What treats make the best cat bribes?
November 19, 2007 6:25 PM   Subscribe

What treats would you suggest for a cat who, so far, doesn't like treats?

My cat (a 4.5 year-old spayed female who we've had for 1.5 years) has never really been interested in treats. She sniffs everything... and then turns and walks away. Put it in her food, and more often than not she'll eat around it until it's the last thing left in the bowl.

It would be nice to find something(s) that she'll really like, to use as motivators, rewards, pill concealers, and the like. I think most pet owners would agree that sometimes it's really convenient to be able to use food for these things.

* She likes tuna well enough, but she doesn't flip for it like most cats. (She doesn't even push the can around trying to get every last drop, like every other cat I've known.) Catnip is more successful -- more hit than miss -- but sometimes she's just not interested, especially if anything is going on that might distract her, so it is not a reliable distraction itself.

* She's fairly fond of that malt flavored hairball treatment stuff, in that if we put it in her food bowl, she'll eat it about half the time. (The other half she ignores it, and she's never interested enough to eat it off our fingers or anything like that.)

* She eats a mix of dry food and canned food, but isn't in love with either such that her regular food can double as a treat.

Now, maybe she's just not ever going to be interested in any food-based treats, and that's that. Not a huge deal. But like I said, it would just be nice sometimes to have something I can pull out that she's actually excited to get. And it's not like we've exhausted all the options out there, so I still have hope that we just haven't discovered the right thing yet. We haven't offered her many human food options, I guess mostly because we worry that we'll I'll be cleaning up kitty vomit later; and there's a pet store near our new home that sells more healthy-sounding, higher quality treats than the stuff at the grocery store (Pounce, Whisker Lickins', etc. - she's rejected all that).

What does your cat love? Even better if s/he doesn't flip for much, but you found that one thing that s/he goes nuts for!
posted by thatgirl to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
One of my cats surprised the hell out of me by sticking his face in a half full container of sour cream. He went out of his mind for it and would have consumed it all if I let him. I don't think it is all that great for a cat, but a little dab once in a while won't kill him (I don't think, anyway). To a lesser extent he also likes plain yogurt.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:32 PM on November 19, 2007

Cheese (in very small amounts), cooked chicken, canned mackerel, salmon, there are dried fish treats that some cats love (whole dried fish and also dried fish strips, usually available in better pet stores). Some cats like fish, some don't, some like cheese, some don't, but lots of cats hate the crap commercial treats, so keep experimenting. Sheba cat food is like chocolate cake to some cats (it's crap as a diet, but fine as a treat). I have also found that Hill's Prescription Diet t/d is super-enticing to most cats, but you couldn't hide a pill in it (most vets sell it).
posted by biscotti at 6:33 PM on November 19, 2007

i had a cat that LOVED cheese. we'd give him a few pinches of shredded cheddar as a treat.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:34 PM on November 19, 2007

Occhiblu's calico is extremely finicky, but she really loves these. She's turned her nose up at every other treat I've tried to give her.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:34 PM on November 19, 2007

Here are a few unusual treats you might try. One or both of my cats go nuts for these:

Dried shrimp
Beef lung
Expensive tooth-cleaning treats
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 6:36 PM on November 19, 2007

One of my cats loves cod liver oil pills. Another used to love buttered peas, and the Cheerios part of Bits and Bites. A single blade (more provokes vomit) of real grass makes Miss Jane very happy, too. Also a little bit of Vaseline wiped on a paw is a pleasure for them and helps prevent hairballs, I hear. But rewarding too is a feather dropped from a great height, or a session of laser pointer play!
posted by fish tick at 6:37 PM on November 19, 2007

My cat could care less for any kitty kibble treat things or any canned tuna, etc. but you try eating a bowl of cereal in my apartment. He likes to lick the bowl when you're done. Though that doesn't help if I need to give him any medication it can work as a reward.
posted by marylynn at 6:42 PM on November 19, 2007

If you haven't already tried them, my cat went nuts for Greenie's, which it sounds like the store by your home might sell. And he doesn't eat the average cat treat either.

If anyone is interested, it looks like you can get a sample from the company. It takes 6-8 weeks, YMMV, restrictions apply, blah blah blah.
posted by juliplease at 6:42 PM on November 19, 2007

Bonito flakes (dried flakes of a fish related to tuna)
Honeysuckle toys

The one other thing that the cat goes nuts for is real chicken liver, either raw (read up on pros, cons, and best practices of raw feeding, before giving raw meat) or cooked.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:52 PM on November 19, 2007

Probably not good for them at all, but my cat loves twisties.

But he really goes ga-ga for yoghurt, to the point where he'll come running from anywhere in the house as soon as he hears the tub being opened.

