From time to time, we like to spoil our pets by giving them pressies – whether it’s someone’s birthday, the pet’s birthday or just something to keep them occupied when you’re not home.
With Christmas just around the corner, some owners might be wondering how to spoil their pets responsibly.Here are my top 6 great gift ideas for dogs and cats.
Toys, toys, toys
First on the list (you guessed it!): toys. The right toys can create awe, alleviate boredom, stimulate intelligence and even clean teeth. Pet toys can also strengthen bonding between pets and their owners. I always say that if you don’t want your pet to eat your shoes, socks and pillows, give them their own toys.
The obvious toys for dogs are balls, frisbees, rubber and squeaky toys. Some pet owners are creative enough to make their own. I sometimes also recommend using old plastic bottles for dogs to play with – if they are the correct size and not too chewed up.
Cats like to play with shiny things and small moving toys are almost always a winner. Some cat toys are scented or stuffed with catnip. Your cat might also like toys that make noises or sounds (squeaks and bells). What is important when it comes to choosing pet toys, especially for dogs, is that quality and size matters. Too-big toys are obviously not fun, but too-small toys can be swallowed and cause serious health problems. Poor quality toys will also break into smaller pieces more easily.
I also don’t recommend rope toys (those used for playing tug-of-war) as it loosens teeth, and pieces of rope gets stuck between the teeth, aiding the process of periodontitis. Wool or yarn toys for cats can also be swallowed easily, causing life-threatening problems.
Naturally, cats love to scratch. It helps remove dead pieces of nails, marks their territory and makes them feel good in some way. If you don’t want your cat to scratch and even destroy your furniture or that fragile tree outside, give them their own scratch posts.
Scratch posts can be in the form of a simple pole structure to very fancy structures with platforms, toys and even boxes. Some owners make their own (for example, a tyre with rope glued onto it), but commercial scratch posts are available from almost any pet shop, vet shop or large general retailer.
By placing a scratch post next to the usual scratching area and/or by sprinkling some catnip on it, cats may be more inclined to use it instead.
Beds, blankets and pillows
When last did you replace your pets’ blankets? Do they even have a blanket? I know some dogs are officially proclaimed the destroyers of blankets and pillows, but for those that are not, get one.
Dogs tend not to sleep under their own blankets, but they like sleeping on top of something soft. They like shuffling it into positions of their choice and it gives them the sense that ‘this is mine’ – their little space.
Dog blankets and pillows are easy to get hold of. Use an old one from home, knit your own or get cheap commercial ones from almost anywhere. They come in different shapes and sizes, but good characteristics to look out for are ease of cleaning, durability and comfort.
Blankets and pillows should be washed and disinfected regularly and left to dry out in the sun from time to time.
Dogs love to chew. Cats? Not so much. Chewing is natural, and some dogs will even do it for hours. Chewing the right stuff is good for your pet’s teeth, relieves anxiety, makes them feel good and alleviates boredom.
Proper dog chews include commercial pet rawhide chews, digestible vegetable oil based chews (i.e. Whimzees and Denta-Delis) and quality rubber toys.
When choosing chews for your dog, digestibility and ability to swallow should be taken into consideration. Don’t go for too small and be vigilant when it comes to broken-off pieces. High quality rubber toys should last longer than low quality toys. More and more commercial dog chews now advertise highly digestible ingredients for their chews.
Without going too much into detail, catnip is a herb native to the middle countries of the world map as we know it. Most cats will love catnip, and it is believed that cats can be drawn to it and that it calms them down. Although some cats will go crazy for it, it is not considered addictive.
Catnip can be given on its own, or is nowadays used to stuff cat toys or scent them. Various catnip cat treats are now also doing the rounds.
Dried catnip is commercially available from most pet related retailers, but you can also buy the plant itself or the seeds for planting it yourself. No matter what the form, if your cat is into it, only a small amount per day will be enough.
We all love to ‘treat’ our dogs and cats with snacks. With dogs, although the type of snack is less important than the gesture of giving the snack, giving snacks strengthens the pet-owner bond and is very effective in dog training. With cats, on the other hand, it’s pretty much all about the snack itself.
Many commercial dog and cat treats are available these days. Dog treats can be in the form of chews, bites, biscuits or tinned food, and chances are that your dog will love them. Cats tend to be picky and will mostly go for strong, naturally flavoured and scented treats.
We are all conscious of our weight and health these days, and pet owners should be too. Healthier options now includes low-fat treats with safe, natural ingredients. When your pet is on a special diet from a veterinarian, chances are that that diet is also available in tinned or soft form. Most tinned food can also be cut into slices and baked in the oven to give as biscuits.
Refrain from giving your dog or cat your own food and snacks. Of course they will love it, but eating food meant for humans leads to weight gain, rotten teeth, potential poisoning and refusal to eat their regular dog or cat food.
Where to buy
Pet products are available almost everywhere. Good places to shop are pet shops, vet shops and most good veterinary practices. Online shopping is also becoming more and more popular in South Africa.
ePETstore.co.za is one of South Africa’s leading online premium pet food and products shop. They deliver to everywhere in South Africa and have great sign-up deals.
Some quick mentions
Ever thought about giving your pet medicine as a gift? Being free of ticks and fleas would make me very happy if I were a dog or cat. There are many natural and safe medicines available over the counter from your local veterinarian and vet shops.
If I were an old dog or cat that suffered from aching and stiff joints, I would also love a can of chondroprotectants such as GCS or Mobi Flex.
A simple dog or cat tag (for those that tolerate collars) with the owner’s telephone number can look cool and be life-saving at the same time.
If your cat doesn’t like travelling (and what cat does?), get him or her a proper travelling basket. It will keep both the owner and the pet safe and make your cat feel a little bit more secure.
Our pets are very often considered our best friends and our protectors – so why not splash out on them a bit? Great gifts for your dog or cat don’t have to cost you an arm or a leg and can go a long way in making your pet love you even more.