How To Give Pets As Gifts

puppy with ribbon

Pictures courtesy of Deposit Photos

The professionals used to say that the holidays were a TERRIBLE time to get a new pet–that impulse adoptions could leave the cat or dog without a home after the cute-holiday-thrills wore off. More recently, though, the ASPCA conducted some surveys and discovered that when done properly, these adoptions can be lasting, loving adoptions. So I had to re-think my advice.

Holidays tend to be hectic times when normal routines go out the window. Whether a baby, adult or senior rescue cat or dog, new animals need the stability of knowing what to expect. In fact, some holiday schedules may allow you to be home more during this time to help the new kitty or pooch adjust.

Holiday pets take more work, true. But just think: you’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting cat or dog, a fur-kid hungry for a loving, permanent home. Happy holidays, indeed!

Everyone who adores puppies and kittens wants to share the furry love affair but not everyone is ready to receive puppies as gifts. Maybe the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness. But don’t gamble with a pet’s life.

Sure, Grandma is lonely and needs a wagging lap-warmer to keep her company. But she may have other plans, such as visits to the grandkids. A puppy that eats Aunt Ethel’s hat collection will cost you favorite nephew status. A busy new parent may want a pup or kitten for their kids, but have other demands that take priority.

small cute kittenGiving Puppies and Kittens As Gifts

Before you put a bow around his neck, ask yourself these questions. Will the new owner have the time, ability, and funds to care for the dog or cat over the next 10 to 20 years? Is their space better suited for a Chihuahua, Persian or Great Dane? Do they already have a fenced yard? Will Uncle Jim’s knees keep up when hunting with that Pointer pup? Does your mom really want to chase Junior Cat off the mantel every day?

Children delight in pets as gifts but living things can’t be shoved under the bed and forgotten when the latest must-have-kid-gadget has more appeal. Remember—even if Fluffy is for the kids, the ADULT ultimately holds responsibility for the well-being of the pet. Will the child’s parents have the time to spend on one-on-one attention a new pet needs, and deserves? Be sure that the recipient truly wants and is ready for a puppy or kitten.

pet proof holidays to keep pets safe

Be sure to PET PROOF your decorations for the new baby!

I Want A Puppy/Kitten!

What if the kids, your spouse, Aunt Ethel, or a best friend have made it clear they want a furry wonder, are prepared for the responsibility, and feel ready RIGHT NOW for a furry loved one in their life? You’re sure, and so are they. What can you do?

The time, the place, the person, and the pet must be right for love to bloom into a lifetime commitment. The selection should be made by the person who will live with, care for, and hopefully fall in love with the baby for the next decade or more. You still want the recipient to make this important choice, so give them that gift. Here’s X tips for giving pets as gifts.

6 Steps for Giving Pets As Gifts

  • Plot With Professionals. Contact the professional breeder, shelter, and/or rescue organization and explain the situation. Ask them to conspire with you—arrange to pay a deposit, or fund the purchase FOR the recipient, with the puppy or kitten to be chosen later. Perhaps also pre-pay puppy clicker training classes for the new family member, or fund the cost of the kitten’s first veterinary visit.
  • Avoid Puppy Mills. Those cute babies sold in some retail environments are born and raised in horrendous conditions. The ASPCA urges you to know what you’re getting, and pledge to avoid supporting that awful system.
  • Go Shopping. Create a “puppy or kitty care package” for the big day. Fill a puppy bed with treats, food, training and grooming equipment, and lots—lots!—of appropriate toys. Don’t forget to include a book or two about the pet’s breed, training or behavior tips, or other fun information.
  • Get Creative. Why not make a “gift certificate” that details this special surprise, and have that ready to present on the big day. Perhaps it could be packaged inside a pet carrier, or in an envelope attached to the collar of a stuffed St. Bernard or Siamese Cat toy.
  • Take Your Time. Holidays can be hectic when normal routines go out the window. New puppies and kittens–even newbie adult pets–need the stability of knowing what to expect. But you can “gift” with the certificate on the special day, and the recipient can choose the best time to bring the pet home. Hopefully you also have the fun of accompanying the person later, when they choose their own furry wonder.
  • Keep Them Safe. Be sure to “pet proof” your holidays. Check out the great ASPCA infographic, below, for more tips.

When you do it right, gifting with a pet can be magic. You’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting fur-kid.

Have you ever given–or received–a pet as a gift? How did you prepare? What was the result? Please share! I’d love to hear your experiences.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

aspca puppies infograph

Why Tabby Wears An M–A Christmas #Cats Story

complete kitten careIt’s become a tradition on the blog (and in my PETiQuette newspaper column) to share my favorite Christmas cat story this time of the year. This touching legend, included in Complete Kitten Care book, tells the story of a simple Tabby cat, and her gift on the very first Christmas day to a special mother and child. My own special tabby boy honors this page–notice the “M” on Karma’s brow…Enjoy!

Please be safe if you’re traveling. May your holidays be blessed.

KarmaFace-M-Tabby

Why Tabby Wears An M: A Christmas Cat Story

There was no snow that night in Bethlehem. Instead, the small cat watched a star-spangled sky from her perch in the window of a stable. She liked the stable, for it was a warm safe place to raise her furry babies, and the innkeeper sometimes left scraps out for her to nibble. Tabby wasn’t particularly distinctive, and most humans didn’t look at her twice. After all, her short gray/black fur was quite common. But Tabby’s striped coat hid a heart bigger than cats twice her size.

This night, though, Tabby was out of sorts, for she’d not been able to hunt and catch dinner. Travelers had poured into town for days, so noisy they disturbed decent cat-folks’ rest. Why, they’d even invaded Tabby‟s quiet stable, a place she had before shared only with other furry creatures. Tabby hadn’t minded the human couple—they were calmer than most. She’d left that morning for her usual rounds, but when she returned, the stable was packed with people.

From her perch on the window, Tabby watched the last of the strangers leave. She slipped from the window, and padded silently inside—and froze!

“Meewwww, meewww, meewww,” cried a tiny voice.

A kitten? Tabby’s ears turn this way and that to find the sound of the kitten’s voice. It came from the manger, the very place Tabby often made her own bed. A woman knelt beside the manger, intent on the small mewling that arose from within. Tabby was drawn by the kittenish sound, though she knew her own furry babies were grown to cat-hood. She tiptoed forward very slowly, and passed by a wooly burro, a warm cow, and all the other animals.

The woman looked up, and saw the striped cat. “Oh, little cat,” she murmured, “my baby cannot sleep, and nothing calms him this night.” She sighed, and turned back to the manger. “How grateful would I be to anyone able to bring him sweet dreams.”

And, as Tabby watched, each stable animal stepped forward in turn and tried to soothe the woman’s baby. But the kittenish sounds continued, and finally Tabby could contain herself no longer.

Quickly, she washed herself—paws, face, behind the ears, to the very tip of her tail (so as not to offend the child’s mother)—and then shyly stepped forward. She leaped gracefully to the manger, and stared into the face of the most beautiful baby (human or kitten!) she’d ever seen. He cooed and smiled, waving his tiny hands at Tabby, and she very carefully drew in her claws and settled beside him. Forgotten was her empty tummy; she could only hear her heart calling out to this sweet human-kitten.

And Tabby began to purr.

The wondrous cat-song filled the stable with overwhelming emotion. The animals listened with awe, and the child’s mother smiled as her baby quietly went to sleep.

The child’s mother placed her hand gently on the purring Tabby’s forehead. “Blessings upon you, Tabby-cat, for this sweet gift given to me and my child,” she said. And where she’d touched Tabby’s brow, there appeared an M—the sign of the Madonna’s benediction.

From that day forward, all proper tabby cats are honored with an M on their brow for the great service they performed that first Christmas night. And Christmas nights often find Tabby cats staring into the night, purring as they recall a very special child their ancestor once sang to sleep.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Note: Upon occasion, affiliate links to books or other products may be included in posts, from which I earn a small amount with each purchase from the blog. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Book Give-Aways for #Thriller Lovers!

I just can’t write fiction fast enough to satisfy all the thriller lovers out there. So from time to time, I partner with other fantastic writers for give-aways. Now y’all can stock up on great reads for weeks to come (I know that I’m going to do just that!).

