Every cat and dog owner has a list of go-to items that they would recommend to their fellow fuzzy-loving friends – and this week, two of us – with two pups and four kitties between us – decided to combine efforts to put together five recommended items each based on our experiences raising floofs. While we don’t (necessarily) claim that these items are absolutely required for a better woofer or meower experience overall, we do think that their presence may improve at least a small element of your experience being owned by a cat or dog.
For Our Kitties
Corrugated Cardboard Scratchers
Cats have a natural need to exercise their claws; however, many cat towers are quite expensive for an item that will ultimately have a somewhat short life. For a household with multiple cats, corrugated cardboard floor scratchers are an inexpensive way to ensure that cats’ paws get the exercise they need, at an affordable price. Corrugated cardboard pieces are easy to flip over, maximizing their lifespan, and are easy to move in order to clean. Once both sides of a corrugated cardboard scratcher are exhausted, simply order a replacement pack. I highly recommend the extra-wide version of these scratchers, as they have more longevity than regular-sized pieces.
Sturdy Teaser Toys
There are so many teaser toys on the market, the process to find the best is a bit overwhelming. Having a household full of cats has given me a little bit of clarity in terms of which toys are the most effective to play with, and the most fun to use. I generally recommend you stay away from teasers that only have feathers at the end – one good play session will usually be all it takes to bring their life to an untimely end. Similarly, teasers with hard toys at the end are a little less recommended – part of the fun for kitties is to be able to dig their claws into the soft toys as they play, and especially if a big human is tossing the toys, hard plastic can make injury more likely! My recommendation is to pick a longer wand with a sturdy stuffed toy at the end, and feathers attached to the stuffed toy, for the best of both worlds.
Travel-Ready Shoulder Cat Carrier
After many years of travel with cats using bulky plastic carriers, I made the switch to an easier-to-use shoulder carrier (that has the added benefit of being travel-ready for airport carry-on requirements). In addition to easier transport, these carriers still feature sturdy bases, and can be solidly secured in a vehicle for trips to the vet. Pro-tip: line the carrier with a towel lightly sprayed with Feliway on-the-go to help your kitty reduce stress during travel!
A Well-Designed Play Tunnel
Play tunnels are an entertaining way to give your kitties a playspace and hideaway, without taking up much space in your home or making a significant cost investment. I suggest investing in a crinkle tunnel, as cats are attracted to this sound, and ensuring that your tunnel is extra-wide for maximum play capabilities as your kitties grow, or if you have a multi-cat household. My personal favorite is the Frisco 47-inch Crinkle Play Tunnel, which features two observation windows, the crinkling sound that kitties love, and a comfortable suede fabric, good for a secluded nap.
Safe Hair Tie Toys
Anyone who has spent much of their life in the company of a cat with a long hair situation knows that even when your home is a vast landscape of cat-specific toys, your hair ties will invariably vanish from wherever you last set them down, only to reappear in a stash under the couch a few months later. However, hair ties themselves are not recommended to be used as toys, as they can be dangerous if accidentally swallowed. However, through rigorous research for a toy that can replace hair ties, I finally stumbled upon an excellent one – the Fat Cat Crazies Playrings Cat Toy, which bounces in entertaining ways during play, and is easy to toss around for fun.
For Our Pups
Puzzle Feeders and Treat Dispensers
Puzzle treat dispensers are amazing tools to keep your pup entertained and their brain occupied! Personally, I like to take some yogurt or peanut butter, put it in a kong, and freeze it overnight. Not only is it a nice summer treat, but being frozen keeps your pup occupied for a super long time. Puzzle feeders are amazingly helpful for dogs who gobble their food too fast and make themselves sick. You can even make your own puzzle treat dispenser at home: take a tennis ball and make a 1 to 2 inch slice in it, fill the ball with treats, and that’s it! Endless entertainment for your pup.
Here is a helpful article: https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/the-best-interactive-toys-and-food-puzzles-for-your-dog
Soft Vest Harnesses
Having experience with nearly every harness contraption out there, the soft vest types are my ALL time favorite. They’re super easy to get on, really secure, don’t pull harshly on the dogs neck, and are comfy for the doggos too! The “Plush” brand ones are my favorite – while not available online they’re usually at your local boutique dog store. But Puppia makes good ones too, that are more widely available:
Dog Beds for the Car
Bolster seats are great for tiny dogs, and keeps them safely in place instead of running all over your car! But for larger dogs, a bed that simply stays securely and safely in place can be incredibly helpful. One of our pups is an anxious boy in the car, and without a secure place to lay down he can get incredibly stressed out. We’ve tried simply laying a dog bed on the seat, but it slips around and makes things worse. His personal favorite is this PetSafe Happy Ride Car Dog Bed:
Pet Hair Removal Rollers
I am obsessed with these “ChomChom” hair removers! They work like MAGIC to remove hair from any fabric, even those pesky embedded short hairs. They’re much more environmentally friendly and work better then sticky rollers, too. I’ve had mine for 2 years, between 2 fluffy dogs and a wildly furry cat, and it’s still going strong!
Hide and Seek Toys
Whether young or old, all pups need mental stimulation! Both of my dogs are 13yrs old and they aren’t able to exercise as much, these kinds of toys have been invaluable. Plus, even if your pup destroys the “large” part of the toy, the mini toys are great for playing fetch!