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Cat Treats for the Holidays

12 Tips For Cat-Safe Treats

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Cat Drinking Milk

A small amount of milk might be fine, but too much could cause digested upset and (gasp!) diarrhea--not a fun treat for anyone.

Photo Credit: © Amy Shojai, CABC

Cat treats for the holidays seem to be a given at this time of year. Some years ago, I interviewed a friend about her three cats' Thanksgiving raid on the refrigerator. The ringleader figured out how to break the vacuum seal on the door, pry little paws into the crack, and spring the contents for the hungry clowder. She came home to find the butter dish empty, supplies scattered, and the half-thawed 25-pound turkey hockey-pucked around the kitchen floor. One drumstick had been gnawed to the bone.

This year as the scent of roast turkey, baked ham, chocolate brownies and all manner of goodies fill the air, beware of midnight marauders. Rescued cats, especially those from the street or feral felines, have experienced empty tummies and may go to great lengths to be "mighty hunters" to satisfy this urge to scrounge. Even if your fur-kids can't pry the freezer open, we love to "treat" our cats to many of the same holiday specialties we relish.

Cat Treats and Safety

Some of these healthy treats work great for training because they're so high-value. But overindulging cats devalues the training reward. Even worse, it can risk their lives if they eat too much or gobble the wrong thing, whether you treated them on purpose or they fished it out of the garbage. There are ways you can safely share with your pet as long as you use caution. Follow these tips for safely treating your pets during holidays and beyond.

5 Cat Treat Tips

  • If you plan to treat your cat over the holidays, remember to SUBTRACT about ten percent of the regular diet first so you don't add too many calories.
  • Lean meat and vegetables in moderation usually are fine. My cat Seren(dipity) adores chicken and turkey, and enjoys gnawing on the occasional corn-on-the-cob. I've known cats that react to olives as if they are catnip. It may be fun to find out what makes your cat's purr rumble.
  • What's healthy for you is more likely to be healthy for your pets, too. Avoid fat, and stay away from candy. Most cats don't have a sweet tooth like people and dogs, but they can get into trouble with chocolate, grapes, raisons and some nuts. My cousin's Siamese once got herself shut in the frig, and licked all the frosting off the chocolate cake, and luckily only developed a tummy ache.
  • Dumpster diving pets get into difficulty eating leftovers that may be spoiled. Pets can suffer food poisoning, too. Pay particular attention to young pets, which tend to be less discriminating in scrounging food. Place leftovers out of reach in covered containers or inside the refrigerator
  • Poultry bones splinter and cause blockage or perforations in your cat's digestive track. Non-food items like turkey strings are particularly dangerous and become tempting if flavored with gravy, for example. Cats play with these-it's what kitties do!-and once swallowed, string causes a slow painful death if immediate vet care isn't provided. Place garbage in secure containers behind latched doors--kitties have been known to chew through plastic bags to get at the goodies!

7 Danger Signs

Don't wait to get veterinary help. Be aware of the danger signals and behavior changes that point to trouble. Your cat may exhibit any one or combination of these signs:

  • Collapse
  • String hanging out the mouth or anus (don't pull! Just get help)
  • "Hunching" behavior as though the tummy hurts
  • Pale/white or very red gums
  • Refusal to eat and/or drink
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours
  • Straining to vomit or defecate.

We want our pets to be a part of the holiday celebration. Avoid problems by planning ahead when your furry wonder stares at you with soulful eyes. Provide healthy treats such as catnip or tastes of healthy human foods. Don't be like my friend with marauding cats--she ended up buying a bungee cord to pet-proof the refrigerator. Oh, and she served a one-legged bird (shhhh, don't tell her family!).

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