Christmas Gifts for Pets

reprinted from the Animal Behavior December Newsletter

Many of us will be thinking about presents to give to our companion animals for the holidays. What makes a good gift for a dog or a cat? Certainly anything that improves the quality of your animal's life would be wonderful gift for her and for you. Consider taking her to your veterinarian for that annual health exam that you have been putting off. She might not think it is very much fun, but the reward for her and you is a longer and healthier life.

Most cats and some dogs seem to like the stimulation provided by outside views. You can build your cat an outside cage where she can be outside on nice days but secure from getting lost or injured in the neighborhood. You can put in a doggie door to let your dog have frequent access to your backyard. An alternative is to build or buy an elevated perch where your cat can sit or lie and look out a window and/or watch the activities of the household. Cats seem to like to rest on elevated places. You may want to provide a place where your dog can look outside as well. Watch your dog's reaction to this. Some dogs bark excessively when given views of people or other dogs passing on the street. Placing a bird feeder outside a window can be attractive to your cat. A squirrel feeder may be attractive to your dog. There are also videos of birds and small animals especially made to entertain cats and some dogs may find them interesting as well. For some ideas about how to enrich the environment of your cat see our new narrated slide presentation "What cats want: creating a cat friendly environment."

Puzzle toys are often attractive to cats. Boxes or tracks with balls that can be moved around are fun for lots of cats. Fabric toys or rubber toys are often interesting to dogs. Puzzle balls or rubber toys with food treats inside can also be attractive to your dog or cat. Feathers on strings or even strings on the end of sticks can be very entertaining for cats, but don't let your cat have access to string and feathers unless you are there to supervise. Toys or scratching posts with catnip are fun for most cats. You can grow catnip for your cat or even grow "kitty greens" for your cat to eat. Think about adding an additional scratching post for your cat to give her another place to scratch. Consider getting or making a comfortable bed for your pet. For some ideas of interactive toys for your pet, look at the toys on our website.

Toys for cats and dogs don't have to be expensive. Many cats enjoy playing in empty boxes or paper bags. Some dogs like to play with empty plastic pop bottles, especially if they contain tasty tidbits that they can knock out. Whatever you buy or make for your pet, think about her safety. No sharp edges, nothing that can be swallowed (unless it is food) and nothing that can fall over. Be especially careful of strings, Christmas tree tinsel and ribbons that your pet may try to swallow. They can cause serious health problems.

Probably the best gift that we can give our pets is the gift of ourselves. Spending quality time with our pets, walking them, playing with them, petting them or just sitting with them will be rewarding for them and for us. Especially during the busy holiday season, spending a little extra time with our pets can reduce our stress and enrich all our lives.

Animal Behavior Associates Newsletter


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