If you’re looking for ways to bond with your cat, the way to their heart is often through their stomach. “Giving treats to your cat can help strengthen the bond between you and your pet,” said Dr. Nicole Savageau, VMD, veterinarian at The Vets, a mobile veterinary service. Cat treats can also be used to train your pet, reward good behavior and calm them down in stressful situations.
There are many types of cat treats available, but the best option will depend on your pet’s preferences and individual needs, say experts. To help narrow down the choices, we asked veterinarians what key elements to look for when choosing cat treats and when and how to offer them to your pet. These experts also shared their personal recommendations with us.
Our top picks
How we picked the best cat treats
According to the veterinarians we spoke to, there are several factors to look for when choosing cat treats:
- Nutrition: Cat treats are designed to supplement your pet’s regular diet and shouldn’t make up more than 10% of their daily calories. The number of calories per treat will determine how many you can give your cat each day, and it’s often beneficial to select a low-calorie option if your pet is overweight. Some cat treats also offer additional health benefits, such as hairball control or tartar reduction. Look for cat treats that contain a source of high-quality protein, such as chicken, turkey, beef or fish.
- Texture and flavor: Cat treats come in a variety of textures, including crunchy, soft and lickable formulas. You may need to try different options to find which texture your cat prefers. Similarly, many cat treats are available in several flavor options, such as beef, chicken, salmon or tuna, and your cat may prefer certain flavors over others.
- Cost and availability: For the most part, you’ll be able to find a pack of cat treats available for under $20. The ones we chose are also available on Amazon and Chewy, making shipping and delivery fairly stress-free.
If your cat has any medical conditions, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian before adding new food — including treats — to their diet. Your vet will be able to recommend specific treats that will support your pet’s individual needs.
The best cat treats in April 2023
Below is a roundup of expert-recommended cat treats, as well as several highly rated products based on expert guidance. The products we selected are low in calories and contain high-quality ingredients, and we included options in a variety of textures to suit your cat’s preferences.
Best overall cat treats
Savageau said she gives Temptations treats to her own cats and that many of her feline patients enjoy these treats as well, noting that they’re often accepted by picky eaters. They have a crunchy outer shell with a soft center, and the treats come in a wide variety of flavors, including tuna, chicken, salmon, turkey, beef and more. Each treat contains just 2 calories, and they’re formulated with vitamins and taurine to support your cat’s health. I’ve given Temptations treats to my cats for many years, and they’ve always loved the crunchy consistency and meaty flavors.
Package size: 30 ounces | Type: Crunchy | Calories: 2 kcal/treat
Best lickable cat treats
Lickable treats come in small tubes, and they can be squeezed onto your cat’s regular food or fed by hand, offering a great way to interact with your pet. “We love to use Churu treats in the clinic when seeing our patients. [They are] a soft food treat that cats love,” said Savageau. “They are only 6 calories for one tube.” These treats are made from human-grade ingredients, including farm-raised chicken and wild-caught tuna, says the brand. There are also variety packs available. The formula is free from grains, preservatives and artificial colors and contains 91% moisture, which makes it a hydrating treat for your pet.
Package size: 20 0.5-ounce tubes | Type: Lickable | Calories: 6 kcal/tube
Best soft cat treats
Dr. Kim DiMaio, VMD, veterinarian and owner of MainStreetVet.net, said that many cats prefer soft or moist cat treats, which are easier for them to chew. Meow Mix Irresistibles have a soft texture, and these popular treats contain just 2 calories per piece. They come in salmon or chicken flavor, both of which are made with real meat, and they’re a budget-friendly option for your pet.
Package size: 12 ounces | Type: Soft | Calories: 2 kcal/treat
Best dental cat treats
Both veterinarians we spoke to recommended Feline Greenies as a dental treat. These cat treats are accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, meeting the council’s standards for preventing tartar buildup on your cat’s teeth. The treats don’t contain any artificial flavors or preservatives, and they are only 2 calories each. However, Savageau noted that cats must actually chew the pieces, not swallow them whole, for the treats to be effective.
