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Cat Treats Help Make Cats Friendlier!

by | Nov 15, 2013 | Cat Behavior & Care | 22 comments



What does cat food and cat treats have to do with making your house cat more friendly? One the most common questions I get as a cat behavior consultant deals with the evolving c’attitude of maturing kitties. Pretty much all kittens are in-your-face clueless (and confident!) spit-fires that never met a stranger. They gallop and pounce through life, love to play until they collapse–and then snuggle and purr themselves to sleep on your lap.

But the baby cat grows up and then OH NO! What happened to the snuggle-puss? Well, sometimes they stay cuddly throughout life. But very often, the baby grows up to be a bit more selective in how he or she wishes to interact. That can put the human’s nose out of joint when suddenly Junior-Cat disses the person who brought them into the house. So–what can you do?


People readily think about treats with dogs, but not so often with cats–and in fact, cats relish not only the tastiness but also the special interaction that comes with any food “extras.” That can encourage your cat to act friendlier and interact with you.

The key to treating cats, though, is to remember they are “grazers.” A full meal for a cat tends to be 4-8 individual kibbles. That’s all! They’re not going to belly up to the smorgasbord and gulp mouthfuls or handfuls the way Shadow-Pup does. So a teeeeeny tiny amount is enough–the smell as much as the taste and the attention–that associates something positive for the cat with your presence.

The human with the pocketbook decides the treat choice, but ultimately it’s in the cat’s paws whether or not s/he will indulge. Of course, we don’t want over-nutrition to create tubby Tabbies so it’s best to choose a treat that compliments the cat’s existing diet. Most pet food companies offer a “family” of products that go well together.

Treats that make kitty sit up and purr tend to be very different than what s/he eats on a regular basis. Reserving a very unique tasting/smelling food–a canned ration, for example–can be a great way to make your cat feel special without potentially upsetting the nutrition.


How should you treat to help your cat be friendlier? Establish a routine. That could be every morning while you’re eating breakfast, or while you brush your teeth–or perhaps every evening while watching the evening news. Cats love routine, and once Kitty figures out the time and place that TREATS get delivered, you won’t have to remember–she’ll remind YOU!

Tiny bits are enough. You don’t want cats to gobble and spoil their appetite. Maybe dip your finger in the canned food. My Karma-Kat comes when called, sits up, waves, and (we’re working on) speak! with just me holding up my finger–he EXPECTS a tasty treat whenever I call. Eventually, you don’t need to reward every time. Intermittent rewards (reinforcement) works better, because Kitty never knows when he’ll get that reward, so he’d better come when called every time, just in case!

By rewarding your cat for a natural behavior, you also reinforce the interaction and teach the kitty there’s a benefit to paying attention to you. If the cat still won’t come near…use dry treats you can toss to him. And the next time toss it closer to you…and the next, closer still. Do this in cat-size steps, not all at once, and your cat will become friendlier without even realizing it!


Well, yes. Some cats do very well on the same old food all the time, but others relish variety. If your cat won’t eat, refer to this post. And let’s face it, PEOPLE love variety, So even if cats could eat MOUSE every single day, it makes us feel good (rewards US!) to offer variety to our beloved cats, too.

For instance, you could choose to provide a dry kibble in puzzle toys for “hunting” throughout the day, and then give a bonus wet food for the evening or morning meal. If your cat is a bit tubby, try putting treats in a cat puzzle toy for added feline enjoyment (and exercise).

For more tips on making your cat friendlier and having a great relationship, refer to this post on environmental enrichment. Be sure to check out the video, below. What are some other tips you have for helping cats act “friendlier?”

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!


  1. Dianne Cannon

    Let’s see. There is Mama Sara and three siblings (seniors). Lady Bug and Carl siblings (seniors). Katy Katleen(Calico), Izzi Belle (senior), Little Man, Abby Gail, and Pink (youngest 2yrs).

    All Rescues. We sure could use some extra morsels to help tide us over one month….

    • Amy Shojai

      Wow, sounds like they’re all very deserving of treats, indeed! Thanks for commenting, good luck!

  2. Lynette George

    My husband and I run a cat rescue/shelter operation and we do it on a thread budget (A shoestring budget would be like having a million bucks to us.) out of our own pocket and the generosity of others. We’d love to feed a specific cat food, but since we’re feeding between 75 and 100 kitties at all times, we have to feed what has been donated and, if that runs out, whatever our tiny pocketbook will allow. Of course, they never go hungry, but it would be great to give them a special, high quality treat. As rescue kitties, they’ve already been through so much, any little extra is really, really special to them … and to us.

    • Amy Shojai

      Wow, Lynette, paws crossed you win a bunch of kitty food for the rescues. Thanks for the comments–and THANK YOU for all you do for the cats.

  3. Sue

    My old boy, Midnight, would love more kitty treats! Maybe he will quit walking on my keyboard then. 🙂

    • Amy Shojai

      Ah yes, the kitty on the keyboard, LOL! Thanks for the comment, Sue (great to see you here!). Good luck!

  4. Lisa F.

    My kitty is very finicky about dry treats, so I’d love to see if he’d like these. Thanks!

