Does your cat come running the second she hears the *crinkle crinkle* of her treat bag? Have you thwarted too many of your cat’s attempts to break into the treat cabinet undetected? Will nothing rouse your cat from a deep sleep faster than just the word “treat?” Yup. We thought so. Your cat LOVES treats.
This is not a bad thing. In moderation, treats can be a positive and helpful part of your relationship with your cat. Check out these tips from the Cat Connection to learn just how to integrate treats into your cat’s life:
Reinforce good behavior. Whether you are officially clicker training your cat or just want to let kitty know she’s doing a great job, treats are the perfect way to reinforce positive behavior. Punishment is not an effective training aid and will only cause your cat to fear you, but using a treat to signal “that is good, keep doing that” – whether it be keeping off the counter, allowing herself to be groomed, or receiving medication – is an ideal way to communicate with your cat. Just be sure you are reinforcing the behavior you want, not inadvertently rewarding her for something you don’t!
Create positive associations. Your cat already associates her treats with all things positive and desirable, so it’s pretty simple to extend those good vibes to something the cat finds challenging, like her carrier, a new person or animal, or an unfamiliar situation. Feeding your cat treats in these situations can help ease her anxiety and begin to associate the scary with the good.
Distract from the bad. We learned this trick from a feline-only vet. In some circumstances, treats can be used to distract your cat from scary or painful situations, if only temporarily. This vet was able to calm our cats during their vaccinations simply by offering a treat while the shots were administered. If the unpleasantness is brief enough, this is the perfect way to keep your cat’s focus elsewhere.
Encourage appetite. Picky eaters and cats that need to transition to a new food can often be coaxed into accepting the new stuff through the use of treats. A favorite treat or one that is particularly smelly can be sprinkled onto or mixed into the new food, hopefully enticing the cat to take a bite. With any luck, she’ll also associate this new food with good things vis-a-vis positive reinforcement.
Reward after play. Rewarding your cat after an intense play session not only signals that the session is over, but also satisfies your cat’s desire to kill/eat after hunting. Another positive: with a little food in her belly, your cat is more likely to take a nap after playing, which is perfect for play sessions right before lights out.
Treats can be a positive part of your relationship with your cat, but not all treats are created equal! Select treats with the same love and care you use for your cat’s food and toys. And remember: treats should be used in moderation and in conjunction with a high-quality diet.
And be sure to check out the Cat Connection’s treat selection. There’s something for even the most finicky of felines!