Even though many of us may not want to admit it, Christmas is fast approaching! Of course, we buy presents for our loved ones; our parents, our siblings, our grandparents and… our cats? Let’s not deny that our cats are part of the family and many of the household rules are usually dictated by the cat. So, if you are joining me this year in buying presents for our feline friends, let’s look at the options that are available and perhaps some options that should be avoided.
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I’ve got to say, I’ve had mixed responses to catnip. My one cat couldn’t seem to care less about it, but my other cat goes absolutely nuts for it! Catnip is a herb belonging to the mint family and may also be known as catwort or catmint. It is perfectly safe for cats to ingest in small quantities, but usually, cats just react to the smell.
Catnip could be seen as a natural mood booster, a stress relief or just make your cat act pretty ridiculously. They can jump around, be more vocal, have sudden spurts of hyperactivity or just be completely chilled and Zen.
Catnip can be grown in the garden or purchased as dried leaves, sprays or oils. Whatever form your catnip is in, you can place it inside toys, onto bedding or hide it in small amounts around the house. A little catnip goes a long way; so you can be stingy with your portion sizes and make it last for the majority of the festive season and beyond.
Dreamies are a well-known cat treat that cats can’t seem to get enough of. They are available in a variety of flavours including chicken, cheese, beef, turkey and even catnip! With cats being obligate carnivores, meaning that their diet must contain meat proteins, Dreamies do contain a high concentration of meat which they certainly enjoy. Dreamies also contain added minerals, supporting healthy bone growth.
As with any treats, do feed Dreamies in moderation. Dreamies have quite high fat and calorie values, so be mindful of how many treats you offer them day-to-day. Dreamies can also be described as a highly processed treat and are also rather addictive; o do be mindful about how many they are eating. Alternatives to Dreamies include fresh tuna, chicken and even a little bit of Christmas Day turkey!
Cats are clever creatures and enjoy being stimulated and using their brains. There are a variety of puzzle toys on the market which allow cats to either complete a task and get a treat, or just keep them entertained by pushing an object around different obstacles.
Some toys have stacks of balls on a track that cats can push and roll with their paws. Others can be filled with treats and each time the cat hits the toy, it dispenses a tasty treat for them. Other toys include a wind-up or battery mechanism, which when released, buzzes or moves across the floor. Cats love to be able to stalk and chase these kinds of toys. Ensure that they are supervised during the duration of playtime to avoid injury or accidental ingestion.
If you’re feeling like you want to blow the budget on your cat this Christmas, there are a variety of cat trees that come in various shapes and sizes. Many contain hammocks, hideaways, scratching posts and beds, all integrated into one giant cat paradise.
There are a variety of benefits to cat trees as they offer a place for your cat to feel safe; allow them to exercise by jumping and climbing as well as allowing them to use it as a scratching post. According to cat behaviourists, the majority of cats enjoy relaxing and sleeping in higher places.
If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can find plenty of tutorials online on how to build your own. If not, most pet stores sell them, as well as online from previous cat owners.
We’ve all seen videos online of cats being obsessed with laser pens and chasing them around the room in a frenzy. In some ways, laser pens offer great cardio exercise for our feline friends. As they are natural hunters, cats will enjoy stalking, chasing and pouncing at the laser target. There is a possibility, however, for there to be an element of dissatisfaction and anxiety due to the cat using its natural predator behaviours without actually getting any reward or fulfilment at the end of the hunt.
It is also important not to shine the laser beam directly into your cat’s eyes; as this could cause potential damage to the sensitive eye structure. A low-wattage laser pen should be selected. Laser pens can make a good stocking filler for your cat. But if you notice signs of frustration then stop immediately. Keep play sessions down to a maximum of 5 – 10 minutes so that your cat does not become obsessed with the chase.
A better alternative may be a chase toy that has a string with a ball or feathers attached to the end. This allows cats to feel the thrill of the hunt and be rewarded with something to attack at the end.
In some supermarkets and pet stores, you may see pre-packaged cat stockings, and some of these can contain rawhide. Rawhide is usually heavily processed and made from horse or cowhide. The hide is usually soaked in sodium and other chemicals to remove hair, before being bleached in hydrogen peroxide. Rawhide is not suitable for cats to ingest.
One of the biggest hazards with rawhide is the risk of choking. It is usually extremely hard in texture, but when chewed, it can often become soft and slimy. Not only can hard chunks of rawhide become lodged in your cat’s throat, but the slimy rawhide can also become stuck, causing respiratory distress.
There is the potential for cats to ingest toxic chemicals due to the raw hide’s production process, as well as sections of rawhide causing a blockage in the intestines if ingested.
The takeaway message from this is – do not offer your cat rawhide. It’s not worth the risks and there are no real benefits to them ingesting this highly processed chew.
Final thoughts on kitty gifts
No matter what you decide to get your cat for Christmas, I’m sure they will love it. Either that or, in typical cat fashion, they’ll make you wonder why you even bothered, preferring the box your festive deliveries came in!
If you decide to get them treats, remember to feed them in moderation. Do be aware of foods that are toxic to cats which may be around during the festive period, including garlic, onions, alcohol, grapes and raisins. Contact your veterinary surgeon if you think your cat has ingested any toxic foods. However, most of all, enjoy your festive season with your favourite feline friends!