Gifts for Pets and Their Owners
Posted November 12, 2007 6:06 p.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2007 1:52 a.m. EST
There's no need to feel embarrassed if you find yourself tucking chew toys into stockings this Christmas.
We asked some experts for help choosing among holiday gifts - and they provided comforting words along with their choices.
Cat expert Amy Shojai is a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and author of 22 books about pets (including the gift book, "Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul"). She says that many products "make the owner's cat care simpler, reduce behavior or health problems, and often delight kitty in the process."
In fact, even toys aren't frivolous purchases. They provide exercise, as well as mental stimulation - important since many pet behavior problems are the result of boredom.
Here are some choices that pets and their owners will appreciate:
Automatic toys can entertain your cat when you can't. The new Ba-Da-Beam cat toy ($15) is a battery powered laser light that cats chase. "With fat cats at an all time high, this potentially helps slim tubby tabbies," Shojai says.
Simpler automatic toys can also do the same job, such as remote control battery powered mice. And Shojai says not to forget that crumpled up wads of paper are a "cheap thrill" for cats - so that holiday gift wrap doesn't have to go to waste after it's ripped off the packages.
Other products can help solve behavior problems like scratching. Sticky Paws, a double-sided tape that comes in various sizes to stick to furniture ($14-$24), "offers an excellent training tool for teaching cats better claw manners." The product also comes in a version to keep the cat out of your houseplants.
A great place to start is chew treats and toys - something a dog, and therefore a dog owner, can never have enough of. Like cat toys, dog chew toys have multiple purposes, satisfying the dog's need to chew, and keeping him from expressing that need on your furniture or shoes.
Dogs can be opinionated about chew treats, but there's one that everyone should try. Generally called "bully sticks," you can buy one version online at http://www.sitstay.com ($4.20 small, 6.00 large). Victoria Schade, a dog trainer in Northern Virginia, enthusiastically calls these her "most-beloved dog and puppy item." These treats are very simple and natural _ just a dried part of the bull that's not suitable for mention in a family newspaper. They're long-lasting, and many dogs are crazy about them.
A classic chew toy that Shojai says any dog owner should have is the Kong. Hard rubber Kongs stand up to hard chewing, and come in different sizes, all under $15. They now come in different shapes as well as a special version for senior dogs.
Although Shojai says to remember that you should never buy someone a pet as a gift - "people should choose their own furry loves" - if you know a new puppy owner, she recommends the booklets in the Ultimate Puppy Toolkit from Premier ($10) as "absolutely the best choice as a gift for new puppy owners."
FOR SMALL ANIMALS
Watching fish is supposed to lower your blood pressure - unless, of course, your tank needs cleaning again. To make this job easier, Greg Lipps of Delhi Pet Center in Cincinnati, Ohio recommends the new Tetra Aquarium Cleaning System ($15.99). It's a scraper to which you attach a disposable wipe that retards algae growth. "My daughter calls it the Swiffer for an aquarium," he says.
Another new Tetra product, this time for reptile cages, is sets of Interlocking Stones ($12 and up). You can feel like a kid again playing with blocks, while building exhibit furniture like a cozy cave for your reptile to hide in. There's also a matching interlocking feeding dish.
A gift that a reptile owner ought to have - but probably doesn't - is a temperature gun ($15 and up). This tool allows you to know instantly exactly what temperature it is in different parts of the cage, a crucial consideration for cold-blooded animals. Lipps says that you probably won't find these in a pet store, but that they're used by automotive hobbyists, so car stores may carry them, or try http://tempgun.com/.
Of course, everyone likes edible gifts. Lipps recommends Kaytee Timothy Tots, timothy hay with a yogurt coating, for small mammals like hamsters. Birds get Kaytee Yo-Dips, which come in mango-papaya, blueberry-sunflower, and jalapeno-peanut flavors. The 8 in 1 brand Birdie Burrito has a chewy outside and seedy inside.
For both cat and dog owners, you can give the gift of less hair on the furniture by buying them a grooming tool the really works. Shojai calls The Furminator "absolutely the best grooming tool I've found" (from $25 for the cat size).
Finally, the new Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health ($22.95) covers medical information on everything from fish to horses, each chapter written by experts in a particular area. Although the level of detail varies considerably (dogs get more than 300 pages, frogs only about 10), this may be the perfect gift for your friends who have more than one animal.