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Gifts for Your Pets

Shopping for my family during the holidays is a cinch, but when it comes to my furry family members, gift-giving becomes one big guessing game. Will Nina and Gracie play with the blinged-out feather cat toys I painstakingly picked out for them, or will they just bat around the gift bows for hours like always? Will Tessie even care that my homemade dog treats are wrapped in holiday-themed cellophane and stuffed in her own monogrammed stocking?

Probably not.

It makes me happy to include my pets in the spirit of the season, but this year, I’m putting the focus back on what they need from me: comfort, safety, health, fun and love.

I’ve found a handful of gifts that fall into these categories – some store-bought, some homemade (including the dog treats I just mentioned) – and I’m looking forward to hearing your own ideas for how to pamper your pets this season.

Whip up some holiday "carob canes." For a sweet homemade treat, take your dog’s favorite biscuits or rawhides and dip them in melted carob – the safe alternative to chocolate, which is toxic to dogs. These are an instant hit with Tessie, and – bonus! – the rawhides help clean her teeth. I also like to bunch together several in festive holiday gift bags and give them to my pet-loving friends. If you want to go all out, start with homemade dog biscuits, like these Sweet Potato Apple Dog Treats.

Get crafty with catnip. Cats don’t spend a lot of time gnawing on treats like dogs do, but they do go crazy for catnip, so why not have some fun yourself by making their own catnip toys? Stuff a few spoonfuls of organic catnip from Whole Foods Market® into different colored baby socks, and tie up the ends with yarn or twine. Add a bell to the inside of the sock for an extra holiday jingle.

Treat them to some seafood. We all deserve a little splurge during the holidays, pets included. I’m planning on filling Tessie’s stocking with a bag of Wildcatch for Pets Wild Alaska Salmon Jerky that I got at my local Whole Foods Market store. Their Salmon Jerky, Salmon Bites and Salmon Sticks are all made with human-grade wild-caught salmon from MSC-certified fisheries in Alaska. Although she’ll certainly only care about the taste, I care that they’ll give her essential Omega-3 fatty acids and also that they’ll probably make her really, really happy.

Boost your basics. With the New Year approaching, it’s a great time to refresh your pets’ essentials. The cats could use a new scratching tree that gives them a better view of the birds outside; Tessie needs a reflective collar for our nighttime walks, especially on these shorter winter days; and everyone could use new food and water bowls. I think I’ll even spring for an automatic water fountain that continually gives off fresh, filtered water so they stay hydrated. Whatever you replace, consider donating anything that’s still useable and clean to your local humane society, and recycle the rest (if it can be).

Dress’em up with hand-me-downs. I’m guilty of enjoying the occasional winter accessory on a pet (see my friends’ pets with Santa hats), but playing dress-up can serve a purpose, too. The Humane Society of the United States recommends bundling up smaller and short-haired pups in sweaters for winter walks. But don’t worry – you don’t have to set aside an extra wardrobe budget to do it. Simply grab that cardigan you accidentally nuked in the drier and slip it on your dog backwards so it buttons up along her back. Kids’ old cardis work for this, too. And thick, wooly leg warmers can keep extra small dogs, long dogs and hairless cats cozy on chilly nights. (Don’t forget to cut two holes in them for your pet’s front legs.) If you live in a wet or snowy climate, however, you might want to invest in a waterproof sweater or coat to keep your pooch warm and dry.

Show your love for all animals. As fun as it is to pamper your pets with holiday-themed gifts, your dog probably won’t know the difference between the candy-cane-shaped rawhide you give him this month and the heart-shaped one you give him for Valentine’s Day. So, in addition to the presents you get for your own pets this year, consider giving a gift that could help other, less fortunate animals as well. Donate food and blankets to your local animal shelter, shop the Humane Society of the United States’ online gift shop (this DJ Cat Scratcher is at the top of my list!), or support an organization that’s rescuing and caring for the displaced pets of Hurricane Sandy, like the North Shore Animal League of America.

Do your pets make your holiday shopping list each year? If so, what are your go-to gifts?

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Keith says …

I tried to focus on what my dog really needs and enjoys...her favorite is the belly rub..so my xmas gift to her last year was a belly rub everday..this yr the belly rubs will continue but her new gift will be more visits to the dogpark or "doggytown"

Frances Pierce says …

Thank you for some wonderfully creative ideas for gifts for pets! We have two cats and a small dog. This article gave me some ideas for warmer coats for our dog and possibilities to keep his legs warm (we were having some trouble- his legs are so small/thin). Thanks again! Frances

Melissa says …

Rawhides aren't a great choice. They can cause impactions. Instead, dip a USA-made bully stick in carob, or just give your dog a frozen, raw beef marrow bone. Raw meaty bones are the ultimate dog treat and they are cheap and easy to find at just about any supermarket.

Peggy O'Neill says …

My cats went crazy with catnip, placed in socks, the other day. It kept them busy for such a long time and they loved it! Good idea.

Nancy B. says …

I will try the Salmon jerky as a Christmas gift for our friends cat who loves fish but is very finicky! Just a note of caution, we learned after having to take our dog to the vet years ago, that rawhide is not a great product for our pets to have to digest! We haven't given rawhide to our dogs since. A favorite treat for our dogs is carrots! We buy big organic carrots at Whole Foods and give them to our dogs daily, they love them! More dog treat recipes would be nice!

Adrian says …

A friend of mine got a self-cleaning litter box and we're looking into getting one as well. We are looking into www.litter-robot.com to get one for ourselves.

Diane Zornow says …

I am looking for Castor & Pollux dog rawhide chews...specifically the rings or "donuts" shape. Read on an Amazon.com review that Whole Foods carries this made in USA brand. I can't find any mention on your website. Do you carry it and is it available at the Vineyard store in San Antonio? Thanks...