| For FLORIDA TODAY
They upped the ante on licks and snuggles, even though we were cranky during the lockdown. They didn’t snicker when they saw what we wore during Zoom meetings. They calmed us better than Xanax during the election.
Our pets have certainly earned their keep this year, and pet owners are planning to reward their best furry friends with some extra treats, despite the pandemic or the economic trials.
“It is clear that people still plan on including their treasured family pets in this holiday gifting season, but what is unexpected is how much they plan to spend on them,” said Steve King, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association.
A survey by APPA notes that animal lovers are happy to shell out an average of $41 on holiday gifts for their pets.
When playing Santa Paws elf, don’t forget to check in at local spots like Tails at the Barkery in Cocoa Village or Pet Pros in Rockledge and Melbourne.
If you are looking for ideas that will elicit happy barks and purrs, here are some to get you started.
P.L.A.Y.’s dog toy designers are a creative bunch who love themes. This year’s Merry Woofmas Plush Toy Collection features five cheerful toys in the shape of a hang-able stocking, tasty plate of cookies, ornament-filled Christmas tree, tug-able elf and a silly Santa stuck in the chimney. The toys are available as singles or as a set, which saves you $6 and also gets you a nifty gift box.
Dog-tested sturdy, the toys are stuffed with filler made from recycled plastic bottles.
For the little yappers and purrers, P.L.A.Y.’s new Snuggle Dog and Cat Beds give finicky fur babies ultimate versatility and comfort. Is it a sleeping bag? A mat? A bolster bed? Check, check, check. The convertible snuggle bed can be molded into a variety of shapes, and is well-suited for pets who love to burrow in their bed or for those who prefer sleeping on top of it.
Get a 20% discount through Jan. 1 with the code COASTALHOLIDAYS at Petplay.com.
Puzzles for paws and other treats
Santa Paws really went to town with Outward Hound’s holiday toys. They’re durably designed to play longer and harder, with engaging shapes, sounds and textures.
Known for its interactive puzzle pet toys, Outward Hound this year features the new Gingerbread House Puzzle Plush, brimming with hide-and-squeak possibilities. The Holiday Hide-A-Squirrel is another version.
For 2020, Outward Hound’s Charming Pet introduced the Pulleez Santa Gnome, a plush pal made with ultra-durable material and replete with hidden squeakers guaranteed to give your pooch hours of “I’m going to get that squeaker out or else!” challenges.
For fur babies with environmental concerts, the Woolyz Holiday Tree brings a festive and eco-conscious play option, since the toys, manufactured with natural materials like wool and coconut husk, are Earth-friendly.
From Outward Hound’s Planet Dog brand comes the holiday edition of the Lil’ Snoop Dog Toy. Simply pop out the neck, fill with your dog’s favorite treat, pop the neck closed, put it on the ground and watch your pup work to figure out how to get the treats.
This year, Petstages presents the Orka Stick and Orka Bone, chew toys in ultra-festive colors and designed as bones with thick ropes running down the middle. Knots on either end of the ropes provide additional interest as well as help remove soft tartar from teeth.
Stuff all the dog goodies in the Good Dog / Bad Dog Dual Sided Stocking, festive pet stockings that include two squeaky toys for your furry friend. Visit Outwardhound.com.
Someone to chew on
Fuzzu can help you and your dog relieve some of the angst surrounding the recent election. The company launched its first line of toys — a Presidential Parody that included Hillary, Donald and Bernie toys — in 2016, and since then has added many additional lines of extremely colorful, and completely non-political, cat and dog toys and accessories, such as the Sweet Spot Kitty Carpet.
Of course, given the election, Fuzzu had to go back to its roots, and the company recently introduced 12-inch editions of dog toys in the likenesses of President Trump, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. A 17-inch Trump version is also available.
The toys are not complicated, but the artwork is delightful. Visit Fuzzutoys.com.
This year marks the release of DOOG’s Fetchables toys, as well as a collection of neon high-visibility collars, leads and harnesses, made from antibacterial, quick-dry wetsuit material great for dogs that swim.
The fetch toys are made from material that is puncture-resistant and soft on dogs’ teeth and gums. Available in a bright neon range of discs, balls and tug toys, they float in water, making them perfect for pool play.
Available at doogusa.com and Amazon.
A cornucopia of dog-inspired crafts and breed-specific merchandise can be found at BarkYours.com, created by dedicated dog lover Corey Abramowitz, who has brought together a collection of original, dog-themed gifts created by independent artists.
“Our goal is to give sellers an outlet to sell their dog-inspired, dog-themed items, and to give buyers a single destination where they can have the best and broadest selection of dog gifts,” said Abramowitz, who was inspired to launch Bark Yours in 2018 after discovering many talented sellers of dog-themed merchandise at different events, but then always having trouble finding that perfect gift when he needed it.
Through the years, Abramowitz has found that gifts that feature Randall, his Tibetan Terrier, are stellar.
“Personalized and dog-theme gifts are very special to me,” he said.
Although the site is aimed at dog lovers more than dogs themselves, there still are plenty of gifts for canine friends, including artisan food bowls, bandanas, collars and tags. Visit BarkYours.com.
You are just a treat machine
The Pet Safe Kibble Chase Roaming Treat Dropper is a treat and toy in one, as it scoots around the room randomly dispensing treats. The Treat Dropper automatically powers off after 10 minutes unless it is nudged on again for more play. Visit petsafe.net.
Bozeman, Montana’s West Paw offers seasonally stylish and 100% handcrafted toys. New this year are the furry Merry Monster and the Merry Bison, both tough and adorable.
The company also manufactures eco-friendly leashes and collars handcrafted with webbing made from recycled plastic bottles. New this year are cool snowflake and snazzy red elk patterns. Visit westpaw.com.
Snack on that
Of course, the express route to a pet’s heart is through its stomach, so a bag of treats is always a highly appreciated stocking stuffer.
Pet snacks these days deliver flavor and wellness. Bearnola Bites from Charlee Bear are natural treats made in the U.S.A. and crafted with the same kind of ingredients found in pet parents’ kitchen pantry, like oats, honey and vanilla with holiday-themed flavors such as Pumpkin Spice and Cranberry Cobbler.
For the carnivores, the Grain-Free Meaty Bites feature raw, freeze-dried treats comprised of protein, fruit and added probiotics and with flavors such Beef Liver & Sweet Potatoes. Visit CharleeBear.com.
Hound & Gatos’ dog and cat food has limited ingredients but unlimited taste. They feature flavors such as Gamebird Poultry and Duck & Liver. Made in the USA by a family-owned company, the food provides the holiday feast your pet deserves. Visit HoundGatos.com.
Tokyo-based Necoichi bowled over the judges at this year’s Global Pet Expo with its Extra Wide Raised Cat Food Bowl, which won first place of the Best-in-Show for new products for cats.
Necoichi, which means “cats first” in Japanese, specializes in quality porcelain cat bowls, kimono-grade fabric collars and other products to enhance kitty’s life.
With a graceful, sculptural attitude, the raised bowl is also functional, reducing strain on the cat’s neck. It is designed with an inner lip to reduce spills and is extra wide to reduce whisker fatigue. The curved shape keeps food centered, so the kitty isn’t chasing the last few drops around the bowl.
The chic bowl is dishwasher and microwave safe. Visit necoichi.com
Part of Catit’s Senses collection of feline-magnet toys, the Senses 2.0 Ball Dome would keep even sourpuss Garfield entertained. When a cat approaches the motion-activated toy, sensors cause the dome’s plate to tilt, setting the little ball in motion while also providing a little noise that attracts the hidden tiger in cats.
The paw-friendly design makes the toy suitable for kitten feet as well as giant Maine Coon paws.
When the cat is finished playing, the dome automatically goes to sleep. All mechanicals in the BPA-free toy are tucked away well beyond kitty’s reach.
The Ball Dome is part of the Senses Playground, which includes a Play Circuit, Digger, Grass Planter and even a Wellness Center, all fitting together to create Kitty Heaven. New this year for the Playground is the Food Tree, which slows down greedy eaters by allowing cats to paw out snack-sized portions at a healthy pace.
Also new is Catit’s seven-piece Pirate Variety Pack, which appeals to kitties — and their people — because it presses the inner buccaneer button inside every cat.
The Pack, at press time on sale at the Cattit website for $16.99, includes catnip toys in the shape of a crab, a parrot, a bomb and a pouch of gold, plus a pouch of gold wand toy, a door hanger and a barrel scratcher with catnip. Visit usa.catit.com.
PetSafe did not forget the kitties, and this year released the Peek-a-Bird Electronic Cat Toy, which turns on when your little tiger approaches. Motion activation will prompt an alluring feather teaser to pop out, ensuring cats are entertained even when their owners are not home.
The replaceable feather cluster alternates peeking out of each side of the toy, shaking, then disappearing, tapping into cat’s instincts and encouraging playtime.
The toy has two automatic playtime modes. With one-time-play, the toy will turn on for ten minutes of play and then automatically shut off. In play-all-day mode, the toy will turn on for ten minutes of play at a time with periodic two-hour rest sessions in between playtimes. Visit petsafe.net.
After the feasting
Like people, pets tend to over-indulge during the holidays. InClover, created by biochemist Rebecca Rose, offers Optagest, a product designed to settle upset tummies, optimize nutrients in food and to support good digestion in beloved pets.
InClover also manufactures Grin, soft chews with green tea that freshen breath and calm the tummy, and BioBrilliant, an all-natural dental care product that freshens pets breath, helps reduce plaque and tartar and remineralizes and polishes teeth. Consider these the gift of no doggy breath. Visit inclover.com.
Holiday celebrations can create anxiety in pets. When that happens, Treatibles comes to the rescue. The organic topical cream with naturally occurring CBD can be smoothed on a pet’s nose, paws or ears to get them cool, calm and collected.
Humans can feel relief too, thanks to Treatibles’ sister brand, Auntie Dolores, which offers hemp oil that is great stocking stuffer to ward off achy joints and a hand sanitizer with soothing organic full-spectrum hemp oil, coconut oil and a pleasant light citrus mint scent. Visit treatibles.com or AuntieDolores.com.
An English study conducted during the pandemic discovered that a pet in the house has made for better mental health and less loneliness. Higher than 90% of the respondents claimed their pets helped them to cope this year and also helped keep them fit and active.
Yes, our pets have earned their keep in 2020, and they well deserve a little extra from Santa Paws.
Maria Sonnenberg is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.
Spectacular Christmas Display at Titusville Home
The Laakso home on Bowstring Court in the Sherwood subdivision in Titusville is once again lit up and decorated in spectacular fashion for Christmas.