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Last updated on August 10, 2017

The Best Cat Treats

The best cat treats are the simplest
The 30-Second Review

The best cat treats are heavy on protein and skip unnecessary fillers like corn, wheat, sugar, or extra sodium. After talking to vets, scrutinizing the ingredient labels of 254 products, and trying out our finalists on our own cats, we landed on our top picks: tasty, healthy treats that you can feel good about adding to your pet’s diet.

Best Overall

Soft, bite-sized treats that contain nothing but a mix of freeze-dried liver and vension, from a company with a reputation for transparent manufacturing practices.

Runner-up for Best Overall

Vital Essentials Vital Cat Treats
These dried minnows made some testers squeamish, but they’re a good low-odor option for cats who love fish.

Best Kibble Topper

Lightweight flakes of dried bonito (a type of fish) that make a great kibble topper to encourage picky eaters.

Runner-up for Kibble Topper

The Honest Kitchen Bone Broth
This powdered broth needs to be mixed with hot water before serving, but it’s another mix-in that can be used to coerce reluctant eaters.

The Best Cat Treats

Cat lovers know that cats enjoy treats just as much as dogs do, even if they’re not as likely to learn to “sit” or “shake” to the sound of the treat bag opening. Treats are a great way to bond with your cat, entice it into a carrier, or distract it during a grooming session.

Our top pick is Orijen Tundra Cat Treats, a healthy and “biologically appropriate” treat that consists of nothing but protein. The treats come in a variety of flavors so that you can find the right fit for your cat’s tastes, and every formula boasts regionally sourced ingredients — from a company with an outspoken commitment to quality control. They’re small, soft, and easy for cats to eat without making a mess.

Our runner-up for best cat treat, Vital Essentials Minnows Freeze-Dried Cat Treats, have just one ingredient: minnows. These tiny fish — eyeballs, tails, and all — will be unappealing to the faint of stomach, but our cats loved them, and they have a less pungent scent than most of the fish treats we tested: We could barely smell them when we opened the bag.

Another fishy option, Cat-Man-Doo Dried Bonito Flake Cat Treats took us by surprise. This simple treat consists of nothing but dried fish flakes, each piece roughly the size of a corn flake. Bonito flakes are so lightweight that we found them tricky to portion out individually, but they’re great for sprinkling onto kibble for cats who are finicky eaters.

The Honest Kitchen Functional Liquid Treat Bone Broth is another mix-in that we liked. Like Cat-Man-Doo, this option can be added to wet or dry food to make it more enticing. Just be warned that it’s more labor-intensive to prepare: You’ll have to heat water, mix in the powdered broth, and then wait for it to cool to a drinkable temperature.

Our Picks for the Best Cat Treats

Best Overall

Orijen Tundra Cat Treats Soft, freeze-dried treats that offer a healthy blend of nothing but protein.

Freeze-dried treats offer nearly the same benefit as feeding your cat fresh bites of meat, with a lot more convenience and a longer shelf-life. They’re one of the least-processed treat types available, often containing nothing but meat — the one ingredient cats really care about. As Dr. Richter put it, “All they want is tasty protein!”

There was scant difference between most of the freeze-dried treats we tested — our cats found them all tasty — but Orijen stood out as our favorite. Its Tundra Cat Treats have a chewy texture that makes them less prone to crumbling in the bag than extremely dry options like Bravo Healthy Bites Salmon Treats or Only Natural’s Cage-Free Chicken Breast.

Orijen’s treats were less crumbly than many of the freeze-dried products we tested.

Orijen’s Tundra flavor also contains a mix of proteins that includes boar liver, venison liver, and goat liver, plus venison and arctic char. Organ meats like liver provide different types of nutrients than muscle meats (like venison or chicken breast). They’re a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, while organ meats have higher levels of some vitamins and iron. It’s nice to see the balanced blend in Orijen’s treats.

Orijen is known for its commitment to responsible sourcing: no mystery meats here. Its cat treats are manufactured in the company’s Kentucky DogStar kitchens, which are certified for safety every which way you can imagine: It meets the standards for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the FDA, the Government of Canada, and the European Union (EU).

The treats themselves are lightweight little nuggets of dried meat, slightly smaller than the size of your fingernail. They have a mild odor and a lower “gross factor” than treats like VitalEssentials Minnows, which are simply tiny dried fish — eyeballs and all. Orijen treats also seemed quite easy for our test cats to chew, unlike the Bravo and the PureBites fish treats, which are firmer and tougher in texture.

