As a kid, I remember every year about this time making my Christmas list and waiting so excitedly for Santa to come on Christmas Eve. Now as a parent, it is still just as exciting (if not more) to play Santa. Last year was Jack’s first Christmas, which we spent away from home in Texas, so the dogs and cats didn’t really get any Christmas love. This year, I am taking the opportunity to restock a lot of the toys. In general, here are the types of toys I like:
For the kitties:
- Interactive toys – These are the toys for you and your cat to play with together. Kit Kat’s favorite is a feather wand. She loves to chase it around and it spirals through the air like a flying bird. I have to keep it put up or she will steal the feathers and carry them off. To simulate hunting, when she catches it I trade her for a treat so that she releases the toy and gets to eat a snack.
- Puzzle toys – Overall cats are too sedentary, and this is a way to provide them an interactive way to eat their meals. PetSafe SlimCat ball was one of the first ones I got. The cats did great with it, but the dogs got a hold of it and broke it. We switched to toys that can be kept up off the floor like the Northmate Catch interactive feeder.
- Hiding/climbing spots – One of the best gifts for a cat is a simple card board box. So when you are getting all your orders in from Cyber Monday, keep the boxes and save them for your cat. Kit Kat loves to hide in boxes and Timmy loves to use them for scratching. I will usually keep a couple around from them. The other day I found Jack pushing around a box that seemed heavy for him even though I had sworn I had unpacked it. Turns out Kit Kat had decided to take a nap in it and was now being pushed around the hallway. They had quite the game of push the kitty in the box (she was allowed to leave at any point she wanted to). The other items I am always watching for deals on this time of year are cat trees. Amazon has some great ones that occasionally get discounted. Vertical space is very important for cats so it is good to have multiple areas where they can get up high.
For the puppies:
- Interactive toys – balls, squeaky toys that you can toss, and tug toys like ropes are all great for indoor games with your pup during winter.
- Puzzle toys – I love interactive feeders for keeping dogs busy. My favorite is still the IQ treat ball that my dogs first started with years ago. In generally it holds up well and the difficulty level is adjustable. Kongs are another classic, they can be stuffed with a wide variety of treats and frozen to make them more difficult. Premier has a wide variety of puzzle toys, Rusty particularly loves the Magic Mushroom.
- Chewing toys – My dogs still like to chew and generally they get Nylabones. In the past they have had everything from dental chews to deer antlers. When picking out chew toys, be aware that you want something that is durable for your dog so that they don’t eat it (unless it is made to be eaten), but the harder the chew toy, the more likely it is to damage your dog’s teeth.
Tips for buying pet toys:
- Read reviews - I love shopping on amazon for this reason. Reading the reviews will tell me the strengths and weaknesses of any toy and allow me to better decide if I think it will be a fit for my pets or not. Just remember that for every toy, there is a dog who can destroy it in seconds. This is really more of a guideline and a way to look at the overall trends for a given toy.
- Supervise – Any toy can be damaged and has the potential to cause problems (usually by being ingested and getting stuck in the GI tract). When introducing a new toy to my pets I always watch them with it first and continue to watch for any signs of damage. Some toys like plush toys, I can’t leave alone with my dogs because they will eat it. We reserve those toys for interactive games only.
- Look for deals – I consider all toys to be disposable so I do try to look for good prices. I also recommend having a lot of toys so that you can rotate them out. This will keep the toys interesting and extend the life of the toy.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the above products, they are simply ones that have worked well with my own pets. Always read safety labels and supervise your pets with toys.
Stephanie and her family moved to Indianapolis from Texas in 2015. She and her husband John have been happily married since 2010. They have a one year old son named Jack. They share their home with two dogs, Torchy and Rusty, and two cats, Timmy and Kit Kat. Stephanie has a BS in Animal Behavior from Southwestern University and a DVM from Texas A&M University. She is an associate veterinarian at VCA Animal Hospital o f Plainfield and has a special interest in veterinary behavior. Stephanie is passionate about being a wife, a mom, and a veterinarian. She loves spending time playing with her son, cooking with her husband, training and playing with their two dogs, and snuggling with her cats on the couch. When taking time for herself, she enjoys yoga, running, reading, and the occasional massage . The views expressed in this article are Stephanie's and do not necessarily reflect the views of her employer.