Mental Floss
HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDES

15 of the Best Gifts for Pets, According to Experts

Kerry Wolfe
Your pets will thank you.
Your pets will thank you. / K·1/Amazon (cat tunnel); GoDog/Chewy (plush rooster)
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Unlike the people on your holiday shopping list, your pets can’t drop hints or directly tell you what goodies they’d like to find under the tree this year. If you’re overwhelmed by all the products on the market, don’t worry: We’ve rounded up an assortment of the best gifts for pets, as chosen by experts.

How to Choose a Good Pet Gift

When it comes to buying toys for your pet, knowing your animal is key. “It’s knowing what we call their ‘chews-inality,’ or chewing personality. What they like to do to their toys, what kind of play they enjoy,” Cathy Madson, a dog trainer and canine behavior consultant at Preventive Vet, tells Mental Floss. (But no matter how much you trust your four-legged family members, never let them play unsupervised. After all, there’s no such thing as a truly indestructible toy.) 

Look for toys that provide interaction and enrichment. “A lot of times with our pets nowadays, they aren’t getting to practice all of those instinctual drives and things that they naturally need to do,” Madson says. “Play gives them an outlet for that, and it also works their brain. I really love it as an outlet for their natural behavior because it reduces stress [and] anxiety.” Puzzle-like toys are a great way to keep your critters mentally stimulated, too. “The mental energy is important. And it does tire out a really busy pet,” Dr. Carolyn Lincoln, the veterinarian and dog trainer at Play to Behave, tells Mental Floss.

It’s also good to look for toys that will allow you to play with your pet, rather than relying on hands-off versions that leave your beloved companions to their own devices. According to experts, products that allow people to interact with their pets helps strengthen the human-animal bond.

Pay close attention to the specific materials you’re choosing as well. “Just because [a company will] sell it, doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate,” Lincoln says. Make sure toys aren’t made with unsafe materials (wooden chew toys, for example, would be unwise), and that the retailers that sell them follow the correct pet product regulations and labeling procedures.

If you’re ready to start shopping, check out these 15 options below.

1. K·1 Cat Cave Condo; From $39

K·1 Cat Cave Condo
K·1 Cat Cave Condo / K·1/Amazon

Cats, like dogs, are prone to some serious zoomies. But running around the same room over and over again can get a bit mundane. Tunnels are perfect for making indoor exercise more exciting for your pet, and this versatile one from K·1 gives shoppers more bang for their buck. “It changes and makes all these different shapes so it can be a tunnel, or it can be a ball with a little hole in it,” Lincoln says, “It’s just super fun.” They’re also lightweight and scratch-resistant. If you’re looking for a more traditional tunnel, this collapsible pop-up one ($13) is easy to move and store.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Andiker Cat Spiral Spring; $6

Andiker Cat Spiral Spring
Andiker Cat Spiral Spring / Andiker/Amazon

These plastic trinkets are cheap and effective, and could be a great gift for felines as well. “Any time somebody gets a kitten I get them these toys,” Lincoln says. The feisty little cats in your life will have a blast batting these springs around the house.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Earthtone Solutions Wool Felt Ball Toys; $10

Earthtone Solutions Wool Felt Ball Toys for Cats and Kittens
Earthtone Solutions Wool Felt Ball Toys / Earthtone Solutions/Amazon

If you’re looking to keep your cat entertained with something more natural than plastic, Lincoln recommends these felt balls. “They’re a little pricey, but they last a really long time and you can throw them in the wash, which is nice,” she says. Plus, they’re handmade in Nepal and come in an assortment of bright colors. 

Buy it: Amazon

4. Frisco Holiday Teaser Wand Cat Toy with Catnip; $10

Frisco Holiday Teaser Wand Cat Toy with Catnip
Frisco Holiday Teaser Wand Cat Toy with Catnip / Frisco/Chewy

“Cats go crazy for anything catnip-infused like an excited child on Christmas morning,” Leslie Gillette, a veterinarian at Chewy, tells Mental Floss in an email. Not only will this toy give them a whiff of the cat-favorite herb, but it will also encourage them to run around and play.

You can find similar products for dogs, too, called flirt poles ($28). Rather than terrorizing your backyard squirrels, your dog’s urge to chase something can be satisfied by these pole toys, which won’t bite back. Flirt poles are good for more than just fun: “It’s a great training tool for practicing ‘drop it,’” Madson says. “They’re also really good for nippy puppies who are teething because the toy is so far away from hands and arms.”

Buy it: Chewy

5. JW Pet Hol-ee Roller; $22

JW Pet Hol-ee Roller
JW Pet Hol-ee Roller / JW Pet/Amazon

Lincoln looks for toys that can do more than one thing, like the Hol-ee Roller. These toys are great for fetch and tug games, but you can also give your pup a bit of extra mental stimulation by turning them into a puzzle: Simply stuff another toy, such as a smaller ball, inside the Hol-ee Roller and watch as your dog attempts to remove it. 

