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Casper Critters

Pet Toy Tips for the Holiday Season

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12/01/2012 - By Gayle M. Irwin

Americans love their pets! According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), people in the United States spent nearly $51 million last year on their pets. The association predicts the amount will be close to $53 million for 2012.

The biggest expenditure is food. Vet care is second and supplies as well as over-the-counter medicines weigh in third. Those supplies include toys and treats. Last year about 51% of pet owners surveyed said they planned to purchase Christmas gifts for their four-footed friends, with an average outlay of $45 each. There are more than 70 million households with pets – that translates to a lot of coin shucked out for pet Christmas gifts!

If you are one of the millions who plan to give Christmas presents to your animal friend, below are a few toy ideas:

For Dogs:

KONG® toys – These great toys come in a variety of styles, from durable rubber that can be filled with biscuits to plush and squeaky toys.

Other rubber balls and rubber rings – Great for tossing and playing fetch with your dog. However, make sure the toy is not too small for your dog's mouth and that it won't come apart easily.

Rope toys – Allows you and your dog to play tug-of-war (or your dog and its other four-footed friend to do so). You can also play fetch with rope toys.

Plush and Squeaky toys – These can also be used for tug-of-war or fetch. However, there can be choking hazards with these toys including the stuffing, so monitor your pet's playtime with such toys.

Tunnels and Weave Poles – Just like you see on TV or in the arena, these gadgets entice quick thinking and fast running for those competing in or simply enjoying the art of agility.

For Cats:

Play mice – Cats LOVE these toys, especially those dipped in catnip. (Some dogs like them, too, so watch for that!)

Laser pointer – Cats enjoy chasing the little red dot around (just make sure you don't shine it in their eyes). Think cougar in the wild, stalking, chasing, pouncing.

Small balls – Cats enjoy batting and chasing things, and there are rubber and other types of balls created just for them. However, since these toys are small, you'll need to keep close watch to make sure dogs and children don't pick up these toys and put them in their mouths.

Feather-and-pole toys– They provide immense enjoyment for both cat and owner plus give your feline great exercise with the jumping, batting, and catching that goes on.

Other interactive toys – Include tunnels, cubes and circles through which cats chase or bat at items that may have feathers on or catnip in them.

KONG® – This brand is not just for dogs! A wide variety of cat toys, including plush with catnip inside, are available.

Treats are another gift idea for your four-footed friends. You can buy pre-packaged, specialty, or even make your own treats if you have the time and desire. For dog treat ideas, visit http://www.cesarsway.com/dogcare/nutrition/Recipe-Ideas-for-Quick-and-Healthy-Homemade-Dog-Treats. Cat toys can also be made at home. For ideas, visit http://canidaepetfood.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-to-make-your-own-cat-toys.html.

Birds, reptiles and small mammals, such as gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs, also can receive special treats and toys. Check your local feed and pet stores or look online at PetCo.com, PetSmart.com or DrsFosterSmith.com for ideas.

Before purchasing a toy or treat for your pet, remember safety first! Just as you want kids to be safe when they play, safety should be the number one factor when choosing a pet's toy or treat. For example, don't get a toy that can be broken into pieces and potentially choked on or stuck in your pet's throat – toys should be durable as well as fun.

So, when you're out doing your holiday shopping these next few weeks, remember the love and devotion our pets give us, and reward your furry friend with a wonderful toy or treat in their Christmas stocking!

Happy – and Safe – Holidays!


Gayle M. Irwin is a writer who also volunteers with companion animal organizations. She is the author of several books about her dogs, including Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog. Additionally, two short stories appear in new editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her books make great gifts for pet-loving adults and children! Learn more by visiting www.gaylemirwin.com.

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