With the Holidays fast approaching and shopping season in full swing, we asked our staff members and local certified pet behavior trainers from the Pet Behavior Aid, Dog-Ed, Dog Door Canine Services, Sit, Stay, Bark and Play, and MindfulMutz for their top recommendations for holiday gifts.
For our Feline Friends, there are many things to help enrich their environments.
Scratching is a normal part of a cat’s behavior. Scratching serves many functions: scent and visual marking, an outlet for stretching, and conditioning of the claws by removing the worn outer, frayed ones and exposing new sharper ones. Most cats prefer to scratch on a vertical surface that is tall enough to allow them to fully arch their backs and really get into it. Cat trees and condos are great, plus they also provide the cat with elevated perching spots.
Some scratchers are designed so that they can be mounted on the wall at different heights allowing your cat to fully stretch, while others sit on the floor. Scratchers come in variety of designs, from basic cardboard scratchers to elegantly designed scratchers offering different textures and materials to scratch on. Be sure that they are sturdy enough not to topple over. It is preferable to provide a scratching post that is a different material from the ones you don't want your cat to scratch (for example, don't use a carpeted post if you don't want your cat to scratch your carpets).
Scratchers made of cardboard can be a great outlet for scratching. You can sprinkle a little cat nip on them and watch the cats go to town! Pet Behavior Aid recommends the cardboard scratchers from CatPods.com. They cost a little more than the regular cardboard scratchers but they do not make as much of a mess as the cheaper ones and they are eco-friendly.
Water fountains and multiple water bowls
Water is one of the most important nutrients for us and our pets. Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water which can lead to health concerns. Fresh water should be available all the time. If you have multiple pets, offer more than one water dish in different locations, and provide water dishes that are separate from the food dishes. Cats often like lower-rimmed or wider bowls so their whiskers don’t touch the side of the bowl when they drink. Some cats prefer to drink running water, and will drink more if you provide them with a water fountain. Clean water and clean bowls are important; stainless steel and glass water dishes are not porous and are easier to keep clean.
You can’t go wrong with the gift of play. It is a fun way to bond with your cat. Most cats have a prey preference and will go crazy for certain toys. Cat toys are made to trigger the natural hunting instinct in your cat.
Here are some of our and Pet Behavior Aid’s favorite toys.
- Cat Charmer and Cat Dancer Toys - interactive toys that provide excellent aerobatic exercise
- Da bird - made in the USA, simulates the motion of a bird by a flick of your wrist
- Laser lights - Laser pointers are a great way to encourage exercise in cats.They also provide great entertainment for us. Be sure not to point the laser directly into the cat’s or other people’s eyes. Always end the game with the cat “winning” by giving a toy to play with afterward to avoid fixation and frustration over never being able to catch the light beam. There are some dogs that enjoy chasing the laser dot as well. FroliCat makes interactive automated toys and laser toys.
- i-click Clicker - quiet clicker for training cats. Cats can be taught to do tricks! Surprise your guests next time they come over and you have cat sit for a treat, jump through a hoop or come when called.
- Homemade toys or simple toys such as ping pong balls, boxes with holes cut out of them, paper towel rolls folded at the end filled with catnip or treats.
- Puzzle toys are a great way to have you cat work for their food. They allow them to use their brain to figure out mazes, toys that twist or turn, or roll around to dispense food. Puzzle toys that are labeled for dogs can be used for cats too!
- Catnip - some cats go crazy for this! It comes in grass, powder and pieces. A little can go a long way. While most cats become playful or mellow with catnip, some can display aggressive behavior when they're exposed to it. Monitor your cat for aggressive or excessively agitated behavior, and do not give catnip if this occurs.
Beds and Perches
Give a snuggly gift. Kitties love to hide and relax. Consider a special cat sleeping bag, cozy blanket or a cat bed for cats who love to cuddle. Put a bed in a less accessible area for humans so the cat can feel hidden and secure. Of course, some cats prefer a paper grocery bag, but they don't come in as many cute patterns! Perches and cat condos allow cats to be above their surroundings.
New Litter Pans
Bigger is better in this case. You want the litter pan to be big enough for cats to fully stretch out their front feet so they can make a complete movement to cover their feces. Having more litter boxes than the number of cats in the household is ideal. Preferably use uncovered litter boxes without plastic liners, and most importantly, clean them often.
Plant a small patch of cat grass. Typically wheat grass, cat grass is a wonderful plant that kitty can chew safely. Consider planting your plot in a large rectangular cake pan and offering a variety of plants such as cat grass and catmint (catnip) for kitty to enjoy.