    • Amy Shojai

      Oooh, Lisa, what cat wouldn’t love getting to taste test some treats? Good luck! Thanks for visiting the blog!

  5. April R.

    My cat deserves some treats because we adopted a puppy this year and he’s still not thrilled about it!

    • Amy Shojai

      LOL! April, the treats certainly should help smooth those bruised kitty feelings. Thanks for the comment and good luck!

  6. Karyl

    (Don’t add this to the contest since I already won a gift box from one of the other contests – and our furball is snubbing every bit of it except the Drinkwell that came alone with! LOL Though sadly I think had the treats not been too hard for his sensitive teeth he actually wanted those. He can’t do Greenies for the same reason. He outright SNUBBED the canned food, I couldn’t believe it.)

    A lot of the time for me, getting cats to be friendlier has been a simple matter of having the time to just sit there with a hand out (even if on the floor), looking away from the cat long enough to let them come up and sniff. Make sure you don’t move too quickly or you’ll have to start over. Never try to pet while they are still sniffing. Let the non-cuddler make the first move.

    If they start rubbing on you, you’re usually good to (slowly!) lift your hand, encourage them to put their head under. If they let you, scritch the top of the head, but don’t try to scratch the ears right away – anything they think is a grab might cause them to run off, and again you’ll have to start over. It’s a slow process, you have to be okay with waiting for the animal to make the moves when you’re dealing with a shy critter.

    We’ve been letting my dad give treats (and sometimes chicken) to Anubis when he comes over, since Anubis has been leery of him ever since he heard me call him “dad” (LOL he was fine with him until that – there is only the One True Daddy and all other Daddies are false Daddies) – it seems to be helping.

    • Amy Shojai

      Great tips for fearful/leery cats. Glad Anubis is beginning to accept your Dad, too (the “pretender” LOL!).

  7. Patricia

    Amy I really enjoyed your blog and video. My cats deserve special treats because well they’re SPECIAL to me. I love them unconditionally and they love me the same. Being homebound they give me so much companionship and love. Ironically, I have been thinking about getting one of those cat puzzle toys and put some treats in it for them to get. Since they’re getting older I thought it would be great exercise for them. We all have so much to be thankful for at this time of year and they’re excited about the possibility of winning some treats. From me, Thomas, Macy, Termite, Blackie and Snooki best wishes for you and your husband to have a great weekend.

    • Amy Shojai

      Aww….thank you Patricia! Yes, it’s a “thankful” time of year. Scritches and headbonks to Thomas, Macy, Termite, Blackie and Snooki…and you too, of course!

  8. Constance Marie

    My sweet kitties are so loyal and loving. Maybe it’s from having a hard start in life, but I feel they deserve the very best for food and treats and there is none better than Science Diet!
    It’s made such a difference! I would really appreciate winning this for them. What a Thanksgiving gift it would be!
    Connie Marie

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Constance, that’s a great comment. Sorry they had a rough start–but they landed with you, so they must have done something right. You’re entered! Good luck!

  9. Frank Steele

    Every cat deserves the best. They give unconditional love. The least we can do is give back.

    • Amy Shojai

      I can’t argue with that, Frank! Thanks for adding a comment–you’re entered in the contest!

  10. Brenda

    Our furry darling has survived three near death issues (starting with surviving a downed power line burning his tail during Hurricane Katrina) so he deserves pampering though they all do anyway! Thanks for the chance to win, always enjoy your blog.

    By the way, our furry one is alive in part thanks to you and your reminder to look for lumps & bumps. I had my eye on what looked like a small wart and the vet commended me for finding it in time through his thick mink-like fur. It was a marble size cancerous tumor. (That was his third near death experience.)

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Brenda! Well I always love your insightful comments on the blog, so we’re even! Paws crossed, hope you win one of the baskets for your miracle kitties!

  11. Jean Meyer

    My three furry babies – well, okay, seniors – after all they are now nine years old – deserve treats because they keep me sane!! When I’m feeling stressed or down, one or more of them will make sure I’m not alone – one will always be with me. And how can you continue to feel stressed or down while petting a soft furry kid!!

    • Amy Shojai

      Awww…thanks Jean! I’d say they DO, indeed, deserve treats!



  1. Does My Cat Hate Me? Mend Your Bond with Environmental EnrichmentAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] I know many of y’all now work at home. Maybe the kitty loves the idea, or maybe you’ve hissed…
  2. Sick Kitty: What to Do About Anorexia When Pets Won't EatAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] your individual pet’s routine and preferences. You can use treats to strengthen your bond and make cats friendlier. Read…
  3. Food Obsessed Pets: Here's Why Pets Gobble Food & What to DoAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] kibble and practiced snatch-and-grab attacks to gobble food from our dinner plates. You can use treats (within reason!) to…
  4. Fat Pets? Pudgy Pooches & Tubby Tabbies: How to Slim Down Fat PetsAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] Curb Snacks. Eliminating or reducing treats easily cuts calories. Instead, reserve part of the pet’s regular diet—a handful of…
  5. Ask Amy: Cat Wants Pets When I Get Up & FREE FOOD ANNOUNCED! | AMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] the winners of the #HillsPet food treat baskets! On November 15 the blog invited folks to comment why their…

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