Make your own healthy homemade cat treats
Most store-bought treats have one or more ingredients that are listed in my "10 Ingredients to Avoid in Cat Food." You can get a copy of it here. On the other hand, these healthy homemade cat treats are simple to make and inexpensive compared to store-bought treats.
Know what's in your cat treats
By making your own treats, you know exactly what's in them. In other words, no surprise, useless or toxic ingredients. You can feel good knowing your healthy homemade cat treats will nourish your cat's body and soul.
In addition, the raw treats are a good way to introduce your cat to eating raw, real food.
Save money by making your own cat treats
Store-bought treats are very expensive for a rather tiny amount. The only exception to this might be Temptations, which are available in a large economy size. However, they are full of unhealthy, junky ingredients!
Human grade freeze-dried meats, fish, or poultry are very healthy treats, and they tend to be the highest priced cat treats. When I worked at a pet supply store, customer feedback was very positive about the freeze-dried treats. Most cats really like them, and my cats love them as well.
But, why spend so much when you can make your own inexpensive and healthy treats with real ingredients fit for carnivores?
During preparation of the following treats, you'll most likely have to give out a sample or two to your furry friend for taste testing.
Easy to make homemade raw food treats
For these cat treats, simply divide the meat up into small portions and freeze.
An easy way to freeze the meat is to use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Using the paper will make it easier to remove the frozen meat. Without the paper, the frozen meat will really stick to the unlined pan.
Make sure there is room in your freezer to accommodate the cookie sheet. An alternative to a cookie sheet is one or two metal cake pans or even a muffin pan.
Ground Beef, Lamb, Turkey, Chicken or Pork
Preferably use grass-fed beef and lamb, which is easy to find. Free-range chicken and turkey are good choices for treats too. It's not in my budget to feed my cats grass-fed and organic food on a daily basis. So, when it comes to treats, I splurge on grass-fed beef and lamb. And sometimes, organic chicken and turkey when it's on sale!
1: Scoop 1/8 or 1/4 cup of meat onto the lined cookie sheet. There are any number of ways you can portion this out. Do what fits your situation best.
2: I use 1/8 cup size for three cats for a day's treat. If you have one cat, 1/8 cup portion can be thawed and used over three days. If you don't have a 1/8 measuring cup, two level measuring tablespoons will work. Likewise, a level 1/4 measuring cup plopped on the cookie sheet and cut in half, thirds or quarters will work.
3: After portioning out, cover the treats with another sheet of parchment paper and place in the freezer for an hour or until frozen.
4: Once frozen, remove the "cat cookies" being sure not to leave any pieces of parchment paper stuck on the frozen treats. Store them in the freezer in a freezer-safe container or in freezer zip lock bags.
5: Each day, take out your choice of a "cat cookie" treat and defrost.
Below is frozen ground grass-fed beef in a 1/4 cup portion.
Chunked Pieces of Beef, Lamb, Turkey, Chicken or Pork
For the chunked pieces, use cuts of meat or boneless and skinless poultry.
1: Using a very sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut into pieces about the size of your thumbnail.
2: Place 1/8 or 1/4 cup portions onto the cookie sheet or metal cake pans.
Below is 1/4 cup of frozen chicken breast.
3: Alternatively, spread the chunks out over the cookie sheet. Then, defrost just the number of pieces desired for each cat. My cats get 2 pieces each as a treat.
4: With the chunks, you can toss the pieces in the air or across the room for your cat to chase down like a hunt.
Here are smaller chunks of frozen pork treats.
Raw Liver Treats-Chopped
Fresh chicken liver is usually easy to find in the meat department of most grocery stores. It is often recommended over beef liver in raw cat food recipes, but I don't know the reason. Beef and pork liver can be used without worry, although I've never looked for or come across fresh pork liver. I have freeze-dried pork liver dog treats that my cats love. Beef and pork liver are used in commercial cat foods. They are also used as a base in some cat and dog supplements.
You can cut the liver up in pieces, then freeze as outlined above for the meat/poultry chunks.
Below is chopped liver
Raw Liver Treats-Paté
For this method, you'll need ice cube trays.
1: First, cut the large pieces in half for easier blending. Then, blend half of the container of liver along with the juices. Stop the blender and add the other half in and continue blending.
2: Pour into ice cube trays. Use a spatula to scrape all the liver out of the blender. For one cat, fill each cube about 1/4 full for one day's treat, or half full for two days of treats and so on. Then freeze.
3: Alternatively, you could fill each cube and then cut the frozen cubes into smaller sizes.
4: Once frozen, remove liver cubes by running hot water on the bottom of the tray, just enough to help the cubes come loose. About 15 seconds. Then take a butter knife and pry the cubes of liver treats out.
5: Place all the cubes in a freezer safe container or freezer zip lock bag and freeze.