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Which book(s) are you most excited to win? Do tell!
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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

How to Create A Cat Safe Christmas Tree

Cat safe Christmas tree? Is there any other kind? This is the first year we’ve put up a Christmas tree, since Karma-Kat joined the family. Our old girl, Seren-Kitty, had ignored the decorations for the past decade or so, and so did Magic. We were lucky that way—until now.

cat safe chrismas tree

Karma-Kat didn’t read the safety manual!

CREATE A CAT SAFE CHRISTMAS TREE

Karma considers the Christmas tree to be an early holiday gift. Many pets can’t resist the urge to sniff, claw, water—and Karma thinks it’s great fun to scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. I don’t blame him. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society, and dogs may want to “mark” the convenient indoor doggy signpost. He’s so heavy, though, that high tree top shenanigans aren’t in the cards.

Our tree has bunches of red and white silk rose buds, a string of “pearls” and some cat-safe sparkly but prickly décor that doesn’t appeal to Karma. We also offer him treat-filled puzzle toys placed well away from the tree so other spots in the house are more appealing.

Cat safe Christmas tree

Create a cat safe tree your kittens and cats will leave alone–or can safely play with.

WHY CATS LOVE THE CHRISTMAS TREE

Kitty can’t resist the urge to sniff, cheek rub, claw—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society. Y

oungsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the kitty kind not only risks breaking your heirloom ornaments, your furred family members can be injured by chewing or swallow dangerous items. Rather than fight a losing battle to keep cats at bay, create a second cat-safe tree with these 12 tips, so the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do.

Keep breakable holiday ornaments out of reach.

Cats turn anything into toys, even Christmas ornaments.

12 TIPS FOR A CAT SAFE CHRISTMAS TREE

  • Put yourself in your cat’s “paws.” Satisfy her desire to claw, lounge on branches, and trust that it won’t tip over under her assault. Match the tree size, sturdiness, base (perhaps add guy-wires for steadiness) to the activity level and number of cats.
  • Ditch the lights, and any “fake-snow” flocking that can be chewed or swallowed. Instead, decorate with cotton balls or pillow-stuffing fleece for that snowy look on branches or around the base. If you’ve chosen a real tree, water with plain water and no additives in case kitty decides to drink.
  • Strings and garland look great on the tree, but prove deadly inside a cat when swallowed. Dried flowers like baby’s breath look lovely and are nontoxic even if clueless kittens nibble.
    If you don’t mind your cats turning the tree into a jungle gym, insert a few sprigs of dried catnip—but be prepared for the cats to dismantle the tree!
  • Catnip toys make great kitty tree decorations and won’t be destroyed during the feline assaults. Use “orphan” socks (singletons without a mate), fill with the ‘nip, and knot the open end.
  • Jingle bells (quarter size or larger) can’t be swallowed and offer movement and sound when hung from ribbon on a branch. Put one inside the sealed catnip sock for more jingly fun.
  • Furry toy mice come in bright colors—or go with a standard white theme—and can be placed in the branches for your mouse-aholic feline.
  • Craft stores offer inexpensive bags filled with soft pompoms in a variety of colors and sizes—even sparkly ones. Cats love to play with these. Pompoms are so cheap you can fill the branches with one color theme, or a rainbow approach.
Holiday lights risk electrical shock

It’s not just the ornaments, but the electrical lights that can cause dangerous burns or death if chomped. Even the pine needles can cause injury if swallowed.

  • Many cats adore feathers, but remember they can chew and swallow these. As long as supervised, a few feathers placed in the tree can be a fun accent as well. How about a bright feather boa instead of garland?
  • Small stuffed toys—kitty theme or otherwise—appeal to many cats. Place around the base of the tree. Feline puzzle toys filled with special treats also are fun.
  • Don’t forget the “cheap thrills.” Empty boxes, wads of holiday paper, and even paper shopping bags thrill cats. Remove bag handles so the cat won’t get hung around her neck.
    Toss a few special kitty treats in the boxes or bags. The smellier the treat, the better cats like them.

