The holiday season of giving is upon us, and I know that I want my pets to share in the experience. There are lots of choices when it comes to gifts for pets. Toys, bones and catnip are usually quick wins (and great choices), but how about using this time of year to give your pet, and dogs and cats everywhere, something more! Here’s what’s on my holiday list:
Store bought dog and cat toys
How could this not be first on the list? Today’s pet supply stores are overflowing with toys. Some are chewy, some are squeaky, some are puzzles. The pet toy market is exploding. It’s great news, as competition continues to push innovation, but how do you choose?
Mega pet-stores generally have quality toys from a perspective of durability and safety. The key, as with children’s toys, is making sure the toy is appropriate:
- Make sure that toys are large enough, and have no removable pieces that might be swallowed. Hard rubber and nylon toys are very durable. My personal rule of thumb is to buy toys that appear too large
- Dogs, in particular, form a real bond to toys. To help toys last, the toy should be made of very durable material. If a toy becomes frayed or chewed up, it needs to be discarded
- Avoid toys with lots of limbs. I am personally not a fan of stuffed animals that can be chewed up and swallowed, potentially leading to an intestinal blockage
- Chews made from animal byproducts such as pig ears and cow hoofs are great chew exercise, but sometimes large pieces can break off and be swallowed, becoming stuck in the mouth or esophagus. These kinds of products should only be used with supervision
- My personal favorite toy — for both dogs and cats — is a soft, rolling ball of appropriate size and weight. As a rule, that means a ball that can comfortably fit in the dog’s mouth, and your cat can easily push around
- Toys that provide enrichment are the best choice. Some use food and scents to stimulate interest, and these can keep pets busy retrieving a goody from inside
Homemade dog and cat toys
Toys don’t need to be fancy or expensive. An empty, paper bag or a box can provide a cat with hours of entertainment. Cotton rope that is braided or twisted is a simple, durable toy for dogs. There are no limits to your own creativity. What’s important is that you don’t let your dog or cat play with anything that may be dangerous. Using materials that are too hard can crack or chip teeth. Using anything too soft may allow your pet to rip off pieces and swallow them. Talk with your veterinarian about safe materials. Also, avoid giving pets your personal items, such as shoes or clothing. Dogs and cats may be attracted to your scent, and can’t usually tell your favorite new shoes from their favorite old shoes.
Gift of playtime
A toy is only as good as playtime. Make a commitment to spend more time with your dog or cat. Here are some ideas:
- Take your dog for a walk to look at holiday lights
- Play with your cat for five minutes before work, every day
- Spend an afternoon combing or brushing your dog
- Sit and talk with your cat about your holiday plans
Much like all of us, our pets just want attention and love more than anything.
Gift of health
These gifts may not be as flashy as toys, but they could help your dog or cat live longer. What better gift could there be than extra time together? Consider using some of your holiday time off to protect your pet with gifts like these:
- Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to microchip your pet. This serves as a permanent identification, and can help a lost pet make it back home.
- Consider a “key finder” tag that uses your cell phone to locate your pet
- Schedule a complete dental cleaning. This is about more than just teeth. Good dental health can improve your pet’s overall health and improve morning breath of course
- Order safe and effective chew treats from your veterinarian. They make great stocking stuffers!
- Bring your pet in for a thorough wellness checkup, and test for flea and tick disease. (Remember, these parasites are still around during the winter months)
- Order your pet a year’s supply of flea, tick and heartworm control and prevention medication. You won’t miss a dose next year, and won’t have to panic at the end of the month.
Give gifts together
These are all great gifts for your pet, but what about giving a gift from your pet? Consider the dogs and cats with no home this holiday season. You can help them and the amazing shelter workers that care for them by making a donation to a shelter of your choice. You could also make a donation to a wildlife project like WWF.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.