6: Each day, take out what you need and defrost. Place in your cat's food bowl and serve.
Below is blended liver.
Note: When I make raw cat food, I often have some liver left over. The method outlined above is how I freeze the leftover to use for the next batch of raw cat food. A very full ice cube (the white plastic ice cube trays) is one ounce of liver. The raw food recipe calls for one ounce of liver per one pound of meat/bones/skin.
Below is liver paté
Healthy Homemade Canned Food, Sardines, or Mackerel Treats
Use a high quality, grain-free canned cat food, sardines or mackerel to make homemade treats by freezing the food into treat-sized portions. Here's how...
1: Just as you do with the raw food treats, line a cookie sheet or metal cake pans with parchment paper.
2: Drop 1 teaspoon of canned cat food (1 tsp. per cat) onto the paper until all food has been portioned. Likewise, measure 1 tablespoon for 3 cats or to be thawed and used for 1 cat over 3 days. Again, use any variation for portions to suit your situation.
3: Freeze about an hour.
4: Remove the little "cat cookies" and store in a freezer safe container or freezer zip lock bags.
5: Take them out to thaw as needed.
When a cat won't eat homemade raw meat treats
If your cat isn't eating raw yet and turns his or her nose up at the raw meat, poultry or liver treats, you can try pan searing the treats. Half cooking the treats almost always gets their attention.
Try a quick pan sear in a healthy oil such as avocado, coconut, or sunflower oil. Organic butter can also be used. Let it cool before serving.
You might want to defrost several days' worth of treats and pan sear them all at once. They will be okay stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Having to take this extra step to pan sear takes more time, of course. Eventually, the goal is to offer the treats uncooked, so you'll have less work and cleanup.
Below are some tasty cooked liver treat recipes to try.
Cooked Liver Cat Treats
The following liver treats are courtesy of "The Whole Pet Diet," written by Andi Brown with Foreword by Richard Pitcairn, DVM. Your cat(s) should love these, if you can tolerate the smell of cooking liver. Personally, I cannot! Fortunately, my cats will eat any treat in the raw form.
Baked liver treats
3 pounds chicken or turkey liver (note: you don't have to use this much--you can start with around a one pound container of liver, and decrease the herbs of course.)
Fresh or dried oregano (optional)
Fresh or dried rosemary (optional)
Minced fresh garlic (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325° F.
- Place the liver on a large baking sheet and sprinkle the herbs on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Dice the liver into 1-inch cubes. Put a few ounces into individual ziplock bags and freeze the portions that won't be eaten right away.
- These healthy, homemade treats will stay fresh in the fridge for 2 to 3 days, and up to a month in the freezer.
Sautéed liver treats
1 tablespoon butter or healthy oil such as avocado, coconut, olive, or safflower
1/2 pound fresh liver (beef, chicken, turkey, or duck)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 hard boiled egg, preferably free range or pasture raised organic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the liver, turning frequently until lightly browned on all sides.
- Stir in the garlic powder and rosemary.
- Turn off the heat and cool to room temperature.
- Transfer to food processor, adding the egg and chopped parsley. Process until smooth.
- Store in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Freeze any portions not used in that time period.
Dehydrated cat treats
Another option is to use a dehydrator to make your own healthy homemade cat treats. I don't own a dehydrator yet, but it's something I'm thinking about buying and trying.
With a dehydrator, treats will keep longer. And, you won't have the extra work of freezing, bags of treats taking up space in the freezer, and then thawing them out. But, you will need to have the space to store the dehydrator.
You can dehydrate any of the aforementioned items into cat treats. Beef, chicken, turkey, pork, liver, as well as, lamb, venison, and rabbit.
These types of treats would be best for tossing across the room to recreate the hunt and chase for your cat.
Be careful not to overfeed treats
Cats can easily gain too much weight. Karen Becker, holistic DVM, reminds cat parents that treats should be counted as part of your cat's daily caloric intake.
You might imagine that a few little treats here and there won't add up, but they do.
For reference, one pound of excess weight on a cat is equal to 40 excess pounds on a human!
So, don't over treat your kitty. Just a few little nibbles a day. You might even consider skipping one or two days a week. Otherwise, your cat(s) will come to expect it every day or night. We don't want them controlling us anymore than they already do!
There's lots of variations you can experiment with. You'll save money over store-bought cat treats. In addition, you'll be empowered by making treats that are healthy and nourishing for your little kitty carnivore.
Depending on which type of treat you are using, some can be tossed across the room so that your cat can chase down the treat. This makes it exciting, replicates hunting, and they get some additional exercise, albeit a short sprint.
Which cat treats are you going to try out? I'd love to hear from you! Come on back over here and let us know which healthy homemade cat treats you tried and which ones your cat(s) like best.