The other soft freeze-dried treat we tested, Instinct Minis, contains more ingredients — like pumpkin seeds, veggies, and montmorillonite clay (an anti-caking agent). We preferred the simplicity of the Orijen formula. As Dr. Richter explains, “The best food and treats for cats are high quality with few ingredients.”

Runner-Up for Best Overall

Vital Essentials Minnows Freeze-Dried Cat Treats Freeze-dried minnows that avoid a fishy odor.

As we noted above, our test cats gobbled up all of our finalists, but they were more vocal about fish-flavored options, meowing eagerly once these bags were opened. Among the fish flavors we tried, Vital Cat Treats rose to the top; they were less stinky than PureBites, and more affordable (and easier to hand out) than Fancy Feast’s pouches of Purely Tuna.

Our bag contained nothing but whole, dried minnows, each tiny fish about an inch long. There’s nothing else on the ingredient list. The minnows are easy to portion out individually, and they have a surprisingly mild odor: You have to put your nose right up to the bag to catch even the faintest whiff of fish.

We were impressed with these treats’ sourcing. Much like Orijen, Vital Essentials has an impressive commitment to quality. All of their pet foods and treats are sourced, manufactured, and packaged in the USA, and the company maintains strict quality control standards that include voluntary on-site USDA testing.

Best Kibble Topper

Cat-Man-Doo Dried Bonito Flake Cat Treats Lightweight fish flakes that are easy to shake over kibble.

Bonito is a kind of tuna, and these fish flakes are simply dried portions of bonito skin. While the Cat-Man-Doo brand is not for human consumption, other types of bonito flakes are popularly used in Japanese cooking. This single-ingredient treat has everything a cat wants: protein, protein, and more protein. Like Vital Essentials, there are no other ingredients beyond the fish itself. The flakes are a little tricky to serve in single portions, as they’re so airy and thin. Pull out one, and you’re likely to come out with a handful. But they’re very simple to sprinkle on top of dry food: a godsend for picky cats, who are likely to flock to kibble when there are bonito flakes involved.

Be warned that this treat does smell heavily of fish; open this bag, and there’s no question what flavor it contains. But while it was stinky for the humans, it was a huge winner with our cats.

Runner-up for Best Kibble Topper

The Honest Kitchen Functional Liquid Treat Bone Broth with Turmeric Spice Another kibble topper, this powdered beef can be mixed with hot water for a rich broth.

The Honest Kitchen Bone Broth is also worth a mention. It’s a dry, powdered beef broth that can be mixed with hot water for a liquid treat. If you feed your cat dry food and are concerned they aren’t getting enough moisture, it’s a tasty way to tackle the problem. The instructions suggest mixing the broth with wet and dry food alike, or serving alone. We tried adding it to wet food, and one of our test cats was excited enough to try to knock his bowl off the counter before we finished preparing it.

Because Honest Kitchen Bone Broth is a powder, it has a much longer shelf life than opening a can of liquid beef broth. That said, it’s a little more labor-intensive than our other top picks. It’ll take a minute or two for the powder to unclump and dissolve fully, and the instructions caution you to wait until the broth has cooled to a drinkable temperature before serving.

To fully dissolve the Honest Kitchen’s powdered broth, you’ll need to stir vigorously.

Did You Know?

Only 10% of your cat’s diet should consist of treats.

Over half the pets in the US are classified as overweight, and Dr. Richter warns that “treats should be a minority of a dog’s or cat’s daily food intake.” If you’re using treats frequently as part of training, it’s a good idea to reduce your cat’s meal portions accordingly.

Research also suggests many indoor cats don’t get enough physical exercise, with one study finding inactivity to be a predictor of diabetes. So if you’re inclined to overindulge your cat (it’s easy to do), try giving out treats at the end of a long play session.

For cats, milk and dairy aren’t great dietary options.

Despite what you may have seen in movies, it’s not actually a good idea to give cats a saucer of milk. Why? Most cats are lactose intolerant, which means that digesting milk can cause an upset stomach.

Cats can have allergic reactions to some protein sources.

Cats, like dogs, can sometimes be allergic even to foods they normally love, like chicken, fish or beef. In cats, food allergy symptoms typically take the form of skin issues: hair loss, lesions, and scratching. If a flea allergy has been ruled out, it may be a protein or carbohydrate that is bothering your cat. The only way to know for sure is to is to feed a limited-ingredient diet and gradually test additional ingredients to find out what’s causing the trouble.

The Best Cat Treats, Summed Up

Cat Treat
The Best
Orijen Cat Treats
Best Overall
Vital Essentials Vital Cat Treats
Best Overall Runner-up
Cat-Man-Doo Bonito Flakes
Best Kibble Topper
The Honest Kitchen Bone Broth
Best Kibble Topper Runner-Up