'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.
1A toy for gentle exercise
Petplan vet Brian Faulkner's choice: Kong Active Treat Dispenser Ball, £2.49 from fetch.co.uk
'It's important that cats of all ages get some form of playtime, but it's especially useful for older cats as it helps to keep both their bodies and minds agile,' Brian advises. 'That's exactly why my top choice for an older feline's Christmas present is the Kong Active Treat Dispenser Ball.
The ball can be packed with low-calorie treats and, thanks to its irregular shape, moves unpredictably and promotes a gentle – but healthy – form of exercise. This will help to keep your older cat mentally active by challenging her to retrieve the food and engaging her natural instinct to hunt. Its slow rocking motion means she can play in a safe and less physically demanding manner.'
Clinical animal behaviourist Inga MacKellar's choice:
The Natural Pet Company's Cat Toy Collection Box, £13.99 amazon.co.uk
'We often spend hours playing with our cats when they are younger, but tend to interact less with them in this way as they become older,' Inga says. 'But most cats, even those in their golden years, still enjoy playing – although they might need a little encouragement at first. A great way to entice your cat into playtime is through some gentle interactive games with you, which is why I'd recommend The Natural Pet Company's Cat Toy Collection.
It comes packed with fishing rod and natural-fibre toys (although some have small metal bells on them, which I'd suggest removing to prevent your cat's claws from being caught). Fishing rod toys are ideal for a less active older cat, as you can dangle the toy in front of her and she can reach out with her paws and play while lying down. Short, one-to-two minute sessions a few times a day are ideal to keep your pet stimulated and young at heart.'
3Edible festive treats
Clinical animal nutritionist Marjorie Chandler advises on those extra indulgences:
'It's normal to indulge a little during the holidays, and the same often goes for our pets,' says clinical animal nutritionist Marjorie Chandler. 'However, ageing cats may have health problems, which limit the types of snacks they can be fed. For example, if your cat has kidney disease you should avoid giving her any human foods, which are high in protein and salt. On the other hand, if she has diabetes a small bit of cooked fish or chicken should be fine, although you'll need to monitor her overall calorie intake closely. Ask your vet for advice if you're at all unsure about what your cat can and can't eat.
Treats shouldn't make up more than 10% of your cat's daily calories. To put this into perspective, an older cat needs about 250 calories per day – so her treats shouldn't add up to more than 25 calories of that. Pre-packaged treats often contain 300-400 calories per 100g, so a 50g bag should last you more than a week at a time. If your cat is overweight, then low-calorie treats are better. Some cats 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.'