I’m wrapping up (pun intended) my Christmas shopping this week, which got me to thinking about what constitutes an ideal gift for a pet or pet owner.


First of all, I despise gifts like goofy costumes, antler headbands, etc. that are ostensibly for the pet but are at best annoying and at worst demeaning for the animal. If you want to dress your cat up like an elf, fine, but don’t call it a Christmas present. You are doing it for your own amusement.


The best presents for pets are those that focus on what they like to do. Here’s an example. My dog Apollo could use a new collar. His current one is perfectly functional, but starting to look a little faded and shabby. But does he care one whit about that? No. On the other hand, his retractable leash recently broke, so he’s been relegated to walks on his six-footer, which is seriously cramping his “joie de vivre” when we’re out. I think I’m going to get him a replacement one for his present. If I pick up a new, matching collar at the same time, that’ll be a bonus for me.


I’m having trouble coming up with an idea for Vicky, my cat. She’s 17 and doesn’t really enjoy toys of any sort any more. Her favorite plaything is the cream-colored tip to her tail. It’s been stalking her for her whole life, and she’s yet to successfully put an end to it, though not for a lack of trying. I’m leaning towards buying her a shearling pad to add to her favorite chair or perhaps a few cans of ridiculously overpriced gourmet food since her favorite “activities” are lying in the sun and eating something new.


If you’re still searching for the perfect gift for a pet owner in your life, I’ve got a couple of ideas. When finances are tight, a gift certificate to a pet supply store or better yet, a veterinary clinic if an owner is finding it hard to stay on top of wellness care is a practical and welcome present. For pet lovers who aren’t in a financial bind, consider supporting their local animal shelter, humane society, or other pet-friendly organization. Many shelters allow people to sponsor an animal’s care and will even send a special card to the honoree to notify them of your gift.


Shelters also often produce “wish lists” of desperately needed equipment and supplies. Consider purchasing one or more of those items and donating it on behalf of your friend or family member. Finally, many animal-oriented charities produce promotional items for purchase this time of year. You may be able to buy a calendar, mug, etc. as a present and let the recipient know the proceeds went to a good cause. Check out the websites of several worthy organizations, and I’m sure you’ll find something worth giving.


Happy shopping!


Dr. Jennifer Coates


Image: Thinkstock