Need to jump-start your cat’s waning appetite? School your cat in a cool, new trick like jumping through a hoop? Need a reliable tool to build trust in a scaredy-cat? Or, are you simply looking for a win-win way to give your cat his needed medicine without a struggle?
Welcome to the lickable cat treat era. Seriously. You may be surprised by the avalanche of various commercial lickable cat treats now available at grocery stores, pet supply stores and online.
Lowdown on lickables
By definition, lickables are treats that come in tubes, pouches and in a wide range of flavors. Some are pureed. Others are more stew in consistency. But for most cats, they deliver a capital Y for yum.
“I am open to the use of these treats, as they can be a good way to administer medications or a way to find a high-value treat in kitties where rewards are needed,” says Dr. Lindsey Bullen, who is board-certified in nutrition at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C., and a veterinarian correspondent for VetScoop (vetscoop.com). “Lickable treats are just that, treats. They do not contain all essential nutrients a cat needs.”
Frankly, some veterinarians wonder what took lickable treats so long to surface and now soar in popularity.
“With the long-term usage of squeezable drinks and foods for children, I’m surprised someone didn’t jump on the bandwagon for cat treats years ago,” says Dr. Hazel Carney, who practices feline medicine in Emmett, Idaho, and serves on the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ Guidelines Committee. “We clinicians have used baby food forever as a treat and medication washdown. I guess we just weren’t entrepreneurs, apparently.”
Trish Seifried, a nationally renowned animal trainer and founder of CatBoss TV, calls lickables a game changer in training and traveling with cats.
“We stumbled upon lickables in 2019 after using plain, microwaved chicken breasts as our go-to treat for our cats when training and performing,” Trish says. “Chicken breast requires refrigeration, and we found it to be very inconvenient on the road. Dry treats are often high in carbohydrates and make our cats sleepy. Our cats are performers and expend a lot of energy while working, so we were happy to discover lickables. They are highly palatable and easy to grab while on the go.”
Before you use
When reaching for lickables, Dr. Carney offers some cautions.
“My biggest worry and counsel to owners is that they will feed them exclusively, and they are not balanced,” she says. “You don’t want your cat to get so hooked on the enhanced smell and then refuse regular foods. Long-term feeding of only lickables can affect mineral balances, vitamin levels and blood glucose. They are also too low in calories to sustain a cat.”
You need to factor in your pocketbook as well.
“Many of these individual serving treat options can cost $2 to $3,” Dr. Carney says. “And, contamination issue is a potential concern. Once opened, they need to be refrigerated.”
Did you know? Lickables can be used as an easy-to-give treat during or after a stressful event.
Tasty training tool
Trish credits the use of lickables to develop trust in a feral cat now named Malibu, whom she rescued from a dumpster behind a restaurant.
“Every cat deserves a chance at a great home,” Trish says. “He was first fed through a crate for everyone’s safety. Eventually, I started putting lickables on a spoon to offer through the crate.”
Trish slowly trained Malibu to “watch me” and that making eye contact gave him a tasty reward. Three months later, Malibu roams in her home, comes when called, sits up, gives a high five, spins and goes to a mark on cue.
“Tiki Stix played a huge role in Malibu’s rehabilitation journey to become the confident cat he is today,” she says.
Sam Jackson, medical director for the Bitty Kitty Brigade, a nonprofit kitten rescue group in Minneapolis, Minnesota, relies on a lickable brand called Churu as yummy distractions.
“We hold off on treats for kittens until they are at least 6 weeks old and have a good health standing,” Sam says. “Our bitty kitties love them! You can socialize kittens well with them. It’s easy to feed them to kittens while you are trying to do other things with them, like giving vaccines, drawing blood or other not-so-exciting activities for kittens. They are a great distraction!”
People can also use lickables as a welcome medicine delivery method to cats who need liquid or powdered medications, points out Dr. Bullen.
“They can also be used as a treat during or after a stressful event,” she adds. “For example, during nail trims or after oral medicine administration to reward and to get the bad medicine flavor out of the cat’s mouth. They can be used as a topper to encourage a cat to eat a complete and balanced diet if they aren’t feeling well.”
Lickable treats are also great tools to use at your vet’s office to provide a fear-free visit.
Trish says, “Even your vet tech or veterinarian can easily deliver this treat while still accomplishing their goals. Why not make the vet clinic a fun place, too, for your cat?
Tiki Cat Stix Wet Treats $4.99 (pack of six).
Nulo Freestyle Perfect Purees $9.99 (pack of 10).
Inaba Churu Lickable Cat Treats $36.90 (50 count canister).
Fussie Cat Lickable Cat Treats $3.49 (pack of four).