By Hannah Rhomberg
With Christmas rapidly approaching, it’s not too late to do some last minute shopping for your furry family members! However, for the same reason you buy age-appropriate toys for children due to choking hazards and toxic material, you need to be cautious and buy animal-friendly toys and treats for your fuzzy friends. And while you’re busy stuffing stockings and your face with vegan fruit cake, it’s never a bad idea to take a look around your house for hazardous Christmas decorations. It’s also an opportunity to support some great companies that make animal friendly toys. You may even try to make some toys or treats yourself.
Toys, to dogs and cats, are not just for fun but a necessity in their lives. Dogs, for example, innately need to chew. It’s how they explore their world. While there are ways to curb this behavior, when it becomes destructive, one simple approach is to supply them with an appropriate chew toy. When selecting a chew toy for your friend, remember to select an appropriate size. Kong toys for example run from XS to XXL and with varying degrees of durability to match your pup’s need.
When it comes to chewing, some pet owners pick up a rawhide for their pet’s stocking to tackle that chewing urge. However, rawhide is a byproduct of fur and leather trade. Not to mention, in order to achieve the white coloring or holiday Christmas colors, these rawhides are coated with chemicals that your pets are ultimately ingesting. Read here for further details on rawhide. There are several safer chewy alternatives for rawhide. Two examples are Antos Farm Rolls and Sweet Potato Treats which you can buy or make yourself.
Got a dog that loves to play fetch? A new tennis ball for Christmas is the perfect gift! However, one danger of tennis balls, especially to larger breeds, is the possibility of the ball becoming lodged in their throats. In fact, balls made it onto this list of the top 10 items ingested by pets by accident. Number six on the above list is chew toys, which as mentioned previously, should be purchased with your dogs size and chewing capabilities in mind to avoid this mishap.
Another thing to consider when buying pet toys, especially plastic or rubber toys that are brightly colored is where the material and dye is sourced from. A little known fact about pet toys is that the FDA does not regulate any of these products. So we as consumers are to rely on the honesty of a company.
Some good companies with materials sourced here in the United States are:
The Humane Society of the United States offers some tips and recommendations for toy purchases for dogs and cats.
For dogs they recommend meeting your animals needs for being active, being distracted, and being comforted. A few items they recommend are hard rubber toys (like Nylabone® and Kong®), rope toys, “Busy-Box” toys, and even items that simply smell like you, such as an old t-shirt or pillow case.
For cats they give some tips on toys and also some warnings about other household items your cats might like to play with that are dangerous. Some household items your cats may safely enjoy are plastic curtain rings, paper bags (with the handles removed), and cardboard tubes and boxes. You can make your own toys like felt animals stuffed with catnip. When purchasing toys you might be able to make simple alterations, like removing any pieces that might come loose and could be swallowed, to make them safer.
It may seem “cheap” to give your cat a cardboard box or your dog an old t-shirt for the holidays, but they don’t care about price! One of Sara’s cat’s beloved items is a big basket she got for the holidays several years ago that was originally filled with grapefruit. She lined it with a blanket and now it’s the cat’s favorite spot to snooze.
If you want to try making your own animal friendly treats for your dog(s) or for a friend’s canine companion(s), there are many recipes online. Simply search for “dog treat recipes” or “vegetarian/vegan dog treat recipes”. The recipes can vary in complexity from simple mix and bake, to decorated fancy cupcakes – though humans will usually appreciate decorations more than the dog will. This website has just a few example recipes for making treats. Scroll to the bottom of the page for the recipes.
Another aspect of the holidays to consider when it comes to your pets, are your household Christmas decorations:
- Lilies – Just one or two bites can result in acute kidney failure
- Mistletoe – While usually placed high enough out of a pet’s reach, if ingested in large amounts, can result in seizures and death.Plastic plants can look very realistic if you need to get the feel of these holiday plants without the danger. Non-toxic garland might also be a good choice.
- Imitation snow on trees – If ingested, can be very hazardous to pet health
- Edible ornaments – Everyone has made mom a macaroni ornament! However, the glue and paint on these can be very harmful to pets. Hang with caution and/or keep out of pets reach.
- Christmas lights – Keep away from a chewing pet as this can result in electrical shock.
- Tinsel – one of the most harmful due to its likelihood to cause a potentially deadly intestinal blockage.
When decorating there are some precautions you can take. Several tips for safety proofing your tree can be found here. They include ideas for keeping the light cords hidden and taped , keeping fragile and glass ornaments hung higher on your tree, and securing your tree with fishing wire so it is less likely to tip over. Some ways to discourage your pet from climbing a tree or knocking down ornaments are using scented repellents, paw repellents under the trees (like aluminum foil or spiky mats), climb blockers, and training.
The winter holidays are a time for family gatherings, whether your family is all-human or you have companion animal family members as well. Safety around the holiday season is important for everyone and everything, so with these few tips I hope your holiday season is full of joy and merriment.
Happy “Howlidays” from my family to yours!!