Christmas Is Coming! Which Toy Do I Choose for My Pet?

By: Paula Plummer, LVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM)

TVMA Member
College Station, TX

Published December 2015

Many people want to give their pet something special during the holiday season. Unfortunately, not all toys that are available for sale are good for every species. Here are a few things to consider when toy shopping for your pet:

  • What species is my pet?
  • Will this toy be a danger to anyone (whether human or another pet) in the house?
  • Can this toy be ingested by my pet?
  • Will my pet enjoy this toy?

Purchase toys that are made for your pet’s species. Cat toys differ from dog toys and vice versa. For example, many cat toys are made with catnip, which is something cats enjoy but dogs do not. Cat toys usually have feathers, bells or strings attached to them for the cat’s pleasure. These things can be dangerous to dogs because dogs may easily ingest them. No one wants an emergency trip to the veterinarian during the holidays! The same goes for dog toys in that they are specifically made for dogs. Rope toys, Kongs and tennis balls are typically enjoyed more by dogs than cats.

Be mindful of the size of the toy. A pet (or anyone else in the house, such as small children) could potentially ingest the toy if it’s too small. If a pet ingests the toy, contact your local veterinarian for medical assistance. Keeping toys out of reach of small children is vital because a child could easily swallow small pieces, get tangled in the toy or be harmed in some way. Both pets and children should be constantly supervised when in proximity to toys.

While any inappropriately sized toy can be swallowed, a toy with a string attached can be especially dangerous to your pet. In addition, toys should be discarded if the pet has broken or destroyed it in some way (pulled out the stuffing, unraveled the yarn, etc.) because portions of broken toys (squeakers, string from burst seams, etc.) can be swallowed and cause an intestinal foreign body, which would require surgery. Any time a toy is ingested by a pet, call your local veterinarian for medical assistance.

Beyond safety issues, how much your pet will enjoy the toy is another important factor to consider. There are a wide variety of toys that pets enjoy, and much like people, pets will have personal preferences. For example, some dogs enjoy chewing on a Kong toy filled with peanut butter whereas other dogs enjoy tossing around a rope bone or playing fetch with their owner with a certain type of ball. Some cats prefer a string with a feather and bell on the end for the owner to dangle in front of them, or they may also like catnip-filled toys to carry around the house. To some owners’ surprise, their cats may like to play fetch! It may take a few times and a few discarded toys to learn what your pet prefers. Some pet toy stores allow you to bring your pet into the store so they can pick out their own toy. If you want to surprise your pet with a toy, don’t be discouraged if they don’t immediately take to the toy. Remember that sometimes the best gift you can give isn’t one that can be bought. Sometimes it’s as simple as spending some quality time with them and showing special love and attention.

Paula Plummer, LVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM), is a registered veterinary technician who graduated from Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Ms. Plummer works in the Feline Internal Medicine Department at the Texas A&M University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in College Station, Texas.