'What I'd buy my cat for Christmas…'
How better to celebrate the joy that your pets bring you, than by giving them a festive treat? To help you pick the perfect present, we've asked the experts for their top recommendations on fun, safe and enjoyable gifts for your furry friend. Plus, an animal nutritionist weighs in on the best edible end-of-year indulgences.
1An active chasing toy
Petplan vet Brian Faulkner's choice: CatIt Senses Play Circuit, £8.49 from fetch.co.uk
'I'll be buying my cat this fantastic play circuit for Christmas,' Brian says. 'In fact, it looks like so much fun I almost want one myself!
This toy scores top marks with me thanks to its ability to engage your cat's natural senses of touch, hearing and sight. The peek-a-boo track design is an especially good way to do this, as it allows your pet to both hear and see the ball, and uses bright colours and movement to attract her attention.
The gaps along the track are also cleverly placed, so that your cat can swat at the rolling ball as it passes. Overall it's a great way for your cat to practice her instincts to hunt and toy with prey – which will help to keep her mind sharp and to stay physically fit.'
2A mind-stimulating puzzle game
Clinical animal behaviourist Inga MacKellar's choice:
Trixie Cat Activity Fun Board, £15.99 from amazon.co.uk
'Active games and toys can be fun for your cat, but when you're buying your pet a gift it's also important to keep mental stimulation in mind,' advises clinical animal behaviourist Inga MacKellar.
'This activity board is a great way to help your cat exercise her brain, and keeps her occupied as she has to work out how to retrieve treats placed in various areas of the board. It's designed to encourage tapping motions, as well as 'hooking' movements to get at the reward, and provides a good challenge as it incorporates little pots, a peg maze and wavy ridges where you can place dry food or cat treats. (Just make sure to monitor your cat's overall calorie intake accordingly.)
The board is also a brilliant way to get your cat to use her natural problem-solving skills during cold spells when she's indoors more often than usual. Thankfully, it can also be easily washed and kept clean.'
3Edible festive treats
Clinical animal nutritionist Marjorie Chandler advises on those extra indulgences:
'It's normal to add a few treats to our own diets during the holidays, and the same often goes for our pets,' says clinical animal nutritionist Marjorie Chandler. 'As long as your cat is healthy and isn't overweight, it's perfectly OK to give her the occasional extra snack.
Many cats like dried chicken or fish treats, cooked chicken, canned tuna or cheese, but you'll need to make sure that these don't provide more than 10% of your cat's daily calories. To put this into perspective, a 5kg adult cat needs about 290 calories per day – so her snacks shouldn't add up to more than 30 calories of that. Pre-packaged treats often contain 300-400 calories per 100g, so a 50g bag should last you a week. For chicken or tuna, this means about 20g per day, while a one-inch square of cheddar cheese contains nearly 70 calories, so should only be given sparingly (every three days at most) and only if she doesn't show any sign of dairy intolerance.
I'd recommend lower-calorie treats for overweight cats. Some will enjoy small amounts of cooked broccoli, squash or grated courgette, so you could try these out on your cat when you're next cooking them for your own dinner and take note of which she prefers. You can also supervise her play with a catnip-filled toy.
Finally, while the festive season can make it difficult to monitor all the foods that your cat has access to, you should always make sure products that are toxic to cats are kept out of reach. This includes chocolate and ingredients such as xylitol, onions and garlic.'