8 Best Healthy Cat Treats: Our Top Picks for 2020
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Looking for the best healthy cat treats? Making the switch from popular junk-food cat treats to a healthier option is a great idea. It’s easy to find treats that are good for your cat if you know where to look. In this guide to the best healthy cat treats, we’ll go over what goes into a healthy cat treat and why nutritious treats are the best option for your cat. Next, I’ll share our eight picks for healthy cat treats. Some of these treat ideas may surprise you—so don’t stop reading until the end!
- 1. What Makes the Best Healthy Cat Treats?
- 2. Eight Best Healthy Cat Treats
- 2.1 Best Dried Jerky Cat Treat: NomNomNow Chicken Jerky
- 2.2 Best Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Treat: Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Hearts
- 2.3 Best Training Treat: Orijen Wild Boar Cat Treats
- 2.4 Best Food Topper Cat Treat: Cat-Man-Doo Bonito Flake Cat Treats
- 2.5 Best Cooked Freeze-Dried Cat Treat: Whole Life Just One Ingredient Turkey Cat Treats
- 2.6 Best Fish Cat Treat: Pure Bites Ocean Whitefish Freeze-Dried Cat Treat
- 2.7 Best Biologically Appropriate Cat Treats: Feeder Mice or Chicks
- 2.8 Best Homemade Raw Cat Treat: Raw Chicken Hearts
Disclaimer: Some of the products recommended in this post have affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we’ll receive a small commission, but it won’t cost you any extra. Thank you!
What makes the best healthy cat treats?
A healthy cat treat should be both nutritious and delicious.
I look at a few key areas to determine whether or not a cat treat fits those criteria. Let’s take a closer look at those areas to find out just what makes a cat treat healthy.
The best healthy cat treats are rich in meat ingredients.
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that they must eat meat to survive—it also means that they are able to derive all of the nutrition they need from just muscle meat, organs, and bones.
Since meat is the biologically-appropriate and nutritious food choice for cats, all of the healthy cat treats on this list are meat-based. I chose treats that feature clear, simple ingredient lists with transparent descriptions of the meats included in the treat. This transparency is important, especially if your cat is sensitive to certain proteins. It’s much easier to avoid chicken if it’s clearly stated, not hidden under the heading “poultry meal”.
The best healthy cat treats don’t include inappropriate ingredients and artificial colors.
Carbohydrate-heavy grains and vegetables are unnecessary ingredients that don’t need to be included in your cat’s treats. Ground corn, rice, wheat flour, and corn gluten meal are all inappropriate for cats—they’re also all prominent ingredients in the ever-popular but junky Temptations treats.
In addition to unnecessary plant ingredients like corn and rice, your cat does not need potentially harmful dyes such as Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 2 in his treats. For more information on how these food dyes may be linked to cancer, take a look at this article on the Best Dye Free Cat Food.
None of the treats included in this list contain any inappropriate or artificial ingredients.
The best healthy cat treat is delicious and popular with cats.
If a treat meets all of the above standards but your cat doesn’t like it, there’s no point. After all, cat treats are supposed to be yummy!
Giving your cat a treat he adores is fun in itself—but it’s essential if you plan to use treats as a reward while training your cat. A good training treat should be a delicious motivator.
The treats that we included on this list receive good ratings and we made sure that they’re a hit with most cats.
Now that we know what does and doesn’t go into the best healthy cat treats, let’s dive into our list.
8 Best Healthy Cat Treats
Best Dried Jerky Cat Treat: Nom Nom Chicken Jerky Treats
These chicken jerky treats from Nom Nom have a 4.7 out of 5-star rating on Amazon.
Ingredient: USDA certified chicken breast
The treats are made from 100% USDA certified chicken breast—the same human-quality chicken breast that you might buy for yourself. Don’t be scared to taste these treats yourself. They’re actually really tasty.
The chicken is dried into jerky, making a tougher, chewy treat. This texture can improve your cat’s dental health since it encourages chewing and a little bit of gnawing. While the larger size of the jerky treats means they are great for your cat’s teeth, it also means that they are not the ideal training treat.
At first, I wasn’t sure that my cats would enjoy a jerky treat. I thought jerky treats were more for dogs, but I was wrong! Both Wessie and Forest love the chicken flavor and gobble these treats up. The only downside to these treats is that they’re on the expensive side at $13 for a 2 oz. bag.
Nom Nom is currently offering free bags of these jerky treats to anyone who signs up for a trial of their delivery pet food through 2020 through our link. If you’d like to try Nom Nom’s fresh delivery cat food and get a bag of chicken jerky treats in the mix, go through this link to sign up.
You can learn more about the food itself in our Nom Nom cat food review.
Best Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Treat: Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Hearts
These freeze-dried raw cat treats from Vital Essentials received a 4.4 out of 5-star rating on Chewy.com and 92% of customers say they’d recommend these treats.
Ingredient: Chicken hearts
If you want to feed your cat a nutritious raw treat but don’t want to deal with the bloody mess of raw meat, these freeze-dried chicken hearts are an excellent option. Most Chewy reviewers say their cats go crazy for these treats. Remember, these are whole hearts and may be a little large for some cats. Try chopping the hearts into bite-sized pieces before offering them to your cat.
These chicken hearts do have a few negative reviews. The negative reviews described a couple of cats who didn’t like the flavor of the hearts. Others expressed that the hearts are slightly greasy and have more of a rich, chewy texture than the other freeze-dried treats that they were used to.
