I brought my first eggnog of the season home a week or so ago and have had the devil of a time keeping glasses of it away from Toby.. I keep turning my back for a second only to find his entire head in my empty glass, frantically licking up the remains of the eggnog. He is on a small laxative at the moment so I'm not going to fret too much over him getting a few occasional licks, but it's worse than whipped cream (another favorite) to keep him out of it. Was curious if anyone else had that problem or if Toby is just extra special and full of holiday mischief. I promise, it's nonalcoholic (Organic Valley Eggnog actually--insanely delicious). If he was fine after diving headfirst into an empty mocha frappe (I swear, I just turned to say hello to my boyfriend before finding that Toby had knocked off the lid and stuck his face in), I trust Toby will be fine with a few licks of eggnog.
1. For Your Favorite Pet Parent: Interactive Toys
Kongs, Fling-ama-string, Batting Practice mouse, Treat Puzzle Boxes
I love my catnip mice (and so does Toby) and we love our Zig-n-Zag ball so those are fine gifts, but being able to turn on the Fling-ama-string while I'm eating (anything other than eggnog) so Toby is distracted is amazing. I love turning it on when Toby feels playful but I have a migraine, or I'm cooking, or doing yoga (please say your cats also love to be affectionate when you're trying to hold a plank pose, please?), or anything where I want Toby distracted. My brother gave me one for my birthday (from the ASPCA so bonus points of awesomeness!) and it's the coolest toy ever. It does require batteries and I do prefer to be present while he's using it, even if I'm not actively watching (I do watch often though, he's adorable with the pouncing). The company does suggest supervision in case of anything getting tangled or loose but we haven't had any major issues with it other than forgetting to change the batteries once.
I also love the Batting Practice Mouse my brother gave me (also from the ASPCA). It's a little squishy mouse that makes an electronic squeak when batted. The mouse hangs on elastic and string from a plastic "branch" that sits over the top of a door. The branch is easily detachable from the door so I can hide the mouse if Toby is playing at 3am. The branch can be knocked off or the mouse knocked into an unreachable position (mine is near some shelves so the mouse gets stuck sometimes) but the actual playing does not require supervision. Before Thanksgiving I took the mouse down for a week or so then put it up as we were leaving. Our cat sitter found the mouse happily played with every day he came. I felt better about Toby being occupied while we were gone.
Kongs and Puzzle Treat boxes
Kongs are the traditional cone shaped rubber toys into which a person places peanut butter, kibble, and anything else you want your dog to slowly eat. The dog then licks into the kong and works to get the food out. This keeps the dog happy and can be used for peace during mealtime (if you can't tell, I'm a huge fan of distraction) and to keep a dog occupied and entertained while his parent is out of the home.
There are also puzzle treat boxes for dogs where the dog needs to figure out a puzzle in order to get the treat. I've seen some people fill the boxes with the dog's kibble breakfast as a way to make the meal last and also as a way to entertain the dog without feeding too many treats.
I use a food ball for Toby that operates on a similar principle. His portion of dry food (that which isn't used as sprinkles on his wet food--my boyfriend spoils my cat) is put in a ball that Toby then knocks around. As Toby bats the ball, kibble falls out and he's able to eat. It makes meals last longer and keeps him occupied.
Most pet parents worry about their pets being bored, if you can help soothe your friend's mind about that, it's a wonderful gift. Plus, a lot of the toys are really entertaining to see being used. I keep trying to get video of Toby using my birthday gifts but he stops playing when he sees the cameraphone.
2. The Animal Lover Without a Pet--Sponsor a Pet!
Do Not Give a Pet!!!
Pets are personal and should never be given as gifts. Even people who love animals can have valid reasons for not wanting a pet at this point in their lives.
A better alternative? Sponsor a pet at their local shelter and give a small stuffed animal who looks similar. Depending on your shelter and personal budget, you might need to go in on the sponsorship with a friend, but it's an amazing gift.
3. The Animal Lover Who Also Loves Books--Pet Themed Books
If your friend is cool with used books (my family and friends usually indicate a preference for them) this can be a really inexpensive gift that's still a lot of fun. If new books are preferred, Borders offers a lot of email discounts (ranging from 20-33-40% off) that can be printed off and brought in for browsing.
Head to the section with your friend's favorite genre and find several books where an animal seems important or is on the cover. This post shows four of my favorite romance books featuring animals (and one of my favorite mysteries as well). If you want other genre suggestions, just leave a note in the comments. If I can't provide an answer (or the other commenters don't!). The only genre I really avoid is suspense but I have family members who love it and will provide suggestions if need be. I just finished Mercedes Lackey's The Serpent's Shadow and was reminded of how well she uses animals. The 'pets' in that books are integral to the plot and the book is a great choice for fantasy fans who also enjoy historical fiction.
Any other types of animal-loving friends about whom you're stuck for gift ideas? Just let me know. I love gift finding.