Target is a macho, pawsome cat who plays games with his little sister Tic Tac and screams murderous insults at the cheeky toms who try and enter his territory.
However, I notice that he sleeps a bit more than he used to. Also, he is a little bit more deliberate when he walks and jumps. You see, our senior boy is 12 years old.
Converting cat age into human age is a bit trickier than just multiplying. As a rule of thumb, we reckon that cats grow super fast in the first two years of life. A kitty is about 15 at the end of the first year, and about 24 by the time they’re two. After that, you add four years for every year.
In short, our Target is about 64 years old in human terms. And considering he was in the “wars” when he was younger, suffering a severe accident that dislocated a paw, we take very gentle care of him.
We always have had a lot of treat time, and up until recently, I have focused on pure meat treats. These days, I am making a point of handing out those creamy ones that come in little tubes.
It may sound odd, but our daily treat is not just for pleasure, but they also provide a secret health boost. If that sounds counter-intuitive, let me explain.
Cats adore treats for the same reasons we do. They’re a tasty treat quite different from the food they take to fuel their bodies.
The main purpose of the treat is to bring joy. Therefore, just like we humans have afternoon tea, Target and I make a ritual of it.
Every afternoon around 4pm when we open up the little tube, Target waits patiently. I have a small collection of spoon rests that are totally perfect for this, so I squeeze the paste on to one of them. Then, I present it with a flourish to the senior cat.
Treats should be savoured, but as we have Tic Tac and Swooner, both of whom are hoovers in fur, I act as bouncer.
As Tic Tac is a gobbler as well as a shameless thief, I watch her like a hawk and scoop her up when she’s done. She wriggles and protests – and as Target has an evil sense of humour, he will look up at her, smile and then finish off super slowly. Just because he can, the naughty boy.
Thankfully, Swooner has respect for his brother, so he will eat his and then watch Target without disturbing him. So that’s all good.
Then comes the second part: Target has a drink of water. The big water bowl is right by the biscuits but Target prefers his glass on the table. He has a long drink and then, it’s whisker-washing time.
Finally, we come to the bit of the ritual that we both adore: post-treat cuddle time.
After the senior cat completes his toilet, we sit on the sofa and I rub his ears, his cheeks and his backbone. He stamps on me, headbutting and purring before collapsing in a purry furry puddle of fur.
We might watch TV together but, most of the time, Target goes to his batik pillow, piled extra deep for comfort, and has a nice nap.
As far as Target is concerned, those little tubes are yum and they come with super cuddles. For me, they are all that, but I also value them because of their content.
Although creamy treats vary, the ones we buy are all pretty similar. They are made up of about 90% moisture and they have a named meat as the top ingredient.
Usually when we talk pet food, the discussion is about ingredients that aren’t part of the animal’s natural diet (like wheat and corn for cats) or of artificial ingredients like preservatives that we may not be comfortable feeding ourselves or our furries.
While I read labels like everyone else, I’m looking at creamy treats because we live in the tropics. It’s hot here and when Target goes for his walks, he comes back with hot fur and paws.
He has a water bowl and he uses it but I feel that sometimes he’s a bit tired when he comes in. Also, I know that when I’ve been caught outside too long, I find it hard to just hit the water bottle. It’s easier to start with an ice cube or a small cup of juice first.
So, with the creamy treat being loaded with moisture, it’s an easy way to get him a bit more hydrated.
He might still walk in and have a long drink without it but I also find it comforting to have a set time when I watch him. As he’s older, and water intake is an important indicator for health, I can see straight away if he’s drinking enough, too much, has a problem developing with his mouth, and so on.
As for the regular favourite treats, the roast chicken and the fish flakes, we still indulge in those too. What we haven’t had in a long time are chicken livers. Cleaned, steamed until just cooked and chopped up into little cubes, they are always a hit.
I buy them fresh at the market and with the Covid, I’ve not been there at the right time to buy them.
As Target adores them, I’ve asked the butcher to save us some for this weekend. I’m picking them up early and Tom will be presenting them as a super special cat treat at lunchtime.
I can’t wait to see the happy whiskers and the excited meows.
Pet treats are terrific for supplying fun and an excuse for extra cuddle time, but too many sweets are a problem.
Meals tend to be balanced nutritionally, but treats just go for the wow factor. Therefore, the advice of vets is that treats should make up about 5% to 10% of daily calorie intake.
The pet treat industry is huge and there are lots of choices out there. For the new cat owner, there are two big questions to consider before buying.
First, unlike human food, the rules about listing ingredients in cat treats tend not to be strict. Therefore, do buy brands with a good reputation.
Second, know your ingredients. As cats are obligate carnivores, they have special dietary requirements. They must eat a lot of pure meat – but exactly what else they can and must eat is a matter of furious debate. Read up on what scientific studies say and make up your own mind.
Do avoid giving cats treats made for humans. Food that is toxic to cats includes: chocolate, onions, garlic, scallions, avocado, raisins, grapes and leeks. In addition, many cats are lactose intolerant so those pets don’t do well with milk and cheese.
Finally, the artificial sweetener Xylitol is deadly to dogs. Nobody is certain yet what it does to cats, but some vets are warning it’s best to avoid giving it to cats, just in case. This means you should not give your pet peanut butter, jam, coconut spread or anything else that may have Xylitol in it.
Apart from commercial treats that you approve of, perfectly healthy homemade titbits include steamed and roast chicken with no seasonings and the bones removed.
Also, you can make your own creamy treats by steaming chicken liver and pureeing it with a dash of water. Do note that it’s meat but it’s not a nutritious meal, so do keep to the 5% to10% rule. And if in doubt, go and talk to your vet.