13 expert toy suggestions for your pet’s holiday fun
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Often, pets are the easiest to buy for during the holiday season -- but it never hurts to have some ideas on hand as you search for that perfect present for your best furry or feathered friend. We asked some experts what they and their pets like and what they’d love to receive. With their help, here’s a gift guide with something for even the most demanding pets.
Pet Connection team member and Fear Free lead trainer Mikkel Becker thinks her dogs Otis, Indiana Bones and Nova might like to try out the YoggiePot (a.co/d/fY0p6cY), the latest entry in the LickiMat family of products. The long-lasting distractor puzzle can be filled with all types of foods, including canned, homemade or kibble mixed with plain yogurt, as well as cheese, sardines, berries and more.
Becker says her dogs would also enjoy playing with a Chuckit! Kick Fetch Ball (a.co/d/32Vq2JY) to chase, chew and retrieve.
Beagles Rooney and Frankie, who belong to Minnesota dog trainer Denise Nord, have an abundance of toys, and one of their favorites is the ZippyPaws Woodland Friends Burrow (tinyurl.com/mcdn8366), an interactive squeaky hide-and-seek plush toy. But when the sound of squeaking becomes too much to bear, or for other dogs who don’t like squeaky sounds, Nord recommends squeakless toys from fluffandtuff.com. The company’s red squirrel toy is perfect for dogs who like to tug, shake and fetch. She also likes the colorful and crinkly Snugarooz Llama Mia (tinyurl.com/2d5ryz2z), perfect for medium-size dogs, and the treat-dispensing West Paw Zogoflex (tinyurl.com/5ck6e624), a tough puzzle toy that bounces, stretches and floats.
The best cat toys are as individual as each cat and kitten, says Sally Bahner, author of “The Art of Raising a Kitten” (itself a great gift for families with a new kitten in the home). It’s important to watch cats and see how they like to play. But almost all of them are intrigued by fishing pole toys (tinyurl.com/32ur2f5u) or giant feathers for chasing and leaping fun. Her Russian blue cat Zilya loves a feather on a long wand, while Tekla had a furry “tail” that she carried around everywhere. Bahner suggests tossing sparkle balls or plastic balls with bells inside to see if your cat likes to play fetch. Spring toys such as colorful spiral coils (tinyurl.com/dn7e2vhc) are always popular, as are little furry mice, she says.
Zazie Todd, author of “Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy,” knows that scent is important to cats, but not all cats respond to the scent of catnip. Enter the Space Kitty Express sampler pack of toys (spacekittyexpress.com/collections/sample-packs), which offers not only catnip-filled toys, but also some containing catnip alternatives such as silvervine, Tatarian honeysuckle, and a blend of valerian root and lemongrass, all of which can produce effects similar to those of catnip. “Most likely, there will be one the cat likes,” she says.
Other toys cats often like are long tunnels with holes that cats can pop out of and food puzzle toys. “I love all of the Trixie food puzzle toys, but the Mad Scientist (tinyurl.com/bdj4ejmc) continues to engage my cats years after I first got it,” Todd says.
Don’t forget senior cats or cats with disabilities. Todd’s cat Harley has lost his eyesight, but he still likes toys. “I have an extra appreciation for those banana catnip toys (tinyurl.com/4aj8haf8) because the peel makes a crinkly sound, and he really likes that,” she says.
Birds are the best at tearing packages open, making new toys for them a double win. We like SunGrow’s Foraging Blocks (tinyurl.com/mt5drucy) for medium-size and large birds and Super Bird Creations Flying Trapeze (tinyurl.com/2p97ctms) for smaller birds.
What’s with pre-sleep
Q: Before she settles down to go to sleep, my dog digs at the bedding, then circles several times. Why do dogs do that?
A: This is a ritual that many, if not all, dogs perform. We can’t ask them, of course, but it appears to be an inherited behavior, one passed down from dogs of yore before they became accustomed to a life of ease sleeping on our beds -- or at least in our homes.
The instinctive action is seen in many canids -- including our dogs’ close relatives and ancestors the wolves -- and is likely a means of getting the bed just right before going to sleep, sort of the same way we fluff up our pillows. If they were in the wild, the behavior would be a way to make up a cozy bed by removing items that could cause discomfort, such as sticks, prickly leaves or insects.
Turning around a few times also has the benefit of allowing dogs to make sure all is well, and all family members accounted for, before drifting off into dreamland. Think of it as a canine safety check.
And have you ever noticed that they often lie with their head toward the end of the bed, rear end facing you? It’s not necessarily an insult. Some people have theorized that dogs face away from us so they can be in position to see any intruders entering the family sleep spot.
Digging behavior may be related to the scent glands located in dogs’ paws. They may be dispersing their own scents to help themselves feel more comfortable and relaxed. It may also be weather-related. If it’s hot, digging can expose cool earth where the dog can lie.
Dogs who seem to have difficulty getting comfortable should be seen by a veterinarian. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Vet tech is
-- Tammy Wynn, MHA, LISW, RVT, CHPT, has been named 2023 Clinic Champion of the Year by the publication Today’s Veterinary Nurse and design company Midmark for her work supporting pets and people during end-of-life care. Wynn is the founder of Angel’s Paws in Cincinnati, Ohio, which not only provides medical support for animals in hospice, but also emotional support for their people. The loss of her cat, Cagney, was the transformative experience that inspired the organization. Wynn drew on her training as a licensed independent social worker and therapist and went back to school to become a registered veterinary technician. That combination of knowledge and experience helps her to advocate for people and pets facing the end of the animal’s life, as well as for optimal employment of veterinary nurses/technicians in this essential support of the human-animal bond.
-- Besides Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa, December is also the time to celebrate National Cat Lover’s Month, the International Day of Veterinary Medicine (Dec. 9), National Day of the Horse (Dec. 13) and Cat Herders Day (Dec. 15).
-- On a last-minute gift hunt for the pet lovers in your life? Some old, some new, here are some favorite books we’ve read or reviewed this year: “The Hidden Language of Cats” by Sarah Brown, covering feline ancestry, evolution, communication and more (uexpress.com/pets/pet-connection/2023/10/23); “A Furry Little Christmas” by Laurien Berenson, two holiday-themed pet mysteries in one, making it a perfect addition to a dog-loving mystery reader’s library; “The Cat’s Meow: How Cats Evolved From the Savanna to Your Sofa” by Jonathan Losos, an endearing and entertaining look at the latest science on cats (uexpress.com/pets/pet-connection/2023/07/31); “Extraordinary Old Dogs” by Laura Greaves, inspiring stories of 15 special senior dogs; and “The 12 Days of Christmas Cats” by Don Daily, beautifully illustrated with cats of all kinds. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Bluesky at kimthornton.bsky.social. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.