Critters: Happy howlidays! Gifts for the pets

Buddy and Laura have donned holiday bandanas, created by Cynthia Rollins of Bangor’s Dogn’i Apparel. Olivia refused to wear a bandana and instead oversaw the creation of this image.  Credit: Photo by Debra Bell

Buddy and Laura have donned holiday bandanas, created by Cynthia Rollins of Bangor’s Dogn’i Apparel. Olivia refused to wear a bandana and instead oversaw the creation of this image.
Credit: Photo by Debra Bell

Santa may be keeping tabs on the good little boys and girls, but he’s also keeping an eye on the family pets. After all, it’s not just kiddos (young and old) who have been good this year!

And while Santa may leave Fido or Fluffy something under the tree as a present, don’t leave everything up to him this year! When you’re doing your holiday shopping, make sure you pick up something for the family pets!

Here are some ideas for what your favorite feline, pup or other pet might love to have.

  1. Food treats. The key to your pet’s heart may just lie in a yummy treat. Make sure the treat of your choosing does not contain xylitol or other artificial sweeteners as these are toxic to pets. With so many to choose from, look for something that is nutritious and size appropriate.

For instance, a pomeranian doesn’t need a rawhide bone that’s larger than it is. Instead, consider investing in a new Kong toy and stuff it with peanut butter and biscuits then freeze it. It’ll take pup longer to get to all the yummy food inside and exercise her mind at the same time.

Our dogs (and kitty) both also love the Vital Essentials line of treats which are made entirely of freeze dried meat. Alternately, purchase some great canned food to give to pup or kitty while you’re cooking your own holiday meal.

  1. Toys. Play is a great way to help pup or kitty expend some extra energy and bond with you. Chewing toys help pup direct chewing on appropriate items — and not your shoes or furniture — while also keeping the muscles in their jaws active. Plus it’s fun for pup to try and “kill” the squeakers or for kitty to chase a toy on the end of a string.

Have a dog that loves to play tug? Look for a sturdy rope toy. Bonus if it can float as it can be used in the water come summer time. Have a dog that loves to snuggle (this goes for cats too)? Find a cuddly stuffed animal for them to snuggle with.

  1. Clothing or accessories. Help pup or kitty look stylish with a new bandana, coat or booties. There are many local businesses that make custom bandanas and other apparel items just for pup. This is perfect for the pooch that has everything. Or consider a new pet bed or blanket to keep her comfortable when you’re not home.
  2. A day at the spa or an overnight at the kennel. Have someone in your life whose pet is part of the family? Purchase a gift certificate for them to use on boarding, daycare, training, supplies or even grooming! It’s a very thoughtful gift that can be used for almost anything and will help your pet owner feel special.
  3. Donate money or goods to a pet-centered charity, rescue or food pantry. Choose your pet lover’s favorite charity, rescue or pet food pantry and make a donation in honor of them, of their pets or in honor of a pet who has passed. But make sure you have checked that the organization you’re gifting money or supplies to is being responsible about how it cares and manages the money. Shelters have online wishlists for items they can use, including things in your own home that you might be getting rid of.
  4. Give the gift of training. For dog owners, basic obedience training classes are crucial to ensuring that your dog knows the basics and is polite (or mostly polite) when meeting new people and other dogs. A well-trained dog will make your life easier and a responsible dog trainer will help you with more than just the basics. They can provide guidance in other pet-related areas.
  5. Give the gift of memories. I’d be remiss to not mention pet photography or art made from photos as a gift option. For many, pet photography or art are a luxury and something a pet owner might put off. But the gift of a pet session or piece of art is something that will have meaning for years, even decades, as a keepsake. Some creative items might include an ornament, a special dog tag, a pet photography session, or even a commissioned painting or drawing. Have a new puppy or kitten at home? Gift a pet photo session or series of sessions to capture that first year.

No matter what you decide to give this year for a gift, keeping the family pets (and their special people) in mind is thoughtful and fun!

Debra Bell is a freelance writer, graphic designer and the owner of Bell’s Furry Friends Photography (a division of Bell Imaging & Design LLC). Bell’s Furry Friends Photography has been named Bangor’s Best Pet Photography Studio in 2014–16. Debra and her husband Bill, are owned by a Maine coon cat named Olivia and two greyhounds, Laura and Buddy. See her work and learn more about Bell’s Furry Friends Photography at

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