Even when it’s time for treats, many cat lovers are looking for a tasty and healthy option to reward their kitty without adding unnecessary or unhealthy ingredients into their diet.
Many cat owners looking for healthy treats seek out organic treat options — but what exactly does that entail? Below we’ll dive into what it means (and doesn’t mean) to be organic, and explain what to look for in healthy cat treats.
What “Organic” Does and Doesn’t Mean
Simply put, organic foods are those grown by organic farming standards — which vary between countries. We’ll dive deeper into the specifics of the USA’s organic food standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) later in this article. But first, let’s break down some common discussion points about organic food to illustrate what organic truly means.
Pesticides are used to control pest and disease carriers. It’s a common misconception that food labeled as USDA-certified organic is free of all pesticides. In fact, USDA regulations for organic foods only ban the use of most synthetic pesticides. When you see a pet food or treat labeled as organic, this simply means that none of the ingredients were grown using a banned pesticide. You can find the complete list of allowed and prohibited substances here.
Level of Processing
Most pet food and treats will require some processing, even if that amount is minimal. Organic pet treats are no different. As long as the ingredients are processed before packaging in a certified facility, this shouldn't affect its status as a certified organic food. That's because when processing is done prior to packaging, this helps to avoid any cross-contamination with prohibited ingredients.
Ultimately, how nutritious a food or treat is will boil down to its ingredients. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies show that there is a small to moderate increase in the nutritional content of organic produce over non-organic produce due to a greater amount of certain antioxidants and flavonoids.
However, a certified organic treat can still lack proper nutrition for your pet, especially if it's high in calories or contains high sodium levels. Likewise, a non-organic treat made with quality ingredients that will nourish your pet's body without artificial preservatives or sweeteners can be much more nutritious.
It's all about assessing the ingredients list in full. The Honest Kitchen proudly uses many organic ingredients in our recipes, in addition to non-organic ingredients that are thoughtfully sourced for delicious, nutritionally dense products.
Understanding the USDA Standards for Organic Food
Until the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) develops its own requirements for organic pet food and treats, this organization defaults to the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) standards.
The good news? This means that all organic pet food and treats must meet the same criteria as human food in order to be labeled organic.
So, what are the current USDA standards for organic food? You can explore the entire list on the USDA website, but in general, organic food/ingredients must not:
- Use antibiotics or hormones.
- Use genetically modified seeds.
- Use prohibited fertilizers or pesticides.
“Organic” vs. “Made With Organic Ingredients”
As you shop around for cat treats, you may notice labels with terms like “certified organic” and “made with organic ingredients,” and wonder: Is there a difference?
The short answer is yes, there is a difference! Treats labeled “made with organic ingredients” may only contain a few organic components alongside some non-organic ingredients. Certified organic treats contain completely organic ingredients and processing that adhere to the USDA’s standards.
It’s not a matter of one being better than the other; like we mentioned earlier, the most important thing is to look at the quality of the ingredients overall — which we’ll explore in detail in the next section.
What To Look For in Healthy Cat Treats
If you’re looking for organic cat treats, it’s likely that you’re wanting to find a tasty treat option that keeps your cat’s health and wellness in mind. We know that organic ingredients can play a role in this, but here are a few other things to look for in a healthy cat treat.
Treats labeled as "human grade" mean that the food has met all the same manufacturing, packaging, and inspection standards as human food. Compare this to "feed grade" treats, which do not meet these strict standards and often contain things you don't want to see in your cat's treats. This can include anything from by-products and chemicals to "4D" meats, which are meats that come from dying, diseased, disabled, or deceased animals.
Ultimately, you want a cat treat that you can feel good about rewarding your cat with as an occasional snack. Of course, not all treats are created equal in terms of the quality of ingredients.
As you explore your options for cat treats, look specifically for high-quality ingredients to support your cat's health and wellness needs. Dehydrated fish (such as herring and white fish), for example, is a popular and tantalizing treat ingredient for cats. Broccoli, peas, cucumbers, and even plain Greek yogurt can also be quality sources of ingredients for natural cat treats and food.
Likewise, cat treats with added probiotics, amino acids, vitamins, and/or minerals can help supplement your cat's everyday diet. Added nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, and calcium are a bonus — though it's more important to ensure your cat gets these through their everyday food.
Limited Ingredients and No Fillers
In general, simple is best when it comes to cat treats. Look for options with limited ingredients, such as animal protein, vegetables, fruit, and healthy mix-ins like flaxseed.
Likewise, look for the use of fillers in cat treats. These are ingredients that provide little to no nutritional value but are added to give a treat more bulk. Some common fillers found in cat treats include corn meal, wheat, and rice. While there's nothing inherently wrong with these ingredients on their own, they simply don't provide much nutritional value to your cat. They may also be associated with an increased risk of allergic reactions (such as itching and recurring ear infections).
3 Healthy Cat Treats for Your Feline Friend
As you can see, there's a lot to keep in mind when shopping for the perfect cat treat! The good news is that you can check off all the above boxes (and then some) when you choose cat treats from The Honest Kitchen.
We take great pride in being a Certified B Corporation. When you buy cat food or tasty treats from us, you can rest assured that we never use GMO ingredients, fillers, artificial preservatives, or artificial flavors.
Explore a few of our top picks below, and you'll be well on your way to discovering your cat's new favorite healthy treat!
1) Smittens White Fish Cat Treats
The Honest Kitchen's Smittens White Fish Cat Treats are popular among even the most finicky felines. Each crispy, delicious treat is made with just two ingredients: dehydrated white fish and sea salt. And at just two calories per treat, you can feel good about rewarding your cat with this high-protein snack.
2) Smittens Herring Cat Treats
Our Smittens Herring Cat Treats are another popular option to consider for your feline friend. Each 2.5-calorie treat contains two natural ingredients: dehydrated wild caught herring and rosemary extract to create a tempting flavor your cat will love. This human grade cat treat is protein packed and bite-sized for easy snacking and (like all food from The Honest Kitchen) contains no GMO ingredients, artificial preservatives, grains, or fillers.
3) Smittens Herring & Cranberry Cat Treats
If you're looking for tasty and crunchy treats that your cat will flip for, check out The Honest Kitchen's Smittens Herring & Cranberry Cat Treats. Each bite-sized treat contains dehydrated, wild caught herring as its first ingredient. From there, delicious cranberry and a touch of rosemary extract add even more flavor to each bite. And at just 2.5 calories per treat, this is an excellent anytime snack for your cat.
Support Your Cat's Health With Human Grade Treats From The Honest Kitchen
Ultimately, choosing the best cat treat doesn't necessarily boil down to whether it's organic or not. In reality, a cat treat made from quality ingredients without fillers or artificial preservatives will often be the best option.
Many cat owners prefer to shop with pet food brands that care about the environment and take their commitment to the planet seriously. At The Honest Kitchen, we specialize in quality cat treats made from only the best ingredients.
Shop our selection of cat treats today and see The Honest Kitchen difference for yourself!