Carrier Combo Travel Kit
Many cats do not travel well, but you can help make travel easier and less stressful. Make a carrier combo travel kit of a new carrier, cozy bedding for the inside of the carrier, and a light weight blanket to cover the top to help decrease the stress of traveling. The carrier should be firm plastic with a top that can be removed. With a removable top, there is no more pulling the cat out of the carrier, which is a very rude way to meet a new person. The carrier should have a handle on top so you can thread your seatbelt through it to keep the carrier from sliding all over the car seat. Soft bedding that fits in the bottom of the carrier helps prevent sliding of the cat during travel, and keeps them comfy and cozy during car trips. Put toys and/or catnip in the carrier with the cat. Put a very light weight blanket or towel over the top of the carrier to help your cat feel safe and hidden during travel. The carrier should be kept out of the higher traffic areas of the house, but where your cat has access to it during all times at home. This allows cat to become familiar with it, use it for sleeping or relaxing at home, and thus, feel safe during travel rather than associating it only with trips outside of the house.
Speaking of stress reduction, Feliway diffusers and spray help reduce cat stress by releasing a soothing synthetic calming pheromone (sort of like aromatherapy for your cat). Feliway diffusers can be placed in a regular electrical outlet, and are especially helpful in multiple cat households for reducing stress. Spray Feliway in your cat carrier and on the bedding inside the carrier about 30 minutes before travel to help reduce travel anxiety. Feliway is sold in pet stores and online.
Cat Friendly Fencing
Purrfect Fence - fencing kits that are easy to install to turn your backyard into a safe and secure area for your cat. The fencing can be attached to existing fences or it can stand alone.
Gifts for our Pooch Pals
Puzzle toys, Food Dispensing, and Interactive toys
This a great way to provide your dog with fun and healthy outlets that also fulfill their genetically programmed behaviors. Enrichment is important not only for your dog’s physical health but emotional and mental health as well. Some of our favorites along with Pet Behavior Aid, Dog-Ed.net, The Canine Dog Door, MindfulMutz and Sit, Stay, Bark and Play suggestions include:
- Kong products
- Twist’n’Treat TM and Kibble Nibble TM - allows you cat or dog to work for their food while playing a fun game.
- Interactive toys from Nina Ottosson - more fun food dispensing games for your pets.
- Interactive toys from the Jolly Pet Company - toys that are strong enough for zoo animals but perfect for any size pet.
- Puzzle toys from Kyjen which focus on problem solving, challenges and engage your dog’s mental needs by tapping into their natural instinct of foraging for food.
- Flirt Poles - a great way to exercise, bond with your dog and work on commands. See how the flirt pole works here. The Canine Door Services sells them at their store and can give instructional lessons. One of our favorites is made by Squishy Face Studio.
- Chase’N’Pull - made in the USA
- WestPaw Zogoflex toys, eco-friendly and made in the USA. Great for the “power chewers,” and if the dog destroys one, the company will replace it with a new one and recycle the old one!
- Chuck it - an array of fetch toys with soft coating to help protect you dog’s teeth. Balls with a fuzzy coating like on tennis balls can work like sandpaper and wear down the teeth.
- “Tug It” Tug toy for the dogs that are reluctant to play tug.
- Dog bowls that are made to help slow your dog down when eating.
- Tug toys, oversized stuffed animals, kevlar stuffed dog toys.
- Silly Squeakers Iballs Dog Toys - Great training/play tool. Easy to bring along on outings. Tough, stuffing-free. Supervised, interactive use is best.
- Our Pets Smarter Interactive IQ Treat Ball Toy is a great food dispensing toy that will keep your smart canine busy.
Chews and Treats
- Be very selective when buying chews and treats. Always look for treats that are made in the USA. The packaging can be misleading or tricky to read. Make sure it says produced/manufactured and distributed in the USA. Due to numerous product recalls, DO NOT give Jerky Treats this season.
- Look for soft but durable rubber chew toys such as many of the toys listed above. Hard chews, bones, hard nylon bones, antlers and hooves can crack your dog’s teeth and cause dental issues. When choosing rawhide, choose USA made.
- Calming treats with supplements in them to help with relaxation around the holidays. Composure Chews and Thunder treats are two brands that local trainers like.
- Homemade treats or treats from local bakeries can make a special gift. We have many local dog bakeries in the area, and gift certificates can be a great idea.
- BarkBox is a monthly gift box that contains 4-6 treats and toys customized for small to large dogs. The treats are selected with high standards and sourced from the USA, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Special boxes can be ordered for dogs with allergies. The toys are selected from around the world. Visit barkbox.com to read more about this product.
Outerwear, Safety Gear and Harnesses
- Thundershirts - are great for most dogs who have anxiety due to storms, visits to veterinary offices or guests. They are now offered in many different styles and designs. Useful for cats too!
- Freedom No Pull Harness - features a patented control loop on the back of the harness, which tightens gently around your dog's chest to discourage pulling and makes walking your dog an easy, more enjoyable experience for both of you.
- The Buddy System - This is a hands free leash, perfect for training and hands free hikes, runs and walks.
