Holiday gifts for pets, whether naughty, nice or both

Store aisles and windows are stocked with toys and cute holiday outfits, tempting cookies with red and green icing are on display on bakery counters, and goodies fill shelves.

Yep, the kids can’t wait to get their jaws around the bully sticks and dried herring skin. Sure, this is about gifts for the fur kids, and have you made your list yet? Likewise, does the cat, the dog, the bunny, the hamster or whatever non-human shares your home know that it’s Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Yuletide, Festivus or whatever gift-giving winter holiday you celebrate?

I don’t know about the others—you might, if you live with anything other than a cat or a dog—but the dog and cat definitely know that something’s up: droolworthy smells of cooking in the air, guests in and out, increased package deliveries dumped on the doorstep, more little tchotchkes to knock off the coffee table (cat specific). As someone who loves your pet as you do, you’re about to spend money on gifts for them.

store with holiday greetings on wall and pet gifts on shelves

No doubt that it’s holiday-giving time at the Dog Bakery on Second Street in Belmont Shore. Photo by Kate Karp


In the old days, the dog got a ball and the cat got a catnip mouse or a used-up thread spool on yarn, and they all played with the boxes and wrapping paper. Any of those toys’ll still probably make them happy, but the whisker-tingling assortment of goodies on the shelves at pet-supply stores will seduce you into believing that the dog really needs their very own treat-filled advent calendar. But why not? It’s fun, especially when you buy an assortment of decorated Christmas dog cookies and try to sneak a few onto a platter for unsuspecting houseguests.

Around the winter holidays, an influx of merchandise ads hounds the Scratching Post’s inbox. The selection of pet playthings and the degrees of excessiveness of what’s available online is enough to make your pupils dilate. Bow Wow Labs, for instance, has a Bow Wow Buddy Starter Kit that includes a device that secures bully sticks so that your dog can chew on them safely without choking on them. It comes in several sizes, and of course, their own pre-fitted bully sticks are available if you bite on the offer.

Pot-influenced puns, speaking of dilated pupils, are baked into catnip-toy brands. Meowijuana catnip offers every tonic for a catatonic cat. But it’s the company’s littermate, Doggiuana, that offers a singular product: catnip kush for canines. Yes, you read that right. According to the company’s website, dogs have catnip receptors in their faces and stomachs, but instead of getting the zoomies, it calms them to the point of drool. They might even get the munchies, but don’t dogs have them anyway? At the very least, it would be interesting to try it out.

Tube with marijuana symbol of plus sign in green circle, for Meowijuana.

Bluntly put, Meowijuana’s got its branding down. Courtesy photo


Be it a simple tennis ball, catnip wrapped in a sock, or a gift basket from Harry and David, you won’t know if your pet will enjoy a gift until you put it in front of them. You might have an issue with them as well. Long Beach resident Patt G. bought her dog, Abby, a candy-cane-shaped bully stick. The dog loved it, but Patt was knocked over by the stink of the thing.

East Long Beach resident Jason Skweres bought the snake toy in the video for his three kittens, who loved it. Jason liked the sensor that allowed creepy thing to change direction randomly, “like a Roomba,” and that it was rechargeable, too. I’d gotten one for my houseful of cats a few months ago, and it scared the sawdust out of them. Tails did puff.

Belmont Heights resident Adara Carillo said that the best gifts are practical. “I loved receiving the Byte tag,” she said. “It’s a QR code dog tag with a whole profile of important info in case your pup gets lost. It also notifies you if it was scanned.”

Don’t risk safety for fun or convenience

At the risk of seeming like a sourpuss, I have to acknowledge the caveats, both cani and feli, for purchasing toys and goodies for any occasion: safety and attentiveness to the items’ ingredients or contents, where it’s manufactured, and how it’s being played with. You and your pet deserve a happy holiday and good times every day without trips to the emergency hospital. Keep these things in mind when shopping for your besties:

