Animal Joy

By Diane Schlindwein

September 19, 2008 5 min read

ANIMAL JOY

What to get for the pet -- and the owner -- who has everything

Diane Schlindwein

Creators News Service

People aren't the only creatures who crave surprises during the holidays. Although they don't understand the significance of the season, pets like opening packages, too.

Favorite gifts this holiday season include giant rawhide candy cane bones, collars and leads, plush stuffed animal "pets," aquariums, betta fish bowls and even interactive toys that laugh, talk and sing.

If you know a pup or pussycat that wants to star in his or her own holiday photo session, consider having them don doggy duds or cat coats with rhinestones or light-up accessories. Simple Christmas t-shirts are great for more low-key pets.

Many pet stores offer special services for dogs and cats. PetSmart stores feature a PetsHotel, Doggie Day Camp, training sessions, grooming and Banfield veterinary services. For those picky pooches, gift certificates are available, PetSmart spokesperson Jennifer Simmons said.

No matter where you purchase it, keep the pet and their safety in mind when picking out or receiving a gift. Most pet products are labeled for the size and age of the dog or cat. Usually a Saint Bernard can't safely play with the same toy as a Chihuahua. Meanwhile, a young pup probably prefers a chew toy or two versus an elderly pet, who might appreciate a soft new bed.

Dog trainer and behaviorist Kathy Santo, author of the "Ask the Dog Shrink" column for House Beautiful magazine and the book "Kathy Santo's Dog Sense," recommended Puppy Hugger pet beds (www.puppyhugger.com). These beds are soft, machine-washable and come in a variety of shapes, colors and patterns. They can be purchased online or in boutiques all over the United States and in Canada, Europe, South America and Japan,

No matter what gift your favorite animal receives, be sure to remove any packaging or ribbons before you let your dog or cat play with it or sleep on it. Also check for any small parts that might fall off and be swallowed. Since cleanliness counts, remember that basted or flavored rawhide chews might leave stains on your pet's fur or your furniture. And finally, choose only healthy treats and be sure they are fed in moderation. If in doubt, a veterinarian will be able to help you find out which brands are best.

After you've purchased a gift for that favorite pet, why not get something for his or her owner? Dog and cat calendars are great gifts for folks who are looking forward to a year's worth of fun with a cuddly canine or fuzzy feline. For example, the website calendarcastle.com features dog breed calendars that capture the antics of all breeds, from the Afghan hound to the Yorkshire terrier.

Another website, calendars.com, offers both dog and cat calendars and features "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan's calendar, complete with monthly tips to make life easier for both you and your dog.

If you or someone you know would like to adopt a fluffy friend before or after Christmas, most PetSmart stores have a working relationship with local humane societies and sponsor pet adoptions. "We let the stores handle that locally with the shelters," Simmons said.

Just because you think a pet would be a perfect gift doesn't mean the person on the receiving end will agree. It's best to ask first. That way there is a better chance that the pet will be well cared for and loved this holiday season and many seasons to come.

Remember that bringing a pet home during the hectic week before Christmas -- or on Christmas day -- adds to the animal's usual adjustment problems. In fact, many reputable breeders, shelters and pet store owners will not allow puppies or kittens to go to a new home for Christmas.

If the entire household is looking forward to a new pet, snap a picture of the newest member of the family and wait a few days to bring him home. After all, what better way to extend the magic of the holiday season?

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