Us humans love to snack and like to seize every opportunity to nibble on something tasty, even though we know that it's not always good for us. Your dog or cat loves treats just as much as you do and will be happy to join you! But just like with people, snacking is not always healthy for your pet and if you are not careful, he'll quickly eat way too much! When does your pet deserve a tasty bite, and what should you pay attention to when it comes to treats? This blog will tell you everything you need to know about responsible snacking for pets!
What should I pay attention to in pet treats?
For humans, it can be difficult to stop snacking. A bag of crisps, a bar of chocolate, or a packet of biscuits: they are all so yummy, it's hard to say no! Pet treats are equally irresistible… for pets, that is. That temptingly fragrant snack is way tastier than dry kibble! But, treats also tend to be calory bombs. Without you noticing it, your pet is eating too many calories, and in time he may even become overweight!
Here are a few tips to prevent you from overindulging your kitties:
- Keep an eye on calories: Cats and dogs have a recommended daily calory intake. This daily intake comprises both their daily meals and treats. Of this recommended daily intake, treats should only add up to a maximum of 10%. Do the math to see whether your pet isn't getting too many calories. Snacks made especially for pets are much better for them then greasy crisps for humans or a slice of sandwich meat. Humans snacks usually contain way more calories and other additives that aren't great for pets.
- Treats are an addition to their daily diet: Snacks can never replace daily meals. Be careful not to overfeed your pet to the point they cannot eat their kibble.
- Check the list of ingredients: Many snacks are chockful of unnecessary ingredients to make them more attractive, like sugar and salt. It works the same for humans: crisps barely have any nutritional value, but the fat and salt make them irresistible. 😉
Mini tip: Precisely because sugar and salt aren't healthy for our pets, we prefer not to use them, and they aren't likely to show up on our lists of ingredients. Should they be on there, then that is because they are in one of the natural ingredients, such as meat or fish.
Check the list of ingredients of your pet treats to ensure they contain little or no salt and sugar. Also, avoid artificial additives.
Mini tip: We also prefer to not work with artificial additives. Because our treats are full of fish and meat, they have an incredible smell and taste, so there is no need for artificial additives!
- Never give your pets too many treats: Every once in a while is a joy, but never give them more than one or two treats at a time.
- Give your pet a healthy and responsible snack: Snacking is delicious, obviously, but it can be beneficial as well! Chew snacks are tasty, but it'll also keep them occupied, and chewing helps to maintain their dental health at the same time. Or give them treats that contain ingredients that contribute to healthy skin and fur, like salmon oil or fish.
Mini tip: In addition to our fish meals, we also have many treats that contain fish, for both dogs and cats. For dogs, we have delicious salmon strips or chew bones with salmon, and you can spoil your kitties with our fish treats for cats or the delicious Delicups.
When can I treat my pet with a snack?
Okay, so now you know what to take into account when you give your pet a treat, but when is it okay to give them one? It is very tempting to give in to your cute pet's begging eyes and just indulge them. Or sometimes you're enjoying a wee treat yourself and share the joy with your fluffy friend. Sounds familiar? You are running the risk of giving them way too much. If you feed them on the fly and thoughtlessly, it is difficult to keep track of what they are eating, and your pet will come to see snacking as a reward for begging or even as a habit.
Similar to a healthy human lifestyle, snacking should be a real reward for your pet, not something they come to expect as standard. A treat is an ideal way to motivate your pet during training or to learn good behaviour, but again: don't give too many treats! People tend to reward their pet with a treat every time he executes a command correctly, as this will result in your pet carrying out the command to receive the food, and not for you. That's why it is better to alternate the way you reward during training. Sometimes they get a treat, and other times they get to cuddle for a bit. This way, the treat remains a surprise, and you giving them your love and joy are the real reward!
Tip: in our next blog, we'll dive deeper into treats and training, so watch this space!
You can train good behaviour with food, but without meaning to, we also reward a lot of bad behaviour with food. A good example is begging. If you regularly give your cat or dog a bite of food during dinner, you are telling them it is okay, and to please make a habit of begging under the dining table. Try to break these kinds of patterns. Don't give them treats at set times, because there is a good chance that this will lead to begging as well. By rewarding them for this bad behaviour, they will think it's okay and that they always get something when they exhibit that behaviour.
Another fun way to use snacks is during playtime! There are lots of toys for cats and dogs that are made for hiding treats in. The puzzle of how to get to those treats will keep your pet physically and mentally healthy. Ideal for those rainy days when they are indoors a lo t. To keep your cat occupied, you could also tie a thread of wool to a treat so that you can make your cat hunt for it. Or throw the treat across the room to make your cat run. Dogs love to sniff and smell, so hide the goodies in the living room or the garden.
Treats aren't necessarily bad for your pet. In fact, many treats have ingredients that are healthy or support your pets overall or dental health. As long as treats are a surprise and not standard practice, you can keep spoiling your pet to Pets Unlimited treats! 😉