For the past 8 1/2 years I have been living with my chubby, cranky, yet super affectionate cat (he’s only affectionate with me), Huckleberry. I adopted him while my parents were out of town so I knew they couldn’t say no (I don’t recommend doing this). There was a lot of anger when they found out I brought a kitten into the house, but in the end, they agreed that they would feel terrible dumping a kitten back out onto the streets without its mother— Huck was staying.
I have been through it all with this guy, from torn ligaments to swallowing toys to potty training (no, it didn’t work). I never thought he would be able to tolerate another cat based on his reactions to cats outside at my parents' house. But, to my surprise, when my landlord caught a litter of kittens in our yard this past November, Huck fell in love with another kitten.
My cousin wanted to take one that wasn’t really playing with the rest of them— it was skittish, to say the least. She even looked terrified of her own siblings. They asked me to take this little lady up to my apartment to help socialize her so she could get spayed and grow up to be a friendly cat. Well let me tell you, things got interesting in my house.
There was a constant hissing coming out of Huck’s mouth along with some throaty growls. Huck has never been able to meow properly— it’s more of a scratchy whine or nothing at all, just an open mouth— so I was kind of proud he finally found something he was good at. Unfortunately, he was miserable with this little fluffy ball of energy running around on his turf.
My cousin made a great reference that I will forever use to describe the two of them: Huck is the grumpy, old man from the movie Up, and the kitten, Shadow, is the like the little Boy Scout constantly bothering him. This little girl really came out of her shell at the weirdest of times. Terrified of her siblings, which were about the same size, she had no problem pouncing on a 16-pound adult cat… totally weird.
After about a week or two, it was time for Shadow to be spayed and to give her away. My landlord brought her back from the vet and said she was too small (she was only a pound and a half) and needed another few weeks before they could bring her back to try the surgery again. I mentioned this to my cousin and she asked me to hold onto her until she was big enough. The only problem was that we were starting to get attached. My husband named her, which was part of the problem. Not only that, but Huck actually liked her at this point.
Huck has never had a friend other than me. He hates everyone. But he actually loved chasing Shadow around. It was like she brought some youth out of him. I asked my husband if we could take one of the other kittens from the litter since we now know Huck can tolerate them, but he said, “I’m not letting a stranger kitten into this house. I RAISED Shadow.” So, we decided to keep her, and my cousin took a different kitten from the litter which ended up being a much better fit anyway.
You might be wondering where I’m going with this. This was supposed to be a cooking blog, right? Well, this week I decided to bake some fresh treats for these little monsters. They’re part of the family, too, and they deserve some delicious home-cooked food.
Why not just buy treats for $2, you ask? When I finish this story you’ll understand why.
My husband is a dog person. He’s actually allergic to cats. Fun fact: If you spend enough time with the same cat, you may eventually "grow out" of the allergy. These cats now sleep on his pillow all the time and he’s totally fine.
When we agreed to keep Shadow, he said he was going to train her to be the dog he was hoping for. He’s been watching cat training videos to try to get her to give her paw, play fetch, and more. Meanwhile, Shadow doesn’t even respond to her name and she’s pretty much wild and does whatever she wants, which includes dumpster diving.
Shadow is really big on getting into the bathroom trash, though— just like a dog. The difference is that she carries things like used Q-tips into our bed to leave for us. We know she has the ability to be great at fetch since we see her carrying stuff all around the house in her mouth (her favorite is our drain protector, the Tub Shroom which she also hides in our bed). And ironically, for the record, my husband could have had a cat that plays fetch if he agreed to take the kitten that my cousin now has! Her kitten plays fetch all day every day while all Shadow does is bring us garbage and Tub Shrooms.
One of the things my husband learned from all of his videos and research is that you have to find a treat your cat really loves to make the training work. Cats can be really picky, although Huck will eat anything. He comes running when he hears the crinkle of a cold cut bag or any sort of can getting opened.
Shadow, on the other hand, won’t eat any treats from your hand and is often very skeptical of things you leave on the floor for her to eat. So, how do you train a cat that isn’t interested in treats? You may have to get creative and make your own.
I thought about what foods the two of them do love. They love catnip and get really excited about canned tuna. My goal was simply to find a way to combine the two into a treat that we can use so this little lady would finally eat a treat from our hand. It’s important to know, though, that too much canned tuna can be harmful to cats, so just be careful not to overdo it and talk to your vet if you have any questions or concerns.
I read several blogs that have recipes for cat treats. My favorite was one that described the cake they made as looking and smelling like spoiled meatloaf, which their cats loved. After reading all of those blogs, I’ve finally come up with my own concoction to feed these fluffy family members. I also plan to test these treats on my landlord’s two cats to see if outdoor cats that are used to hunting live critters might have any interest.
Shadow and Huck’s Homemade Cat Treats (makes about 60 treats)
1 can of tuna (NOT drained)
1.5 tsp whole wheat flour (regular flour is totally fine, too)
about 1 tsp catnip
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Puree all of the ingredients together in a blender (I also let my cats lick the tuna can clean after scooping out what I could!).
3. Either spray a baking sheet with oil or use a nonstick pan. You can either use a piping bag (or a plastic bag with a hole cut in the corner like I did) to make very neatly shaped treats on your baking pan or just use 1/4 tsp measuring spoon to scoop small amounts of mixture onto the pan.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
5. Let cool and serve.
Let me just say that if you thought your house stunk after making yourself a tuna sandwich, be prepared for a whole new level of stink. The heat from the oven definitely makes that tuna stink spread even further through the house. While my treats didn’t look that pretty, I could tell the cats were definitely interested when they came out of the oven. Huck sat next to the stove while they cooled and cried his scratchy little whine waiting for me to feed him. Shadow started doing laps around the house and used me as a trampoline while she waited.
The result? Shadow ate not one, but TWO treats OUT OF MY HAND!!! At first, Huck was climbing all over me trying to rip the treats from my hand. He gladly accepted one and only then did Shadow decide to join the party.
Shadow came flying over to see what Huck had that was so delicious and tried stealing it from him. There were a couple of slaps from Huck in Shadow’s direction to put her in her place and force her to find her own. Eventually, she came over and sniffed my hand, left, came back, licked it, left, came back, and actually ate the treat. The second treat didn’t need all of the back and forth nonsense— she just grabbed it and gobbled it up.
As I took the rest of the treats off the pan, some bits didn’t come off as easily as others so I threw the scraps onto the floor for them to pick at. Once again, there were a ton of slaps and hisses and growls, fighting over my homemade treats! This is what being a proud pet parent feels like!
Not only am I a proud pet parent today, but I am also a proud chef. I made something that my fur babies are fighting over. That’s an incredible feeling! If you do try these treats for your cats, I recommend investing in a good air freshener and definitely washing your tuna-covered materials before doing anything else. The rest of your family will thank you.
Let us know if you try making these for your pet, and what their response is by posting in the comments below!
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