He's also been known to eat peas and corn kernels, especially if we flick them around the room at dinner time, but I think that's more for the chasing than the eating.
posted by robotot at 7:09 PM on November 19, 2007

Our cat loves Cat Milk.

(And even though the link goes to a Canadian site, it's available in the US.)
posted by Lucinda at 7:15 PM on November 19, 2007

Our cat loves venison. The more rare the better. He doesn't get much of it, though.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:17 PM on November 19, 2007

Halo Liv-a-Littles are the holy grail of cat treat in my house. The cat who doesn't like any treats flips out over these, and the cats who do like treats still think these are the best things ever.

Chicken is the preferred flavor around here. They're less fond of the beef or lamb. They like the salmon and cod, but both those flavors are really stinky.

Warning: Store the container where the cats can't reach it. Mine seem to be able to smell the treats through the container, and will go to great lengths of acrobatics to get to even a sealed container. They're not a good texture to hide pills in, but might still work for rewards.
posted by Stacey at 7:25 PM on November 19, 2007

Chicken here, too. He's on his hind legs for shreds of chicken.
posted by artdrectr at 7:47 PM on November 19, 2007

Cooked chicken and Frito's corn chips. My cat will "ask" to have a bit of what I'm eating sometimes. I'll give her a small nibble. Most of the time she'll sample it and stroll away, as if she's more satisfied with getting her way than with eating people food. Salty things are usually more interesting to her.

Cat grass makes her very happy, but I don't consider that a treat.
posted by bonobo at 8:02 PM on November 19, 2007

Our cats really love the following:
1) Purina Fancy Feast (the grilled/roasted/marinated meat in gravy kind, and not the loaf stuff)--key word is GRAVY here--put gravy on the food, and they gobble it down.
2) A couple of my cats like canned pumpkin
3) They all love milk
4) My oldest cat goes nuts over McDonald's french fries--I think he probably lived off of them when he was a stray.
5) I buy cat grass for one of my cats--he really the stuff--but my other 2 are neutral about it.
6) 2 of my cats love fresh dill. They killed one of my dill plants by rolling around and sleeping on the thing--but they sure smelled nice!
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 8:25 PM on November 19, 2007

One more thing--my parent had a cat that was crazy about butter.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 8:27 PM on November 19, 2007

My cat isn't big on commercial treats or most human food. Usually he just sniffs then turns his back! But two things he consistently goes after is Yop (drinkable yogurt, he licks the lid) and butter! I wouldn't suggest either in large quantities, though!
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 8:29 PM on November 19, 2007

I have a cat that LOVES bread. Fried chicken and bacon are also extremely popular around here -- I don't know why because none of my cats have ever been allowed to have either. Also, one night I accidentally dropped (and broke) a jar of Tostitos brand Salsa Con Queso and the cats went crazy licking it off the floor.
posted by whatideserve at 8:37 PM on November 19, 2007

I've seen cats go crazy for brewers yeast tablets. Mine really likes nutritional yeast flakes sprinkled on her food. She's also developed a taste for shelled edamame.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:48 PM on November 19, 2007

Try buying and cooking some fresh crab. You can eat most of it. My cats, who were relatively low-key about human food, would not leave me alone from the moment I brought in a grocery bag with the wrapped crab in it. Would not leave me alone. I gave them a taste after it was cooked and they were obsessed for weeks afterward. Kept checking containers in the kitchen, sticking their heads in grocery bags.

I've also heard that some cats go nuts for white bread, or any bread. If yours is one, be sure to keep the bread where she can't get to it once she tries it.

Finally, here's a treat with an unusual texture: CET chews -- they're for keeping cat teeth healthy. They kind of have the texture of those cornstarch packing peanuts, I think to force the cat to chew them, and they're about the size of wine corks. We hold them firmly in our fingers and make the cat tear them in two. Our cat likes them enough to do this, but he's not crazy about them. I've heard that some cats _are_ crazy about them, and if your cat isn't into mainstream treats, they are definitely worth a try.

The link above to the CET chews is to a random retailer I found online; you might want to special order them. They come in fish flavor and chicken flavor. They are more expensive than regular treats, but they're pretty cool. And yes, they are good for cat teeth and gums.
posted by amtho at 8:52 PM on November 19, 2007

The pickier of my two cats never liked anything but dry food, cat grass, and tuna water (no, no, not the tuna itself; just the water that gets drained out of the can--she actually drinks her way around any stray tuna solids). Then I found the Feline Greenies, which for some reason she adores. Freaky little creature.
posted by paleography at 9:14 PM on November 19, 2007

My cat loves vanilla ice cream.
posted by nicwolff at 10:19 PM on November 19, 2007

"pill pockets" are kitty krack for our non-food motivated cat.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:04 PM on November 19, 2007

We have been having this very problem with one of our kitties. She has just never shown any interest in treats of any sort, and for the last year, we have tried just about everything. Her brother goes crazy even for a bit of his regular food if I am handing it to him, but she won't go for anything. She doesn't even seem at all interested in food in general (cat or human food).

