Looking for something to do this weekend? Get out your mixing bowl and bake your kitty some nutritious and delicious treats!
When I treat myself, I have to admit I usually consider something sugary and gooey. When it comes to treating my cats, however, I am almost a tyrant. I thoroughly read every label and make sure I understand every single ingredient. I even consider the packaging, because many bags and boxes carry artificial preservatives as well as the treats themselves. In other words, I don’t want a simple treat for my feline friends. I want to treat them to health!
When on the hunt for treats for your cat, look for products that contain whole foods and natural preservatives like vitamins C and E. If you see BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, potassium sorbate, sodium nitrate, propylene glycol, calcium propionate or artificial colors on a treat package, put it right back where you found it. And although treats are often associated with “sweets”, that doesn’t mean they have to be made with artificial sweeteners. The only sweeteners to consider are natural ones like applesauce, honey, rice syrup, coconut and maple sugars.
Treats should comprise no more than 10% of your cat’s daily diet.
A study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity states that 57% of cats are overweight or obese. You don’t want to add to these statistics. An average indoor cat weighing ten pounds needs 180 to 200 calories per day. Treats should comprise no more than 10% of your cat’s daily diet.
Why not take a trip to the grocery or health food store, pick up a few simple whole foods (choose organic products wherever possible), and make some tasty and healthy treats for your feline friend? Just follow these simple steps for a variety of healthy and tempting treats.
- 4 cups whole flour: Choose from flours made with whole oats, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), or whole brown rice (contains the bran and the germ). You can also consider sweet rice flour, potato flour, or lesser known whole flours like quinoa, tapioca, hemp and coconut. You can use one whole flour to make your treats, or make up your own blend: for example, combine whole brown rice flour with whole oat flour, or try sweet rice flour with coconut flour.
- 1 cup meat protein, veggies and/or fruits: Choose from hormone and antibiotic-free protein sources. These could include turkey, bison, elk, rabbit, ostrich or duck. Consider pureéd liver, wild salmon, sardines, mackerel or another fish of your choice. When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, think about applesauce, sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, bananas, blueberries, or a meat and vegetable blend like sweet potato and turkey liver.
- Sweet and savory accent: You could use 2 teaspoons of cinnamon or carob powder, or to make your treats extra savory, try 1 small clove of finely minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of catnip, or a combination of catnip and parsley.
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor or mixer, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead ten to 12 times.
- Cut into desired shapes and sizes, and place on the cookie sheet. You can also roll small pieces of dough out to the thickness of a pencil, then using a sharp knife, make really small treats. Alternatively, put the round of dough in the centre of the cookie sheet, roll it out right to the edges, and score it with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
- Before baking, I like to sprinkle these treats with extra catnip or a combination of catnip and parsley.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 175°F and bake for 45 more minutes.
- Turn the oven off, and allow the treats to completely cool in the oven before storing in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag. If you use a Ziploc bag, add a few shakes of sea kelp for an extra blast of taste and nutrition before closing the bag.
Picking a whole flour
Oats are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They provide sustained energy. Oats contain manganese, selenium, tryptophan, phosphorus, vitamin B1, dietary fiber, magnesium and protein. Oats, oat bran and oatmeal also contain beta-glucan, a special type of fiber known to support the immune system against bacterial infections, viruses, fungi and parasites. Betaglucans also help stabilize blood sugar levels and inhibit the growth of tumors, helping reduce the risk of certain cancers. Oats contain 20 unique polyphenols called avenanthramides, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. If your feline companion is diabetic, whole oats are a good choice.
Quinoa has often been called the “mother grain,” and is another of the world’s healthiest foods. It is not actually a grain, but an amino acid-packed protein seed. Quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids, including lysine, which supports tissue growth and repair. Quinoa also contains vitamin B6, niacin, thiamin, potassium, riboflavin, zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, folic acid and vitamin E. It is a perfect substitute for regular whole grains, and is gluten free.
Chickpea flour is another alternative to traditional whole grains. It is a good source of potassium, phosphorus, iron, foliate, copper and magnesium. It also contains unsaturated fatty acids and is high in fiber and protein. Chickpea’s high protein content does not turn into glucose in the bloodstream, so it’s a great choice if your cat needs to lose weight, is diabetic, or has been diagnosed with cancer.