Cat eyes widening, tiny noses sniffing as they come close, meows becoming more insistent — one is bestowed the power to make these things happen, just by holding a cat treat.

If my cats talked to other cats and compared notes, they would probably talk about how strict I was as their mother. They were offered the same meals, a combination of dry and wet food and nothing more. I always thought that cat treats were a bit too indulgent to spend money on. It felt unnecessary.

Cat treats come in all varieties, textures, and even gimmicks. There are dry pellets in all shapes and flavors, and then there are liquid, lickable ones in long, easy-to-open sachets. There is fancy cat food that may be used as treats. There is also a soup type of treat that can be added to their food to whet their appetite. Famous celebrity cat daddy Jackson Galaxy recommends the freeze-dried variety as it is more biologically appropriate.I explored many kinds but the most famous treat in our household is the lickable type. It is also more readily available, making it a cupboard staple with many cat mommies I know.

I was not an advocate of treats for the longest time until I began to appreciate the benefits of having them on hand. When one of my cats felt a bit under the weather, I scrambled to buy and stock up on treats – and these are some of the benefits.

1. A means to call their attentions
Sometimes, when I want to distract a cat who’s behaving badly or trying to play a game of hide and seek, I shamelessly shake our dried treats or open the precious jar of lickable treats. For sure, a furry head will appear and I can stop them from further causing havoc. Crisis averted.

2. Wellness check
When a cat doesn’t finish their meal, I immediately try to lure them with a treat. If a cat turns away when on a normal day it would otherwise pounce on the treat, it is usually a sign for us to go to the vet to see what’s wrong.

3. Medicine magic
In the event that we are required to take medications, I usually alternate a few drops of medication with a liquid treat so that they don’t spit out the medicine. Most cats tend to salivate in order to get rid of the taste. I squeeze a little bit of medication and immediately squeeze a yummy treat into their mouths to keep them from hating the medicine (and me).

I once made the mistake of mixing the treat with the medicine in one bowl and the medication quickly overpowered the former. My cat wouldn’t have any of it! The treats are then best used separately, squeezed into their mouths right after the medication. Our vet also advised against mixing medication with meals as the cats might associate bitter meds with food, leading to food phobia. For tablets or capsules, I also like to give a treat or two before and after so that they associate the medication with something pleasant.

4. Reward
As a new cat-treat convert and a believer of importance of self-care, I also reward good behavior with treats. I even reward my cats the same way I reward myself to spread good energy around the house.

5. Pleasant surprise
Sometimes, I also like to buy treats when they’re on sale. When there is a good deal on treats, it is a great opportunity to stock up! If giving treats to them one at a time becomes tedious, I serve their meals with some treats on top.

6. Bonding tool
I also use treats to spend quality time with the cats. I always tell fellow cat parents to bring some to our photoshoots – they make for great pictures! Giving cats delicious treats is one way of getting to know them a little better. It can also help them tolerate other cats better.

Treat yourself and your cat

As with every good thing, make sure to exercise moderation. If we give treats everyday and for no reason other than they’re cute, they will lose their power. It’s essential to space out treat sessions, especially because giving too many treats can lead to obesity.

Our cats are much happier with the presence of treats in our lives. They are a pantry essential that you can store, along with treats for yourself, when the going gets tough.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s December 2019 issue.

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