Overall, these freeze-dried chicken hearts from Vital Essentials make a great nutritious and convenient cat treat.
Best Training Treat: Orijen Freeze-Dried Wild Boar Cat Treats
Orijen freeze-dried cat treats receive a 4.3 out of 5-star rating on Amazon.
Ingredients: Wild boar, wild boar liver, wild boar kidney, mixed tocopherols (preservative)
These freeze-dried raw treats are made in Kentucky, USA from wild-roaming boar and include both muscle meat and organs. This means your cat will derive nutrition from the whole body of the animal, just as they would when eating animals in the wild. Orijen cat treats are only made from animal ingredients and natural preservatives.
Since these treats are made from boar, a novel protein, they are a good choice for cats sensitive to common proteins like chicken and beef.
The treats are bite-sized—the perfect size to use as a positive reward while training your cat.
Most customers leave positive reviews describing how much their cats love these treats. One Amazon reviewer describes how these treats are one of the only things their senior cat with heart disease will enthusiastically chow down on.
However, not all of the reviews are so positive. A few negative reviews describe how their cats turned up their noses at these treats—and a few others wonder if there is a correlation between their cats eating the treats and then vomiting.
Best Food Topper Cat Treat: Cat-Man-Doo Bonito Flakes
Cat-Man-Doo Bonito flakes have a 4.7 out of 5-star rating on Chewy, with 95% of reviewers agreeing they’d recommend these treats.
Ingredient: Dried bonito fish
Bonito flakes, made from a single protein source—the bonito fish—are a longtime cat guardian favorite. Cats go wild over these strong-smelling flakes. This makes them an excellent food topper. Sprinkle a few flakes on your cat’s food to encourage him to try something new or to eat when he’s not feeling well.
One Chewy reviewer says their cat will even take her pills no-problem when these bonito flakes are involved!
Best Cooked Freeze-Dried Cat Treats: Whole Life Just One Ingredient Turkey Breast Cat Treats
Whole Life Just One Ingredient cat treats received a 4.5 out of 5-star rating on Chewy, with 92% of reviewers agreeing they would recommend the treats.
Ingredient: Turkey breast
The Just One Ingredient line from Whole Life is dedicated to creating simple cat treats with, you guessed it, just one ingredient. These treats are made simply with USDA grade turkey that is steamed and then freeze-dried. If you feel uncomfortable feeding freeze-dried raw, these treats are an excellent cooked alternative.
The treats can be fed as is, or moistened for a chewy snack.
Some customers crumble these treats over their cat’s food as a food topper.
Best Fish Cat Treat: Pure Bites Ocean Whitefish Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Treats
These freeze-dried raw ocean whitefish cat treats from Pure Bites have a 4.1 out of 5-star rating on Chewy, with 82% of reviewers voting that they’d recommend the treats to a friend.
Ingredient: Ocean whitefish
Pure Bites Ocean Whitefish are made with wild-caught Ocean Whitefish. Pure Bites sources their ingredients from and manufactures all of their foods and treats in the USA.
The treats are super-stinky. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective—the strong smell just the thing to draw in hungry cats, but might be overwhelming for delicate human nostrils. The bag holds a mix of chunky and smaller-sized treats. The treats can also be crumbled onto your cat’s food as an appetizing topper.
These treats create more of a divide between reviewers than most of the treats on this list. Cats either love or hate them. While many cats can’t get enough of Pure Bites treats, others refuse to touch them. Sometimes you just have to give something a try to find out where your cat stands!
Best Biologically Appropriate Cat Treats: Feeder Mice or Chicks
These are not treats that you would give your cat as an everyday snack but can be included in your cat’s diet as a raw supplement.
You might feel uncomfortable opening up a bag of baby mice, but feeder mice are probably the most biologically appropriate cat treats you can find. A whole mouse provides the nutritional profile that a cat’s diet is based on. It includes the muscle meat, organs, and bones that your cat needs. Frozen feeder mice are available online and in pet stores catering to reptiles. Hairless baby mice, or pinkies, are between 0.5 and 1″ in length, making them perfectly cat treat-sized. Thaw frozen mice under refrigeration before feeding them to your cat.
Feeder chicks also provide a complete source of nutrition in a small package. You can find feeder chicks online or at pet stores that cater to reptile and predator pet owners. Chicks are a little bigger than feeder mice and offer cats an eating challenge. This means they are great for your cat’s dental health. Your cat will get a jaw workout and clean his teeth as he gnaws the raw bones.
If you’re interested in purchasing feeder animals online, check out hare-today.com. They’re an excellent online shopping resource for anyone who wants to get started feeding their cat a raw diet.
Best Homemade Raw Cat Treat: Raw Chicken Hearts
Not all cat treats come in a bag! Next time you’re preparing a whole chicken for the family, don’t toss out the giblets. Raw chicken hearts make an excellent occasional treat that’s both biologically appropriate and super-appealing to most cats. Even cats who don’t eat a raw diet will appreciate a chicken heart as a snack.
You may be tempted to offer your cat other organs as a treat, too. I don’t recommend giving liver or kidney as treats because, while they contain nutritious elements of a balanced diet, it’s unhealthy to feed these organs in excess. A small taste of liver occasionally is fine, but it’s not a good regular treat.
For more information on feeding organs as a raw cat treat, take a look at this informative post from the Feline Nutrition Foundation.