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A juicy food treat may be something your pet might enjoy for the holidays, but it has the potential to wreak havoc. The aftermath of too many treats, or treats that are simply too rich, could be a trip to the veterinarian for vomiting, diarrhea or worse.

Because 50 to 60 percent of pets in the United States are obese or overweight, consider gifts that are not only mentally stimulating, but that help slow food consumption and promote activity.

Foodpuzzlesforcats.com has perfect gifts for our feline family. Your kitty can bat tubes, chase a ball or work a puzzle to get his or her next meal. The website has sections for rolling, stationary, wet food and canned food puzzles. There is even a section on homemade puzzles. I never thought gluing toilet paper rolls to a piece of cardboard could make my cats so happy. Puzzles are rated by difficulty — one star for easy to three stars for difficult — so you won’t make feeding too challenging at the start. Videos on foodpuzzlesforcats.com, as well as those found on YouTube (search “cat food puzzles”), offer great entertainment for humans and kitties alike.

YouTube has many entertaining videos for dog food puzzles as well, some of which show you how to make your own food puzzles. Every major pet retail source also has a variety of different items. In my own household, who knew a muffin tin and tennis balls could send my Golden Retriever into bliss while slowing down his rapid eating? In addition to slowing eating, all of these food puzzles offer mental stimulation and play. In some situations, after learning to use the puzzle, non-food treats like balls (or for kitties, catnip) can be used to increase activity without adding calories.

Cats can never have too many perches, hideaways or lounging platforms; it’s just a fact. So cat trees are a great gift for any kitty (even an elderly cat can use the lower levels). They are available virtually anywhere, but my favorites come from Furwood Forest, a local entity. Their cat trees are rustic, beautiful, offer multiple places to rest and climb, can have toys and ropes and are safe places for your kitties to scratch.

Smaller offerings to put under the kitty tree include ledges, hammocks, perches and beds that can be attached at windows. Bird feeders nearby can offer visual entertainment without putting the birds or your cat at risk. These can even be found with safe warming units for our senior kittens. Most cats would enjoy their own climbing wall as a present. This can easily be constructed by mounting pre-made cat shelves, bridges and furniture to a wall. Igloo tents, cave cubes, tunnels and mod pods all offer less permanent options for kitties to rest.

For dogs, unique furniture and bedding offerings can also make a good gift. Dog couches are available in styles to complement any decor and in both indoor and outdoor versions. With dog beds, I found canopy, four-poster, hammock and Murphy beds among the many designs I encountered. Coffee tables, hall racks and ottomans with dog beds incorporated can complement your decor. For those with less lavish needs, Costco has fabulous dog beds in multiple styles. Dogs are often messier than cats, so remember to look for easily cleaned coverings and beds with waterproof cushion liners. For older doggies, an orthopedic mattress can help to make sleeping more comfortable.

Because so many of us work and are not with our pets for long hours, gifts that interact with them while we are away make sense. There are a multitude of video products for both dogs and cats to view while we are absent. If your dog needs a Zen moment, the Paws-itively Peaceful Pooch relaxation video helps with calming. Dog and cat music, available from iCalm, couples music with massage and training exercises for when you are home, and can be utilized as music alone when you are not. If your dogs have access to a yard while you’re out, iFetch will throw tennis balls for them. There is also a mini-version that can be used in the house. When I was given a puppy shower for Harvey (my current Golden), my staff gave me essentially a dog nanny cam that I can talk through and tell to give him a treat.

Motion toys are available for both dogs and cats. A popular one is Panic Mouse or Panic Mouse Undercover. These toys are programmed to actually move like a mouse. The Friends Forever interactive laser toy or PetDroid hanging laser can be programmed to let your dog or cat chase a laser light while you’re out. For less active cats, an animated butterfly in a jar offers interest.

See Appen News Publications or Loving Hands Animal Clinic’s Facebook and social media pages for future Pet Care University offerings. Our next topic will be Integrative Medicine with Dr. Hall on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019 from 3 to 5 p.m.

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