While our economy may be down, not so when it comes to our four-legged friends! Last year, pet owners spent over $43.4 billion – with most of that squandered on useless gadgets or extravagant pet products. When it comes to pampering our pets, learn how to discriminate between which products are worth spontaneously splurging on (studded-collar, anyone?), which are worth skipping (magnetic beds), and which ones are essential for the health of your pet. These are five pet products that you shouldn’t skimp on!
If your dog or cat are on daily medications, make life easier for all involved – buy them some pill pockets. These easy-to-mold soft treats have a “built-in pocket,” allowing you to stuff a pill inside without your pet ever noticing. Once you place the pill inside, simply pinch the pocket closed – hiding that gross medicine taste from your pet. These delectable treats are irresistible – and tried and tested by my own three pets. Before you know it, your pet will be begging for his meds. If you have the rare dog or cat that’s smart enough to pick the pill out of the pill pocket, splurge on a compounding pharmacy that can convert the medication into a lovely fish- or liver-flavored liquid instead – allowing you to feed his medications with his food instead.
Promise or Halti collar
This unique collar is a must when it comes to training a new puppy, and is the #1 tooted tool recommended by veterinary behaviorists. These collars come with different names: the Gentle Leader, the Promise collar, or the Halti… and each one is a vet’s (and pet owner’s) life-saver. While you may take it for granted that it’s “easy” to know how to properly walk down the street with your dog, it’s harder than it looks – and this collar will show you how. This unique two-strap collar is designed to be a modified leash that prevents your dog from pulling and makes him submissive to your every command. While this collar looks like a muzzle, it’s not – rather, it’s designed to work by two mechanisms: one strap (loop) goes over the muzzle, while the second strap goes around the back of the neck. It’s the muzzle strap that makes this collar effective – when your dog pulls on the leash, this loop tightens down and applies tension to the muzzle of your dog – mimicking what happens when a dominant alpha wolf tries to exert his or her dominance of a submissive dog (biting down on the muzzle) – causing your dog to back off. This shows your dog that you’re the boss in a language that he’ll understand. Meantime, the other strap helps prevent your dog from pulling against the leash – it mimics a mother carrying her puppy by the back of the neck, causing the puppy to instinctively relax. Granted, it’ll take some time getting your dog used to this muzzle strap collar (he’ll rub his face on the carpet, trying to initially get this off), but it’s worth it – your dog will quickly learn that it’s associated with walk time, and will learn to stop pulling on the leash, making you look less like an out-of-control.
Kitty water fountains
While this seems like a pet product that only crazy cat owners have, it’s not… and it’s worth splurging on. Being that cats are creatures of curiosity, they enjoy having a source of “fun” water – in other words, water they can splash and play with. That’s likely why you notice your cat hanging around the bathroom when you get out of the shower – a fun, refreshing, new water source to lap up! These plug-in kitty water fountains are reasonably priced ($50), and provide fresh, running water while lulling you into relaxation also. While this may not be on your priority list – it should be – especially if you have an older cat that has diabetes, kidney failure, bladder problems, or hyperthyroidism, where a cat’s water balance and hydration status are finely balanced. Veterinarians have found that cats actually drink more if they have a kitty water fountain in their house, which then keeps them hydrated, flushing out their kidneys and bladder even better.
Nothing’s worse than leaving your dog alone all day for 8 to 10 hour stretches – after all, what’s she to do? Invest in a Kong toy as a great, cheap, inexpensive way of “mentally stimulating” your dog. By stuffing the middle of a Kong treat (like their “Stuff-A-Ball”) with peanut butter, kibble, frozen chicken broth, or odd-shaped biscuits and treats, it gives your dog a toy to play around with while you’re gone… providing some much needed environmental enrichment while you’re hard at work trying to pay off all those Kong treats. Don’t forget to cut back on dinner though, since you’re providing a lot of calories as a snack in the Kong toy. Better yet, try the Kong-on-a-rope for a quick 15-minute exercise session in the dog park when you get home from work – this throw toy will get your dog’s heart racing and pumping for some calorie-shedding exercise.
Another kitty litter box
While this pet product doesn’t seem quite as luxurious and fun for your pampered cat, it’s worth listing in the top 5. The #1 mistake I see pet owners making is not having enough litter boxes in the household – so when in doubt, go splurge on another one. If you have multiple cats, stick to the n+1 litter box rule, and scoop at least daily. Your cat will think he died and went to a (cleaner) heaven. Not only does your cat love you more for keeping a fastidious lifestyle that he prefers, but his kidneys, bladder, and lower urinary tract will thank you for it too. A lot of underlying behavioral and medical problems occur because of poor litter box husbandry, so splurge.
- When in doubt, ask your vet, animal behaviorist, or pet trainer for some pet-approved toys. They’ll help you pick safe, indestructible ones for your pet.
- Keep in mind that not all pet products are safe – some treats can break off and lodge in your pet’s esophagus, stomach or intestines, while others can cause gastroenteritis (i.e., vomiting or diarrhea from an irritated intestine) from being too rich, too fatty, or too salty. Other toys may have dangerous string or parts that could get stuck in the intestines, requiring an expensive surgery to fix it.
- The best pet products are those that keep your pet’s quality of life high: medically healthy, mentally stimulated, and physically exercised.