Health Benefits of Functional Cat Treats

Don’t feel too guilty for treating your cat – if you have a real purpose! Pet MD explains.


Treating Your Cat

Cat owners show cats their love by giving treats as well as affection. While your everyday cat treats are basically empty calories and should be kept to a minimum, there are some special types of cat treats available that will give your cat a bit of supplemental nutrition.

Enhancing cat foods and treats with “special” ingredients is certainly nothing new. However, these days there are products available for many different desired results. These treats can be found in a variety of forms, including crunchies, freeze-dried bits, dried meats, soft pieces and more. All of these products are formulated to provide some additional benefit to the cat when given on a regular basis.

Targeting Your Cat’s Specific Needs

You may be wondering what sort of cat treats your furry friend could possibly benefit from?

Weight Control/Loss: If your cat is overweight, look for treats made to be low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Added ingredients such as L-carnitine (which has been shown to increase fat loss in animals) can be helpful for weight reduction.

Joint Care: If your older cat is slowing down and has trouble getting around, providing him with some extra ingredients for joint care (i.e., glucosamine and chondroitin) is now common practice. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can also be added to cat treats to help reduce inflammation and soothe painful joints.

Dental Care/Bad Breath: Tartar buildup in the mouth can cause some serious halitosis in cats. Cat treats in this category have special chemicals or textures designed to help break down plaque and tartar. This can help reduce the amount of bacteria in your cat’s mouth, and thus the offensive odor. Many of these special cat treats also include chlorophyll, mint, or parsley in the mix to help cover up the smell for a short time. While these ingredients might not necessarily clean the teeth, they may just increase the amount of time between professional dental cleanings if given regularly.

Skin Health/Hair: Cats that have dry, flaky skin and rough, brittle hair can benefit from added omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in their daily diets. These fatty acids can come from flaxseed, fish oil, or other natural sources. These ingredients work along with vitamins (such as vitamins A, E and D) to nourish the skin and hair and give it a glossy shine.

Digestive Health: If your cat has issues with a touchy digestive tract (irritable bowel or colitis), providing some extra fiber and/or beneficial probiotics/prebiotics might help to balance things out. Some ingredients you might see in these kinds of cat treats include fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), yogurt, chicory, Brewer’s yeast and beet pulp.

Other: Other types of functional cat treats include ingredients for heart health (flaxseed, taurine, tumeric), immune system health (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids), and behavioral issues (chamomile and lavender).

Advantages/Disadvantages of Functional Cat Treats

While these functional ingredients can certainly provide some benefits, there’s always a chance of giving your cat too much of a good thing. Even though these cat treats are considered “healthy” and do provide added nutrition to your cat’s diet, it is best not to overdo it. Be sure to read the package to find out the correct amount to give based on your cat’s weight and consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your cat’s health.