Tips for affordable, seasonal presents for pets

Kya deLongchamps casts an eye over the impressive range of gifts and toys you can buy your pet.

The trouble with a kitten is that they like to shred

Cat trees provide a highly appreciated scratching post to distract puss from the grey linen couch. 

Veterinary surgeon Kathryn Cuddy of Gilabbey Veterinary Hospital in Cork advises: “it is vital that indoor cats receive plenty of stimulation, as they are likely to be less active than cats with access to the outdoors and are therefore more likely to be overweight”. 

Go wild and choose a multi-level, mind-blowing feast for the feline senses of up to 180cm or right to the ceiling (with attachments) with pluckable fabrics to shed those claw covers and hidey holes to unleash the inner kitten.

Prices start around €30 for a post with a carpet or rope surfacing and a toy suspended for high reaches, to over €120 for a specimen tree with multiple slouching platforms with a solid wood structure.

Don’t expect an older cat to scale a tall gym. Choose a lower level model where he can scratch and sprawl (and not get caught Winnie-the-Pooh style in a tight opening). Round or oval embracing beds are a nice inclusion for a slob.

Cat trees are a perfect DIY project using off-cuts of wood and carpet. Carpeting holds up better than fur or fleeces, and sisal is fantastically strong and appealing. Ensure the end result is stable with a hysterical cat frolicking at the top.

Clean the play area regularly with the brush attachment of the vacuum and give them the odd spray to head off skin parasites.

If you have young children, keep their faces away from the escape hatches, and tunnel ends, as an over excited cat can unsheathe claws and let fly in sheer exuberance.

We Love: Murica Post and hidey cave and sisal post in anrthracite, €26, www.petcara.ie Gingerbread Cat House/Tree: ideal for naps and exuberant chasing games with multiple cats, €99-159.99, www.zooplus.ie 

And So to Bed

All cats and dogs appreciate their own area, where they are not only comfortable, but left alone and in control. If you have a fabric bed in bits, or a plastic bed with a ratty blanket, what about a refresh?

The over-arching guideline with soft pet beds is cleaning. If you cannot take out and launder the liner or put the whole bed in the machine — forget it. Some larger dog beds are Teflon coated and can be taken outside and hosed off.

Lifting a soft bed or lined basket off the ground with a small platform reduces draughts and allows air to circulate. Memory foam absorbs smells so fight shy if your dog is elderly, rolls in rubbish or is a ‘leaker’. Micro-pearl, visco-elastic, and heat retaining materials can keep a dog warmer.

Nest beds with thick padding to the underside to hug a dog’s body (not cramp), are fantastic for small to medium sized dogs. Bolstered sides are comforting, creating the feeling of a pack snuggle.

Some larger breeds with a thick coat prefer to sprawl. A mattress style bed, again off the floor if possible, is ideal. Nylon suspended hammocks without any bedding may be preferred by heavy coated dogs.

If your tiny, thin-skinned dog likes to burrow, a cave, even a cat cave may be welcome. The latest arrival in beds is orthopaedic varieties with a firmer feel for dogs with joint pain and mobility issues.

We Love: Pet cushion beds, can be used alone or in a rigid bed from €25, assorted colours. Hooded cat beds from €30, www.shop.ispca.ie Dog Car Boot Bed from €70.20, www.petcara.ie Mucky Mattress, plastic bed with polyester liner and vented base for x-large gods, €64.99, Argos.

Speak to me Boy!

Intelligence training toys are the latest arrival in pet products and cover all animals from dogs to rodents. 

They prompt instincts, provide a challenge and can fight boredom if your pet is housebound for long periods of the day. Introduce them at the lowest level of difficulty first to avoid frustration.

Food/memory trainers use the ultimate bait — a food reward. The button of the Trixie Memory Trainer operates a small dispenser can be placed as much as 40m from the unit, encouraging the dog to move around and to work out where it is. 

It can even be set up with signals for multiple dogs. Described in one review like a ‘kibble ATM’. €49.99, www.zooplus.ie 

Gambling towers. With small shelves operated by pulls, these dispensers drop the food down levels as your cat or dog works out the game. A collie will unlock the problem in about five minutes. Comes with a book to change up the challenge and train. €17.99, zooplus.ie

Flip boards; €10-€15. There are a number of designs of these kibble/snack trays offering lids and sliders that have to be moved off to reveal the snack for a cat or dog. Rabbits are highly intelligent and love them too. Most good pet shops including Maxi Zoo.

Flingers and balls. The flinger with a good quality tennis ball is the best present for an active dog with a long garden. Try the egg shaped large ball, which goes in unexpected directions and is a challenge to manoeuvre into the mouth. €15-€18.

If you want your dog to stay away from your things, you must offer them an alternative prey. For chewing, the Kong brand is expensive but relatively indestructible.

Try the Wobbler Snack Ball which combines that puzzling egg shape and a treat reservoir, great for the garden. Put a dog’s entire food ration into a ball if they are a greedy gulper. Vet Kathryn Cuddy adds, “my own dogs love them — their favourite treat is a Kong stuffed with peanut butter. 

Dogs should always be supervised when playing with toys. A good chew toy can definitely help their dental health, but is no substitute for brushing their teeth”. €19-€25.

We Love: the enclosed roller coaster track with a flashing ball that goes faster as a cat bats it, fantastic fun for a demented high energy oriental or a kitten honing its hunting skills. Catit Design Senses Super Roller Coaster (expandable system), from €16.99, www.zooplus.ie 

With many thanks to Kathryn Cuddy MVB Cert AVP MRCVS and the team at Gilabbey Veterinary Hospital for their input for this feature, www.gilabbeyvet.com 

Please do not gift pets at Christmas time.

FLAP DOOR

Tips for affordable, seasonal presents for pets

Completely fed-up with letting furry hysterics in and out the back door? Treat yourself and your dog/cat to some self determination with a dedicated flap door. 

Still, since we’re taking a lump out of probably already expensive human door or even a wall, here are some things to keep in mind.

* Any flap should lead to a fully enclosed area for dogs and a safe, traffic free area for cats (not nose-to-nose with an aggressive dog). Consider a position well off the ground to avoid vermin attempting entry. Ferplast Swing models offer a Wind Stopper System, €30-€60 (magnetic).

* Designs vary with accessibility set by matching collars for a higher price. At the very least find a model with an ‘in’ only setting. Magnets, infra-red and RFID microchip (€80-€130) readers can help to ensure only your cat or small dog can ever get inside. Collar tags can work with dedicated coding too.

* Some metal doors can interfere with the reading of a microchip reader. Keep your receipt and do a test before installation with the cat beside the door to see if the flap model releases.

* Size the door carefully (bring your dog with you to a local pet shop). My own well-muscled dog has worn a total of four flaps around his neck, as the opening was just too tight for his highly explosive style of exit. Dogs and cats walk/crawl through.

* Measure across the shoulders of your largest dog/cat, and from the shoulder to the lowest part of the chest. An extra five centimetres all round is about right. Some doors have weight restrictions (under 100lb for a dog, less than 15lb for a cat).

* Cutting out a glass pane to fit a pet flap can be tricky, while jigging through solid wood might be a doddle. Generally, it’s better to actually take the door down off its hinges for better accuracy. Follow the instructions and use the template provided with your door. Some models including StayWell, offer extensions/tunnels for deeper doors or walls.

* A small child can get out through even the smallest dog door and an opportunist criminal can get in through a vast dog door (insurers will point this out). Site house and car keys well away from the door, as ‘fishing’ has been reported.


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