By Sari Reis
More than half of American pet owners will buy Christmas gifts for their pets this year and will spend an average of $46, according to a recent poll conducted by AP-Petside.com. Gifts will include treats, clothing, bedding, leashes and toys. If you’re one of the 50 percent buying gifts, here’s some helpful advice on toys to make Fluffy and Fido happy and to keep them safe.
If you’re on a budget, a large paper bag with the handles cut off makes a great toy for a cat as does a clean empty cardboard box or a scrunched up piece of foil wrap. Cats, unlike dogs, can successfully amuse themselves with toys that they can chase, bat around, crawl into or bite on. If you have a few dollars to spend, tunnels, scratching posts and catnip toys are fun and can keep kitties amused for quite a while. It’s important to remember, however, that although cats generally are more independent than dogs, interactive toys are important too. Experts suggest that two 15- minute play sessions with your kitty each day will not only provide him with fun and exercise but will also increase your bond. Good toys for interacting are laser toys and wand toys. Be careful to keep the laser light out of the kitty’s eyes; wand toys should usually be put away when you are finished playing as they can present some danger to cats if they are unsupervised. Another great gift for a cat is a cat tree. They come in various configurations and costs and are best set up near a window where the cat can snooze in the sunshine and observe the outdoors.
Unlike cats, most dogs generally need and want human interaction to make their toys fun and engaging. Always remember to keep the size and the durability of the dog’s toy appropriate for the breed, age and health of your dog. Puppies do best with small, soft toys and easy chews for teething. Larger dogs, especially if they are young and strong with a firm bite, need large, more durable toys that can withstand a lot of abuse. Good toys for active dogs include Frisbees, balls that can be used for fetch, tug-of-war rope toys, and toys that are made with a tough rubber. Most dogs love squeaky toys. If your dog is destructive and will try to remove the squeaker, it is best to monitor him when he plays with the toy. If he tries to remove the stuffing in his toys, purchase one without stuffing. If the sound of the squeaker drives you crazy, they do have ones that can be turned off so only the dog can hear it. Toys that you can hide treats in are always a winner with dogs and some are very challenging, providing learning as well as fun.
A couple more tips for both dog and cat toys: check the toys often for wear and tear and change them out about once a week. It will make them last longer and the pet thinks it’s a new toy each time you bring it out.
—Sari Reis is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information you can reach her at 760-644-0289 or www.missionvalleypetsitting.com.