- Ruffwear Dog Life jacket - a perfect gift for the water lover on your list!
- Ruffwear Dog Track Jacket - This is a highly visible, reflective, lightweight jacket. Perfect for low light walks or hiking.
- Sleepy Pod Clickit Utility Harness - Give the gift of safe travel with the highest rated canine car safety harness.
- Car and Truck Ramp - A great gift for dogs needing assistance in and out of your vehicle. It helps save your back too!
- Treat Pouch - a great small gift, it helps you have treats nearby while training on the go!
Give the gift of a good night’s sleep. Not all cute beds are comfortable to dogs. Look for bedding that is supportive and comfortable. Many companies offer orthopedic beds for our arthritic canine companions.
Portable Dog Stairs can be a great addition for dogs who are used to being on beds or couches but are no longer able to jump up like they did in their younger days. Be sure the stairs are secure and do not slide around before introducing your dog to them.
Gifts for our Human Friends
- A gift of lessons from a local certified trainer. Visit http://www.ahna.net/recommended-certified-trainers for local trainers we recommend.
- Pet Behavior Aid offers Puppy Classes, Puppy Socials, Be Brave- Fearful Dog Training Classes, Individual Training and Behavior Consulting Sessions. They also provide Free Help Sessions around Asheville and at AHNA. Visit http://www.petbehavioraid.org for more information.
- Dog-ed provides private training, puppy classes, in-home puppy training packages, day training, basic manners, recall, tricks and games classes, private behavior consultations, TTouch and group classes and FREE Help Sessions. Classes are held at Asheville Humane Society and Animal Hospital of North Asheville. Visit http://www.dog-ed.net for more information.
- The Canine Dog Door Services offers Puppy Training, Pup Matchmaker Services, City Dog Training, Service and Therapy Dog Training, Behavior Consulting and Obedience and Manners Training. Also they have a retail store downtown which carries many of the dog products listed above. Visit http://dogdoorcanineservices.com for more information.
- Mindful Mutz offers private training, puppy foundations and problem prevention, basic to advanced manners, off leash freedom and natural recall, problem behavior solutions, rescue and shelter anxiety support, help with aggression and complex issues, along with enrichment outings. Visit http://www.Mindfulmutz.com for more information.
- Sit, Stay, Bark and Play offers private obedience training (with owners), day training (without owners present), and behavior consultations (specializing in shy and fearful dogs). Visit http://www.sitstaybarkandplay.com/ for more information.
- Membership to the Biltmore Estate or North Carolina Arboretum - this can be enjoyed by the whole family. Dogs on leash are welcome to hike the many trails they both provide.
- Mugs and other products with your favorite furry friend's picture - many online companies such as Shutterfly and Zazzle offer a variety of photo gifts. Perfect gifts or stocking stuffers.
- A donation in your pet’s name at a local shelter or rescue - no donation is too small. Donations can range from cash to items such as toys, laundry detergent, towels, and peanut butter.
- Asheville Humane Society offers Commemorative Bricks and Tiles.
- The PetCube is a small aluminum box (4x4x4 inches) that has a camera, microphone, speaker and low-intensity laser pointer inside. You (or other trusted friends and family), can use your smart phone to access the Petcube™ and interact with your pet when you are not at home. You can play with your pet with the laser pointer, and can take and post videos and photos to your social media pages.
- PetziConnect™ is a similar product to the Petcube™, but instead of having a laser pointer to play with your pet, you are able to pre-fill the PetziConnect™ with treats before leaving and then dispense one treat at a time through the day.
- The Whistle is a small sensor that goes on your dog's collar and allows you to monitor activity level (running, walking, resting/sleeping) using an app on your smart phone. Of course, it also integrates with social media so you can share your dog's activity with your friends.
- Tagg™ is a similar product, but it goes one step further and allows you to track your dog using GPS location. You can also set alerts to let you know if Fido has decided that he wanted to take himself for a walk around the neighborhood.
For more information about technology and your pets, visit: http://www.ahna.net/blog/pets-and-technology.
THE GIFT OF HEALTH IS THE BEST GIFT OF ALL!
- The gift of an Annual Physical Exam is one every pet appreciates! We have gift certificates for services and/or products. They can be used any time of the year. Just stop in or call with a credit card, and we will be happy to assist you.
- Dental Care - Giving your pet routine dental cleanings is a way of adding years to their life. Toothbrush kits and dental treats make great stocking stuffers!
- Heartworm and Parasite Prevention are great gifts that give back. They keep your pet protected from deadly heartworms, dangerous intestinal parasites, and uncomfortable fleas and ticks.
- Pill Pockets are a great gift for the cat or dog that has to take medication. There are different flavors- even for pets with allergies.
- A microchip is a great way to make sure pets are returned to you quickly if they get lost.
- Pet Health Insurance is a gift that keeps on giving!