Buy it: Amazon

6. Chuckit! Air Fetch Ball Dog Toy; $11

Chuckit! Air Fetch Ball Dog Toy
Chuckit! Air Fetch Ball Dog Toy / Chuckit!/Amazon

These fun, bouncy toys are a safer alternative to tennis balls, which can get caught in a dog’s throat. “But if these get caught in the throat, they’re soft and pliable,” Lincoln says. “They have holes in them so the dog can still breathe, and you can pull the toy out pretty easily.” Their bright orange color also makes them easy to find, so there’s less of a chance you’ll lose them around the yard.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tuttomio Play-More Pet Stick; $8

Tuttomio Play-More Pet Stick
Tuttomio Play-More Pet Stick / Tuttomio/Amazon

Sure, finding a random stick in the park to play fetch with is convenient, but it isn’t actually safe for pets. Wooden sticks can crack and break, creating a risk for dangerous splinters and punctures. Experts say this pet stick is a much safer option. “I have like three or four,” Madson says. “It bounces, floats, and is a pretty straightforward toy.” But, as Madson warns, they’re meant to be used for a game of fetch—not for chewing. For the chomp-happy pups, she suggests these Goughnuts chew toys, priced from $30 (if you get one of the ring-shaped chews, make sure your dog’s jaw won’t get stuck inside it). 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Mendota Pet Long Snap Leash; $33

Mendota Pet Long Snap Leash
Mendota Pet Long Snap Leash / Mendota/Amazon

A 15-foot leash gives your dog a bit more freedom to roam during walks—as long as it’s safe, of course. This allows them to move at a faster pace than their human companion, which could reduce the amount of times your pup feels the need to pull on the leash. The extra room also lets them follow their noses a bit. “I like to think of these as ‘sniffaris,’” Madson says. “The dog gets to choose where they go, and how long they sniff something.” The Mendota leashes are good for human handlers, too: They’re soft to hold, yet still durable and easy to wield. 

Buy it: Amazon

9. West Paw Zogoflex Toppl Treat Dispensing Dog Toy Puzzle; $20

West Paw Zogoflex Toppl Treat Dispensing Dog Toy Puzzle
West Paw Zogoflex Toppl Treat Dispensing Dog Toy Puzzle / West Paw/Amazon

If your dog tends to gobble down their meals or snacks in a rush, try slowing them down with a Toppl puzzle. Madson uses it as an enrichment toy for meals: You can put two together and fill them with dry food to make a roller toy. Or, if your dog tends to wolf down its canned food, simply stuff the Toppl with wet food and freeze it to slow down their eating. Bonus: These toys are easy to clean (they’re even dishwasher-safe!) and recyclable. 

A snuffle mat ($36), which requires a dog to sniff around for their food, is also good for meal-time enrichment. “Sniffing for dogs helps lower their heart rate,” Madson says. “So if you have an anxious dog or really hyper dog, giving them lots of sniffing time is perfect for helping them kind of decompress and settle [down].” If you want to get creative, you can even attempt to DIY your own snuffle mat

Buy it: Amazon

10. GoDog Checkers Chew Guard Rooster Squeaky Plush Dog Toy; $10

GoDog Checkers Chew Guard Rooster Squeaky Plush Dog Toy
GoDog Checkers Chew Guard Rooster Squeaky Plush Dog Toy / GoDog/Chewy

When it comes to plush toys, Madson recommends the GoDog stuffies—there’s a whole menagerie of fun options to choose from. “The chickens crack me up,” Madson says. The toys are soft and cuddly, but they can also withstand some chewing, thanks to the brand’s Chew Guard Technology and reinforced, double-stitched seams.

Buy it: Chewy

11. Temptations Classic Holiday Dinner Turkey & Sweet Potato Flavor Crunchy and Soft Cat Treats; $8

Temptations Classic Holiday Dinner Turkey & Sweet Potato Flavor Crunchy and Soft Cat Treats
Temptations Classic Holiday Dinner Turkey & Sweet Potato Flavor Crunchy and Soft Cat Treats / Temptations / Chewy

“Temptations is a favorite [brand] among cats and cat parents,” Gillette says. Their Holiday Dinner treats will give your feline family members a taste of a classic festive feast, complete with turkey and sweet potato. Each piece is just two calories, and their crunchy outer shell can help keep your cat’s dental hygiene in good shape.

Buy it: Chewy 

12. Earth Animal Chews; $11

Earth Animal Chews
Earth Animal Chews / Earth Animal / Chewy

These rawhide alternatives come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors, so they can suit a range of different dogs—and accommodate various food sensitivities. They’re tough and chewy like rawhide treats, and don’t have synthetic additives. “They’re made with a pineapple base so they’re a lot more easily digestible than rawhide would be. But they still have the same texture as the rawhide[,] and they still kind of look like rawhide,” Madson says. “I really like them for my dogs, for their special treats.” 

Buy it: Chewy

13. Frisco Trio Balls Small Pet Chew Toys; $6

Frisco Trio Balls Small Pet Chew Toys
Frisco Trio Balls Small Pet Chew Toys / Frisco/Chewy

Don’t forget the pocket-sized pets. “Much like dogs and cats, small pets love to play, too, and it’s important for their mental and physical enrichment,” Gilette says. These little balls are sure to delight the rodents and rabbits on your list. They can bat them around their cage, or just stay put and gnaw on them to their hearts’ content.

Buy it: Chewy

14. SunGrow Parakeet & Budgie Swing Toy & Hammock Set; $12

SunGrow Parakeet & Budgie Swing Toy & Hammock Set
SunGrow Parakeet & Budgie Swing Toy & Hammock Set / SunGrow/Chewy

“Birds also enjoy toys that captivate their senses,” Gillette says. This set comes with plenty of options for keeping any avian family members entertained, including five toys, so you’ll be able to build an entire jungle gym inside your bird’s cage.

Buy it: Chewy

15. Horsemen’s Pride All-Natural Himalayan Salt on a Rope Salt Block Horse Treat; $8

Horsemen’s Pride All-Natural Himalayan Salt on a Rope Salt Block Horse Treat
Horsemen’s Pride All-Natural Himalayan Salt on a Rope Salt Block Horse Treat / Horsemen’s Pride / Chewy

Not every treat has to be sweet. According to Gillette, salt blocks are a popular option among horse owners. These Himalayan salt licks ensure the equines get enough important nutrients and minerals, like iron, potassium, and magnesium. They’re also dense and sturdy, so horses will have to take their time and lick them instead of impatiently biting them to bits.

Buy it: Chewy

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