By Sari Reis
It’s that time of year again, when 56 percent of dog owners and 42 percent of cat owners purchase Christmas toys for their pets. Although not all dogs and cats are playful, the great majority of them look forward to a new stuffed toy with a squeaker inside, or a wand toy with a mouse hanging off the end.
Toys can be wonderful for pets for several reasons. They provide entertainment, exercise, challenges, motivation, escape from boredom, a sense of accomplishment, and just plain fun. As a pet parent, you love to see your cat or dog having a wonderful time batting around a new fuzzy catnip toy or trying to wrestle with a rope toy. Unfortunately, not all toys are harmless. As the adult human, it is your responsibility to make sure the toys they play with are safe and don’t pose any hazards.
For example, cats have tongues that actually have small barbs that face backwards (which helps a cat when grooming), but can actually act like Velcro when in contact with a string or ribbon practically forcing the cat to swallow it. A swallowed piece of string can get wound around internal organs and make your kitty very sick. The same thing can happen with wand toys that are attached by elastic and stretchy cords. A kitty can chew through these and end up swallowing them. That doesn’t mean your cat can’t play with these kinds of toys, just do it under supervision and put the toys away in a cat-proof cupboard when you are not around.
The same goes for toys with sharp points, small parts that can be chewed off and swallowed or choked on. Toys with feathers can also pose a hazard. Many feathers are dyed or chemically treated and are therefore potentially toxic if digested. Try to imagine the toys you buy or make for your kitty will be given to a toddler, and if it isn’t safe for a baby don’t give it to your cat.
The same considerations should be made when giving toys to your dog. Dog toys that should be avoided include: plastic toys dyed or chemically treated, toys with potentially toxic stuffing, toys with small parts that can be chewed off and swallowed.
Toys requiring supervision are rope-like toys, toys with squeakers, toys with batteries and those with stuffing. If toys become broken, torn, damaged and chewed up, they should be thrown away. Also, after weeks of chewing, toys become loaded with bacteria. Intact toys should be washed at least once a month.
When buying new toys, be sure to purchase toys that are appropriate for your dog’s size, age, and temperament. Treat release puzzle toys can be great for food motivated pups. Look for toys that are made in the U.S. out of 100 percent natural rubber, organic cotton, and other eco-friendly non-toxic materials. Dr. Karen Becker recommends “the sniff-test.” Toys should have no smell.
One of the greatest benefits of play for your pet is the bonding they derive from interacting with you. Toys that you can play with together will not only keep your pet safer, but will give you both a greater love and appreciation for one another.
—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 missionvalleypetsitting.com.