Holiday gifts: Getting the pet in your life something special

Will you be purchasing a holiday gift for your pet this year? How about offering your pet a special food treat as part of your holiday celebration?

If you do, you’re part of a growing number of people who include their pets in human fun this December.

In a survey conducted last year, Petco found that nearly 85 percent of pet owners planned to give their animals some sort of special treat or gift for Christmas. The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association estimates that Americans will have spent $34 billion – which includes gifts throughout the year – on their pets in 2004. Pets are big business, and there’s no time like the holidays to emphasize how you should spend money on your pets.

There are literally thousands of products that you might choose as gifts for your pet. But in my unscientific questioning of a few friends with pets, pet owners rarely make a decision on a pet gift based on something they read. It’s more about what catches your eye at the pet supply store.

To make sure you’re buying a safe toy or treat, shop at a physical store location where you can examine the item. Just as you would select a toy for a toddler, make sure there are no small parts that can be chewed off and serve as a choking hazard and that you buy a toy recommended for your pet’s size and species. If you can’t settle on something safe, I recommend a stop by Animal Crackers Pet Supply in Corvallis or another local retailer where staff can guide you toward something safe and appealing to pets.

Beyond toys, here are some less expensive gift ideas for the pets in your life:

  • A new food bowl. Anything you serve food in should be heavy, made of stainless steel or ceramic, and dishwasher safe. Avoid plastic bowls because they are likely to get scratched and then hold more bacteria. Some people also have concerns about chemicals from the plastics getting into the food. Wash the bowl regularly.
  • A soft bed or blanket. Visit the fabric store and choose a pet-themed or other attractive fleece. Cut it with pinking shears and you won’t even have to hem it. Make a couple and you’ll always have a clean one while the other is in the wash. Pets enjoy napping on the blankets, using them as toys and moving them around the floor, or cuddling with them. Watch to make sure your pet doesn’t decide to chew or shred its new bedding.
  • Cardboard kitty condos. Cats and rabbits love these inexpensive cardboard multi-level houses and will sleep in them, climb on them, and chew them up. You can make your own with some sturdy cardboard boxes, or buy one already made with doors and windows. I liked the Cottontail Cottage for both cats and rabbits: www.catsandrabbitsandmore.com starting at $16.99.

Looking to get some real cat furniture? Check out Heartland Humane Society’s carpeted cat posts and platforms. They’re reasonably priced and support a good cause. Call 541-757-9000 or stop by the humane society in Corvallis.

  • An attractive new collar with updated ID tag. This is one your pet might really thank you for, although a pet unused to a collar or especially to a collar with tag attached might need some time to adjust. But it’s very important to have your pet carry identification in case it does get out of your home or yard. And ID with an old phone number isn’t going to do anyone any good. While you’re at it, make sure if you have a microchip that the contact information is updated there, too.
  • A good chew toy or scratching post. Give your pets something positive to destroy – it’s fun and entertaining. Rubber chews and cardboard scratchers are available for less than $10. I don’t suggest rawhide chews, as there are some reports of dogs chewing off sharp bits that get stuck in their throats or do damage to their stomachs.
  • Make your own treats. Recipes for safe dog, cat, and rabbit treats can be found in pet nutrition books and online. A great list of dog treats can be found at home.gwi.net/~seadog/treats.html (there are literally dozens more sites that provide recipes, but I liked that these recipes are available to reproduce and sell to profit dog rescue groups).
  • Catnip. Catnip can be grown indoors or out to provide regular fun for cats – but be careful where you put it. If it’s indoors, your cat will want to play with the plant, and if it’s outdoors you could attract cats from around the neighborhood. Not willing to wait for catnip to grow? There is plenty of packaged catnip to choose from. Look for dried catnip with more leaves and fewer stems for the best quality and skip the catnip sprays or processed versions.

A creative mind and knowledge of your pet can produce many more ideas – things that will be fun for your pet at the holidays and throughout the year.