But just last night, she finally had a reaction to an edible item. I was sitting on the couch with a can of Vienna sausages and a fork, and she went totally nuts trying to get to them. First time she's reacted that way about any edible. Today I am going to get another can and see if she's finally decided to let us know what she really digs as a treat.

So maybe keep your eyes open for things you eat yourself, or maybe that you eat rarely. That was the first can of Vienna sausages I have eaten in about two years, so she hadn't encountered them before, but she really seems to like them. Hope so, because it's so hard to train her (as much as one trains a cat) without having some kind of reward system, and it always seems to unfair for her brother to be gleefully scarfing down snacks and her not getting anything. Poor picky thing. :D
posted by Orb at 5:12 AM on November 20, 2007

2nding the bonito flakes. Most cats really love them, and our cat pretty much measures life as the time between bonito flakes.
posted by ga$money at 7:19 AM on November 20, 2007

My cat likes spicy sauces, cream&milk, and chicken, but she loves ham. She goes nuts for it, and doesn't care who she has to hurt to get it.
posted by julen at 7:45 AM on November 20, 2007

When we took Tempura to the vet for the first time, they gave him some turkey baby food to distract him during his shots. He lurrrveed it.
posted by radioamy at 8:15 AM on November 20, 2007

Seconding brewers yeast tablets. Remember to hold them so they can be licked rather than give them away - and watch for sandpaper tongue!
posted by Sparx at 8:20 AM on November 20, 2007

Seconding the Chicken Liv-A-Littles. Every single kitty I've ever had or lived with has LOVED those.

Chicken and turkey breast (NOT cooked with onion or garlic, those are poisonous to cats) are big draws for my current kitty girls.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:54 AM on November 20, 2007

Seconding the beef lung treats. My cat loved these so much that he performed acrobatics to get into the cabinet they were stored in. He also loves dairy, and I have no problem giving him low fat plain yogurt as a treat. My mom's cat goes nuts for butter cookies and corn muffins, sometimes it's the weirdest things that catch their fancy.
posted by blueskiesinside at 12:51 PM on November 20, 2007

Our cats go nuts over baby food.
posted by muscat at 1:39 PM on November 20, 2007

Thirding the Halo Chicken Liv-A-Littles.
Pure unadulterated cat crack.
My cat learned to open the fridge because of these things.
posted by BillBishop at 1:23 AM on November 21, 2007

My old cat used to go nuts for cheap liverwurst, which we'd keep in the freezer and hack pieces off when medication had to be given. You can either give them to the kitty frozen (much fun to be had) or defrosted so you can hide stuff in it. The smell and taste pretty much camoflages most medication but you're going to have to deal with liver-breath and a very happy cat.

The current cat prefers ice-cream of any variety or any little cat-treat that has a brewers-yeast/kelp combo.
posted by ninazer0 at 2:50 AM on November 21, 2007

Fat free Half & Half or cold canned peas. Check all of these things out with your vet first.
posted by Raybun at 4:41 AM on November 21, 2007

Hah! whatideserve--just yesterday I was eating some Tostitos salsa con queso, with my cat next to me on the sofa, and I couldn't get her away from the stuff. I gave her some to lick off my finger and had to keep doing so just to keep her from sticking her whole head in the jar.

This little weirdo also sucked down some marinade from these teriyaki mushrooms I got from the supermarket--mostly soy sauce, I think, with some other flavors I can't quite identify, and a little bit of hot-peppery kick. I wouldn't have imagined that a cat would like it, but she drank up every drop from the bowl. Apparently she has a spicy side (which suits her personality).

This cat (and at least two others I've had) also enjoys Easy Cheese--just squirt a little bit out of the can for them to lick and eventually they'll learn to catch it in their mouths as it comes out.

Most cats I've known enjoy melted ice cream; my husband and I were once greatly amused by watching his serious gray girl dip her paw very carefully into an empty Ben & Jerry's tub and lick it off, repeatedly. I don't think chocolate is poisonous to cats (as it is to dogs) but to be safe we've stuck with vanilla-based flavors.

Several of my cats have loved deli meats--thin sliced ham or chicken, usually. The supremely cheapo Buddig meats were a great treat.

Not all cats are into carbs, but I had one who liked to steal McDonald's french fries, and another who enjoyed nacho cheese Doritos.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:00 PM on November 21, 2007

I don't think chocolate is poisonous to cats (as it is to dogs) but to be safe we've stuck with vanilla-based flavors.

Chocolate is poisonous to cats as well as dogs.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:47 AM on November 4, 2008

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