Package size: 9.5 ounces | Type: Crunchy | Calories: 1.4 kcal/treat
Best cat treats for sensitive stomachs
If your cat has a sensitive stomach, the Purina Fancy Feast Natural Cat Treats are highly palatable, as they contain just one ingredient. These treats are each made from protein, like chicken, tuna and salmon, and the meat is cooked and flaked, then packaged in convenient pouches that keep the contents fresh. You can purchase a variety pack or a single flavor, and all of the options contain zero byproducts or fillers, minimizing the risk that they’ll upset your cat’s digestive system.
Package size: 10 1-ounce packages | Type: Flaked | Calories: 3.3-4 kcal/package
How to shop for cat treats
When comparing treats for your pet, DiMaio explained that the goal is to find something that’s both “tasty and healthy.” It may take some trial and error to find a treat that your cat responds to enthusiastically, but there are several things you’ll want to look for when you shop. Here are the most important factors to keep in mind:
- Calories. According to the VCA, which operates more than 1,000 animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, almost 60% of domestic cats are overweight, which can shorten their lifespan and make them more prone to diseases. To keep your cat at a healthy weight, it’s important to avoid overfeeding them, and this includes both food and treats. Our experts explained that calories from treats should make up less than 10% of your cat’s daily caloric intake, and in general, they recommended looking for treats that are low in calories — there are many products that contain just 1 or 2 calories per piece. However, keep in mind that it’s still possible to overfeed your cat with low-calorie treats: “It’s important to read the feeding guidelines on the treat packaging and consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions,” said Savageau.
- Ingredients. Treats that are made from nutritious ingredients are generally better for your cat. Our experts recommended looking for treats made with high-quality protein, such as chicken, turkey, beef or fish, as cats are carnivores. “Treats with high amounts of sugar, fat or carbohydrates should be avoided,” said DiMaio. Our experts also said to steer clear of products with artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
- Texture and flavor. If you’re planning to use treats to bond with your cat, reinforce behaviors or calm them down in stressful situations, it’s beneficial to find a product that they really love. You may have to try out different treat textures and flavors to find an option that your cat goes crazy for. “Some cats prefer crunchy treats, while others prefer soft and chewy treats,” said Savageau. There are also lickable treats that come in small pouches, and because this style contains more moisture, it can help keep your cat hydrated if they don’t drink enough water on their own.
- Health benefits. Savageau noted that certain treats can support joint health, skin and coat health, digestive health, dental health and more. If you’re specifically looking for dental treats, DiMaio recommends selecting a product that’s approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, which sets standards for efficacy when it comes to plaque and tartar control.
Can you give cats treats every day?
Yes, cat treats can be given daily, but it’s important to follow feeding guidelines. “Treats should be given in moderation and as part of a balanced diet,” said Savageau, noting that your cat’s main source of nutrition should be their regular cat food. “Overfeeding treats can lead to weight gain and other health problems.”
Do cats need treats?
No, treats are not necessary for cats. A complete and balanced cat food is all your cat needs to eat on a daily basis. However, there are situations when cat treats come in handy. “They can be especially useful during stressful events, such as vet visits or car rides,” said Savageau. “Giving your cat a treat can help distract them from the stressful situation and provide a positive association with the experience.” Treats can also be an effective way to bond with or train your pet.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Dr. Nicole Savageau, VMD, is a veterinarian who works with The Vets, a mobile veterinary service operating in several major U.S. cities. Her special interests include feline medicine, preventative medicine, exotic animal medicine, soft tissue surgery and cytology.
- Dr. Kim DiMaio, VMD, is a veterinarian and the owner of MainStreetVet.net, a veterinary hospital with two locations in southeastern Pennsylvania. She practices fear-free medicine and has an interest in internal medicine, behavior and geriatrics.
Why trust Select?
Camryn Rabideau has been covering pet products for more than six years, and she’s owned several cats throughout her life. While researching this article, she spoke with two veterinarians who offered guidance on how to select healthy treats your cat will enjoy, as well as recommendations for specific products. She also researched dozens of highly rated treats and selected them for this list based on expert guidance.