, rosemary extract, or other plant-based preservatives to ensure your cat’s treats are safe and wholesome.

Pick the Right Size

Choosing treats that are the right size for your cat is an important part of portion control. Smaller treats make it easier to monitor how many calories your cat is consuming. The Mud Bay blog recommends looking for petite or mini sized treats to better manage portions.

Kittens and small cats may do better with extra small or mini treats that are easier for them to chew and eat. For larger cats, you still want to select a smaller sized treat instead of large or jumbo options. Treats should make up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily calories, so adjust treat sizes accordingly. The Pet Honesty article explains that dividing treats into smaller pieces allows for better portion control as well.

Pick treats that allow you to easily break apart or cut into sizes appropriate for your individual cat. This ensures your cat gets an enjoyable treat without consuming too many extra calories from excess large treats.

Monitor Calorie Content

It’s important to monitor the calorie content in cat treats and balance it with their regular food intake. According to Amazon, veterinarians recommend being mindful of calorie counts, as too many treats in addition to their normal diet can lead to weight gain. Many brands now offer low calorie options with fewer calories per treat. For overweight or less active cats, look for treats with 25-30 calories per treat or less. More active cats can handle up to 45 calories per treat. Compare calorie counts between brands and flavors to choose lower calorie options. The key is moderation and balancing treats as part of their daily caloric allowance.

Consider Texture

The texture of cat treats can play an important role in promoting dental health. According to dental experts, crunchy treats can help scrape plaque and tartar off teeth as cats chew. The hard surface acts as a natural toothbrush. Many vets recommend crunchy treats to keep cats’ teeth clean.

Chewy treats work in a different way by providing a massaging action for gums. As cats chew on chewy treats, the treat mold to the shape of the mouth. This motion gently stimulates the gums and improves circulation. Some vets suggest combining both crunchy and chewy treats.

When selecting treats, consider your cat’s preferences. If they tend to gobble up hard foods, crunchy treats will suit them well. Cats that like to savor their food may prefer chewy textures. Offering a variety can ensure they get the dental benefits of different textures.


There are some key considerations when choosing cat treats that are recommended by veterinarians. The most important is to consult with your own vet about which treats are suitable for your cat’s unique dietary needs and preferences. Your vet can help you select options that match your cat’s health requirements.

In general, vets suggest looking for cat treats with limited, natural ingredients to avoid fillers and additives that cats don’t need. Controlling calorie content and finding treats your cat enjoys are also important. Making treats a small part of your cat’s diet and using them sparingly for rewards or bonding can be great for your relationship with your cat.

With some guidance from your vet and smart treat selection, you can find delicious, nutritious options your cat will love that will also keep them healthy. The right treats in moderation can be a fun way to connect with your cat.

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