Be prepared to re-decorate the tree after the cats have fun. But a “Cat-mas” tree not only answers your kitty’s Santa Paws prayers, it means she’ll be more likely to leave your formal tree and decorations alone. That promotes a merry Christmas for the whole family, furry and otherwise.

Here’s Karma-Kat’s first tree experience…hoo boy!

What have I missed? How do you keep the holidays safe for your cats? Teaching kittens the ropes may be easier than dealing with an adult cat. Have you ever had a cat-astrophe with your tree? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook,and get a FREE BOOK when you sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Want the insider info on the latest books and appearances? Join my team and get advance sneak peaks related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Doc & Phoebe’s Feeder: The NoBowl Feeding Solution for Cats

Doc & Phoebe’s Feeder, previously known as the NoBowl Feeding System, has been a hit with Karma-Kat. And with me. Here’s why.

nobowl cat feeding system

Karma-Kat immediately loved his “mousie meals.”

DISCLOSURE: I am not being paid for this post, but did receive the product for my cats to try out, for possible review purposes. Doc & Phoebe’s Feeder is not responsible for the content of this article.

DOC & PHOEBE’S “NoBowl” FEEDER

Karma is a big ol’ man-cat and loves to play. Until recently, he had his best friend Magical-Dawg to chase and tag, but still enjoyed pestering his tiny, elderly sister-cat, Seren. Karma also liked to steal everbody’s food (the dog’s, Seren’s, even grab-and-go off my husband’s plate!). He’d gotten a bit broad in his ass-ets, if you get my drift.

Last year, while at the annual Cat Writers’ Association conference in May, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Elizabeth Bales, the brains behind an innovate and interactive cat feeding system. She offered to send me the NoBowl system (recently renamed Doc & Phoebe’s Feeder).

WHY NoBOWL FEEDING?

Cats evolved as hunters, active in short bursts of energy to capture prey. They typically eat several small (mouse-size) meals daily. Feeding from an always-full bowl may work for some kitties, but many become bored, pack on the pudge. They even develop what Dr. Bales terms “scarf-and-barf” behavior when they eat too much and then urp it back up.

Stimulating the cat’s natural instinct to hunt, and feed in a more natural way, can address a number of behavioral and physical issues our indoor-only cats face. Once Karma learned he had to WORK for his kibble, he began to slim down, spent less time pestering Seren, and even slept through the night.

Finally, this time of year it helps keep Karma “otherwise engaged” rather than un-decking the halls and climbing the Christmas tree. Oh, yeah!

doc & phoebeWHAT’S IN DOC & PHOEBE’S NoBOWL SYSTEM?

The Indoor Hunting Feeder is a complete bowl replacement for one cat, and provides for five meals a day. I was gifted with a double set, since we will soon (I hope!) be adding another kitty friend to our household. The standard Doc & Phoebe’s Indoor Hunting Feeder costs $39.99 and includes:

  • 1  Trainer complete with multiple dispensing holes
  • 5 Feeders each with two dispensing holes – designed for any size kibble
  • 5 Feeder Skins designed to simulate the tactile feel of prey allowing your cat to grab, claw and use its teeth as it would in the hunt
  • 1 Scoop which holds 1.6 tablespoons (1/5th the daily ration of an average 10-lb cat)

For that reason, Karma-Kat gets his five “mousies” a day, place in various interesting spots throughout the house. Check out the video, below, for Karma’s reaction to the fun and games!

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AMY’S RATING

I only have a couple of nits with the product. First, it’s a bit tricky to fill the mouse-containers with the scoop, although the scoop is very convenient for measuring. Also, if you have a big DAWG like our Magic, it may be a challenge to use the feeding system without a marauder stealing them. We solved that problem by placing the mousies in closed rooms–the bedroom at night, and my office during the day. Now, of course, with Magic and Seren gone, that’s no longer an issue.

Overall, I give the feeding system my highest rating and will be recommending the product to future clients. If you’ve not decided how to “gift” your cat-loving friends this holiday season, check out this indoor hunting feeder. Your cats will thank you!

cat behaviorHow about you? Do your cats enjoy puzzle toys, hunting games or have “issues” that might be addressed by this or a similar product? How do you manage them? Do tell!

Get more tips on cat-to-cat issues in ComPETability: Cats.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!