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In search of the perfect gift? Read more of Slate’s holiday gift guides here.
We’re accustomed to buying holiday gifts for the humans we love, but it can be great fun to present the perfect present to the adored pets in our lives too. We at Slate are especially grateful to our furry friends who’ve kept us company and boosted our spirits throughout this pandemic. Here we recommend our pets’ most beloved toys and accessories so that your cats and dogs can benefit from the joy these items bring too.
These flat, stuffingless stuffed animals—simply, animals?—are the only soft toys that my dog can enjoy without making an absolute mess. They are also very cute, and therefore great even for dogs who don’t excitedly like to destroy things. The fact that they’re long makes them good for tug of war, in addition to low-key games of fetch. They’re sold in a three-pack and are not that expensive, so maybe this is the year you give one as a little gift to every dog you know and love. —Shannon Palus, staff writer
The Furminator deShedding Tool is a favorite in my family of Labs and golden retrievers. My dogs’ tails even wag when they see it coming, knowing it’s time for an outside brushing. It’s great for weekly use to cut down on dog hair in the house, and I highly recommend a full body session before bath time. —Molly Gallagher, programmatic ad-ops manager
My hound mix, Abigail, can destroy most plush squeaky toys in mere minutes (if not seconds), theatrically disemboweling them and tossing their stuffing across the living room. But she’s also not a fan of the harder toys created for her fellow “super chewers,” so I’m on a constant hunt for toys that will last longer than a peanut butter–stuffed Kong. One recent gem is the Rogz Scrubz Dog Toy. It’s a thick rope toy that makes a crackle noise that my pup loves. It has a handle for games of tug of war, and it has withstood months of my pup’s tough chewing.
Additionally, if someone you love dearly got a quarantine puppy, and you’d like to get that bundle of joy a holiday gift, may I suggest the truly deranged Kong Wubba Friend? A cross between an octopus and assorted woodland creatures (depending on which version you get), this odd hybrid looks innocent enough—except that it contains the loudest, most piercing squeaker known to mankind. Of course my dog, destroyer of all plush toys, doesn’t dare harm this one. And her favorite time to play with it? Zoom calls, usually ones with my boss. It’s your moral obligation to introduce this delightful hellion to all the quarantine pups in your life. —Megan Wiegand, senior managing editor
There’s something about the goofy charm of a dog wearing a bandana that gets me, but earlier this year when I tried to deck out my newly adopted Jindo mix in one, it just didn’t fit. She’s on the smaller side, at about 20 pounds, and all my bandanas were huge. Folding them over just made them bulky and ill-fitting. Not cute! Determined in my quest to have a bandana-wearing dog, I ended up ordering some specially made dog bandanas, a four pack from Remy+Roo. They are specially designed, no folding required, and are shaped in a way that makes them easy to tie. The patterns are cute without being cloying, and they are durable and easy to clean. I love them, and my dog tolerates them; it’s a win-win! —Benjamin Frisch, producer of Decoder Ring
When I bought my daughter’s rescue pup, Sergeant Pepper, a six-month BarkBox subscription for Christmas last year, I paid extra for the Super Chewer box, because Sergeant P—a delightful, adorable, but totally manic pit—had proved able to destroy AND EAT anything handed him in under a minute. The subscription gave him and his people so much pleasure that I couldn’t resist renewing it as a birthday gift in June … and then buying a BarkBox subscription for my own new (quarantine) rescue puppy, Ella. She is 6 months old now, and the arrival of the box each month may be the high point of her month. The regular, non–Super Chewer box includes stuffed toys on a theme, and bags of treats are included too. I recognize this is a ludicrous indulgence, but at this point I’d rather spend money on the puppy, who is keeping me company and keeping me sane, than on, say, clothes or shoes, because I am not going anywhere anyway. Except out to walk the dog. —Michelle Herman, Care and Feeding columnist
I recently got a new cat, and it turns out she’s a bit of a recluse. She spends the vast majority of her time either in the bathtub or right next to the bathtub in the air purifier box the Humane Society sent her home with. Given her penchant for cardboard boxes, I bought her this cardboard step-in scratcher, which is perfect for sitting, flopping (pictured), and scratching. It seems to be a success. The palm-frond exterior is a cute, added bonus.
I also purchased an extremely ridiculous cat scratcher that resembles a large cartoon cactus. I have no illusions that my cat will ever fall in love with his object—fickle felines rarely seem attracted to the items you spend the most money on—but I already have. It brightens my space and makes me chuckle every time I see this goofy green fuzzball in the corner of my living room. Maybe, possibly, perhaps my cat will enjoy it one day too. —Abby McIntyre, assistant managing editor
Auggie is incredibly curious and is constantly messing with my plants, climbing my bookshelf, and batting anything and everything off of my counters. Lucky for him, he also happens to be very sweet and insanely cute. I’m always looking for new products to keep him entertained in healthy rather than destructive ways. Like most cats, he loves to be up high, but I was having trouble finding a cat tree tall enough to keep him stimulated, but small enough for my Brooklyn apartment. Enter our (space) saving grace: the cat window perch. Auggie loved it immediately and now spends hours bird-watching and keeping an eye on our neighborhood squirrels. I was hesitant when I saw that it stays up via “industrial-strength suction” cups, but they’ve stayed secure, despite Auggie gnawing on the wires and even leaping from the platform to the top of my bedroom door. (If you give this boy an inch, he takes a mile.)
Another favorite of ours is the Frisco Cat Tracks Butterfly Cat Toy. Auggie goes totally cuckoo for his rod wand toy, but I was looking for a more hands-off option to keep him occupied when I’m on Zoom calls (or just feeling lazy). It took him a few days to get the hang of his new toy, but it’s quickly become one of his favorite ways to entertain himself. —Lily Butler, director of creative strategy, Slate Studios
Last year, like many people, I fell in love with Cinder-Block, the obese cat who just did not want to work out. In following Cinder-Block’s Instagram account, I saw her caretakers wave a slithery dangle toy in front of her to get her to play. I knew my cats, Goose and Callie, would love it too, so I tracked it down, bought it, and quickly learned that I was right. The Pet Fit for Life worm, like the popular cat toy Da Bird, seems to move in a way that actually looks like prey to cats. Goose, despite her mature age of 12, howls for it when she wants to play and quickly loses her mind when she sees it. Did I fall for marketing by buying a toy I saw a cat influencer play with? Absolutely. And I have no regrets. —Torie Bosch, Future Tense editor
There are two essential tests for a cat toy: First, it must engage the cat’s attention for at least the time it takes to discard the packaging it came in, and second, the animal should look ridiculous while going gaga for it. Cats are so darned regal—a toy that turns them into floppy goofballs doing rabbit kicks is beautiful revenge for us klutzy humans. All the phallic-shaped catnip-filled toys from Yeowww! meet these criteria. Whether banana, cigar, sardines, candy cane, or rainbow, cats lose their composure when they get a whiff, and the love never seems to fade. This is the good stuff—and it’s just plain funny to see a normally majestic moggy fall in love with a big yellow fruit. —June Thomas, senior managing producer, Slate Podcasts