  • Check the manufacturing labels to be sure that the toy or treat you buy was made in the United States. FDA regulations, though not guaranteeing them of safety and quality, are good guidelines. Other countries, China in particular, do not have them.
  • The catnip sold by Meowijuana, Doggijuana and other conscientious distributors get their herb from organic producers. Watch out for silvervine, though. Silvervine is a sturdy vine that is a great chew toy and gum massager for cats, and it has an even more potent effect than catnip. The plant itself is completely safe, but it grows in the mountainous areas of Japan and China. Most of the silvervine sold in the U.S. comes from China and can contain cadmium, which is toxic in high levels to pets.
  • On that note, don’t buy pet toys, treats, food or anything your pet will gnaw on at discount stores or businesses that don’t specialize in pet products. Consumer Affairs reported toxic levels of heavy metals in toys and catnip that came from China and were sold at such establishments.
  • Bully sticks, despite the overpowering stench, and pigs ears harvested in the U.S. make great chewables for dogs. No rawhide, please, as it can shatter in the dog’s mouth or damage the digestive system if swallowed. Ask the pet-supply-store staff to show you bully sticks that might have less of an odor.
  • Remove bells, feathers (sharp quills can cause damage) and small objects from cat toys, as they can be swallowed or choked on. I remember plucking out the “eyes” from the little mice one of my cats adored—I felt like Cruel Frederick, but the eyes were made of black plastic that adhered to the mice’s faces via a pin-sharp end. Supervise play with those little crunchy silver toys for cats so that they aren’t shredded up and ingested. Watch out for the string on the dangle toys, too. Balls should be large enough to not completely fit in the dog’s mouth—they could be accidentally inhaled and choked on.
  • Treat-dispensing balls and Kong toys are a lot of fun for pets, but any dispenser you use should have more than one hole in it. “Dogs can get their tongues stuck in the hole, and with a single hole, it creates a suction. They die if you can’t figure out how to saw it off or something,” shelter volunteer Dee Glick said.
  • There’s very little that’s cuter than a huge dog carrying a stuffed bunny in their mouth. Stuffies, though, can be dangerous, particularly if you buy them in countries with no standards for safety. Children’s stuffies, especially the inexpensive ones, will not hold up under a determined dog’s jawing. They can contain pellets, chemicals, string that can wrap around intestines, and other dangerous items. Dog trainer and author Victoria Schade has written an extensive article on pet toy safety that provides more useful information.

LBACS dog volunteer Susan Peszat strongly advises supervision with any new toy until safe play is determined. She recommends distraction in case things get out of hand.

“Dallas as an example is beyond a power chewer,” Peszat said. “He obliterates even the toughest toys and then tries to swallow the pieces. So, I supervise, and as soon as the toy is compromised, I yell, “Ice time!”—crushed ice is his favorite treat. He immediately drops the toy and any pieces of it in exchange for ice.”

black-and-white cat peers into one of several holes in a brightly printed cardboard box, with the box it came in in the background.

Helen Sanders CatPAWS volunteer Jamie Mehess supervises Major Tom’s play and buys him nothing with feathers on it or objects that can be swallowed. Of course, good pet friends always put toys away. Puzzle boxes like these are good for storing, and the cat can also poke around and pull one out. Courtesy photo


In my opinion, which I share with a lot of the people who helped me with this article, the best gift you can give a pet—is adoption to a forever home, “forever” being the key word. If your circumstances or landlord won’t allow it, consider donating to one of the shelters or rescues listed at the end of the column or to an animal organization locally, nationally or internationally.

Products mentioned in this article are for readers’ information only and are neither endorsed nor advised against by The Scratching Post or the Long Beach Post. Thank you to the tireless, tired animal heroes who helped me cobble these suggestions together: Kathy Roddy, Dara Samson, Pam Rainsdon, Dee Glick, Chris Hawkes, Susan Peszat and Jamie Mehess.


Virtually pets

white cat with red plaid Christmas dress lounges on a white rug.

Ha! I forgot all about holiday clothing! Just make sure they’re not too tight or so loose that they’re a tripping hazard. Again, no little balls or sharp stuff that the pet can ingest. This mainly is a dog thing, but every now and then, there’s a cat who’ll grudgingly submit, like my friend Star’s cat, Rosin.


But Zazzy Cats Kitty Rescue volunteer, Laura has the whole “dress up the cat and say awwww” thing down pat, i.e., use whichever photo-design program you’re comfy with, and decorate the cat, who’ll never know the difference. To adopt any of these wonderful kitties and have them decorate your life and mice versa, access this link. All Zazzys are spayed or neutered, vaxxed, microchipped, tested for disease, treated for fleas and worms, and are just plain zazzy!

brown tabby in red Santa hat lounges on a decorated cat tree against a green-and-red background festooned with ornaments.

This handsome hunk is named Apollo. He’s about 3 years old. He was left behind at a business (someone’s on Santa’s bad list) and was found and taken in by Zazzy Cats. He is a big, gorgeous, friendly guy with beautiful eyes.


White cat with tan left eye mask and brown striped tail stands, wearing a red-and-green party hat in front of a red Santa sack, with a holly sprig by her front paws.

Snowflake is about 10 months old. The sport of her choice is playing, with stuffed animals, wands and anything at hand or paw. Her free time is spent napping on the top of her cat tree and watching the world from above. Not a picky eater—no snowflake, she—she’ll eat dry food but does enjoy wet food, too. She loves people very much and shows it by purring all day long. She currently lives with her foster and her two brothers, Spotty and Oreo.


Sleek black cat wears a red-and-green Christmas crown amid wrapped gifts, with lights behind her in all colors

Lola Bunny is a curious, smart and sweet kitty, about 10 months old. She’s very social, friendly and talkative. