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Pets: Make That List and Check It Twice

A baker's dozen of the best gifts for animals and animal lovers.

Maybe you are organized and have already done your holiday shopping. But if you are like me, it’s time to start thinking about what to get the pets and pet lovers in your life. Luckily for us, lots of great gifts are available in every price range for everyone on your list—naughty or nice.

A dog’s first choice is very likely to be something to eat. In our house, the treat of choice is Jillcookies, made in her home from natural and often organic ingredients by Jill Fisher Gibbs.

“I wanted to give my dogs cookies that consisted of ingredients that I could pronounce,” Gibbs says.

All my dogs have loved them and, I have to admit, they taste pretty good. I’m not the only Jillcookies customer who admits to trying and liking them, but our dogs give us dirty looks for stealing their treats, so we don’t do it very often. Jillcookies, which come in several different sizes and seasonal shapes, can be purchased through Gibbs’ Facebook page and cost $5 per bag, plus shipping. Grain-free treats are $6 per bag, plus shipping.

Those of you with active dogs have several choices that will help wear out your wired dog. You may already have a Chuck-It, the ultimate ball-launcher for fetch-crazy dogs, but if your rotator cuff needs a break, use your feet instead to propel the Kick-Fetch by Chuck-It, a soft, soccer-size ball with grooves that make it easy for your dog to pick it up and bring back to you. It's $25 at pet supply stores or online.

The Aerobie Superdisc, made in the USA, floats for beach and pool play. It has a 10-inch diameter and soft edges for easy throwing and catching.

Got a water-loving dog? The Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat will float your boat, er, dog, if he jumps off your paddleboard, kayak or sailboat. Its bright yellow color and handle on top will make it easy to pull your dog from the drink if he goes overboard. $80 at REI or online.

Cats need exercise, too. The Funkitty Egg-cersizer, by Premier, which I picked up at the Cat Writers Association conference last month, is an interactive toy that randomly dispenses treats or dry pet food when your cat (or dog) rolls it around. It’s a great way to let your pet “hunt” for its meals and get a workout at the same time.

If you are more crafty than I am, try making your own cat toys. Martha Stewart—who else?—has just the pattern for cute menswear-inspired stuffed mice.  Click here

Fill them with home-grown catnip if you want.

A practical gift for a dog with long, droopy ears is a snood, sort of a hood that fits over the head and prevents the ears from dragging in the dog’s food or water bowls. I found this cute one on Etsy. 

Because I'm a reader—and a writer—books are always my first choice when buying for people. It’s hard to go wrong because there’s always a book on a topic of interest to someone. And if they don’t like to read (horrors!), well, that’s why they publish photography books. Here are some of my favorites for this year.

Cat lovers and aficionados of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell will be thrilled to find Cat Daddy (Tarcher/Penguin, 2012)  by Jackson Galaxy under the tree. Galaxy, who was a popular speaker at the CWA conference, has written a humorous and heart-warming memoir/cat advice book built around the tale of his 13-year relationship with Benny, a shelter cat who had seen better days, and their journey toward healing.

If you know of some new cat owners—or even experienced ones who want to keep up on the latest about their furry friends—you have a couple of great options. Veterinarian and human-animal bond advocate Dr. Marty Becker has written Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual (Grand Central Life & Style, 2012), crammed full of practical advice on living with cats, including tips on dealing with litter-box issues (have more than one and keep them super-clean), saving on medication and other veterinary costs, and making toys a cat will love to play with. Full disclosure: I helped with some of the research that went into the making of this book, which is why I can safely say that it’s based on the very latest information about cats.

Another fun and informative book for cat lovers is The Complete Cat’s Meow, by cat expert Darlene Arden (Wiley Publishing, 2011). In it, she addresses not only the basics—raising kittens, trimming nails, holding cats properly and overcoming behavior problems—but also the facts behind feline myths and misconceptions and teaching cats tricks. What? You didn’t know that was possible?

Arden, who is a certified animal-behavior consultant, says many cats are doing the mental equivalent of twiddling their thumbs all day. Training them and providing environmental enrichment gives them something to do and deepens your relationship with them, she believes.

“I’ve seen what I’ve been able to do with training, with interaction, with bonding, I’ve seen what’s happened with clients’ cats and how they overcome problems, and the fixes are really pretty simple,” she says. “They work for different things [than dogs], so it’s slightly different motivation for training, but there’s nothing you can’t train them to do, really.”

If you know people who would rather be out hiking with their dogs than reading about cats, wrap up a copy of The Trail Hound’s Handbook by Ellen Eastwood (Wilderness Press, 2012). Billed as a family guide to hiking with dogs, it covers canine hiking etiquette (pick up poop and carry it out), ensuring that your dog has the physical fitness and stamina for hiking, the types of hikes that are suitable for different types of dogs, and how to pick up on wildlife sights that you might otherwise miss if not for your dog’s keen senses. This is a great choice for kids and adults alike, with easy-to-read text, fun graphics, and lots of photos.

Readers of thrillers who also love dogs may find themselves hooked by Lost and Found, by Amy D. Shojai. The chilling plot involves a desperate search for a lost child and his service dog. Best-selling author James Rollins describes it as riveting, heart-wrenching and brilliant. Shojai is not new to writing about animals, but this is her first foray into fiction and undoubtedly won’t be her last.

The book that's on my own wish list--one that is sure to appeal to any dog lover--is The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs (Random House, 2012). Illustrated in color, it's filled with articles, fiction, humor, cartoons, cover art, and more from the archives of The New Yorker. Contributors include Susan Orlean, Adam Gopnik, John Updike, E.B. White and other literary lions. I can't wait to read it (hint, hint).

If you and your pets have everything you need, give yourself the gift of that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from making a donation to a local rescue group or animal shelter or fostering or adopting a pet in need.

What is my dog getting? Harper is rocking a new turquoise-blue suede collar embellished with hearts and crystals, and she may soon be sharing her sofa with a new canine friend. Stay tuned.

Homer December 06, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Please support and shop your local pet supply store for healthy and nutritious treats before hitting the big box stores.
helen evers December 06, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I agree with Homer, we have been promoting shop locally, Animal Crackers Pet Store uses all income to keep rescue pets fed, Gina carries a wonderful supply of healthy treats for all types of pets, why not help out homeless pets while giving your lucky pets some wonderful treats. She is losing her lease in 4 weeks, come on,shop there Laguna folks, you can't go wrong, no postage either!!!! Helen Evers
Andromeda December 06, 2012 at 07:33 PM
About every 6 months Costco offers a coupon on dog jerky treats. 2 big 3.5 pound containers (probably over 300 large jerky strips) for $10. Normally each one costs $10. It's a great, great deal and our little mutt just loves them. Those 2 containers last us for the good part of a year. If you are a Costco member I urge you to look into it. I believe they are on sale in the latest coupon book (but I may be wrong.)
tiny December 06, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Mans best friend.
Andromeda December 06, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Tiny, when no one's looking I'll even slip one of those jerky strips in my mouth. They're delicious! But my dog always gets mad at me when I do! :^)
Kim Campbell Thornton December 10, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Please reconsider buying jerky treats for your pets. There have been too many pets getting ill and even dying from them, a topic I covered not long ago.

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