Gift buying isn’t just for two-legged family members. Many parents of furry “children” are in the final holiday rush to find presents for their four-legged family, too.
A good gift for a dog or cat requires a slight shift of perspective, said Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, Oklahoma State University Extension veterinarian and director of continuing education for the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Many pet owners consider their animals to be family members, so finding the perfect gift is important,” Biggs said. “For example, toys are important for a pet’s well-being because they help fight boredom when the pet must be left home alone. Toys also can help keep a pet from developing certain problem behaviors. Make sure safety is at the top of the list when shopping.”
Avoid objects with strings or ribbons and those with small parts that can easily be chewed off. Steer clear of toys that can cause choking or gastrointestinal obstructions.
“Choose gifts that promote activity and comfort. Toys that promote exercise always are a good pick,” she said. “Also, make sure the object is an appropriate size – toys that are too small can be swallowed and get lodged in a pet’s throat.”
Distraction toys fall in between categories – they can be filled with small edible treats to keep a dog or cat busy for quite some time.
Some toys are destroyed quickly, so Biggs suggested close monitoring for wear and tear. Products made from hard rubber are good choices. Dogs that like tug-of-war and chewing on different textures can benefit from rope and woven toys with knotted ends. Unfortunately, old favorites should be discarded before they become hazards.
Biggs said to be cautious with new edible gifts the pet isn’t familiar with. Changing up a pet’s diet can cause diarrhea or vomiting in some cases.
Once all the presents have been opened – human or otherwise – dispose of wrapping paper, ribbons and bows that might be chewed on. Like toddlers, animals can sometimes be more attracted to the packaging than the gift itself.
“We love our pets and want them to be part of the holiday celebration. Just as we buy gifts that are safe and fun for our human family, we want our pets to be safe and have fun, too,” she said.