The season of gift giving is upon us. Are you going to include your cat?
The question of whether or not to buy presents for my pets always plagues me at this time of year. After all, they get everything they need on a day-to-day basis. But when possible, gift-giving shouldn’t really be about what we need, should it? I usually look to give that little something that could brighten up an otherwise routine day, and this could certainly apply to the cats in my life.
On the other hand, although I believe that cats understand a lot more than we give them credit for, I don’t really think this includes the religious or cultural significance of human holidays. So that concern aside, I’m left with worrying that they will somehow feel left out if they are not part of the celebrations. I’m sure this would apply to some cats, but mine tend to head for cover when anything unusual happens in the house. I can’t imagine they’d appreciate being dragged out of hiding just so that I could feel better about including them.
The more I think about it, the less I feel my pets need any "thing" for the holidays. What they lack most is my undivided attention. With family and work craziness, I’m afraid that more often than not my time with my cats gets limited to a butt scratch for Keelor while I’m filling food bowls, or a quick nuzzle for Vickie as I pluck her out of a basket of clean (but usually not folded) laundry. They’d probably like it if I would just sit down on the couch and spend some uninterrupted time with them. I’ve got to say that sounds like a pretty good gift to give myself as well.
If you are going to buy your cats presents, think about what they would most appreciate. It's probably not the goofy antler ears or the fancy food bowls. An elderly cat might really enjoy a heated cat bed. Is the chair by the window everyone’s favorite spot and a source of conflict in the feline family? How about fleece-covered windowsill perches for everyone?
The gift of health and safety shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Too many cats end up at the veterinary hospital this time of year. Ribbons and other types of strings seem like great toys, but they are so frequently eaten by pets that they have earned their own unique phrase in veterinary lingo — "linear foreign bodies." Surgery is usually needed to remove them and repair the damage they cause.
Watch out for all those extra electrical cords, too. Run them under carpets or behind furniture, or consider purchasing or making cord covers to protect your "chewer" from a potentially fatal shock. I think we can all agree that a holiday spent at the veterinary emergency center would be no fun for anyone.
Dr. Jennifer Coates