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?
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?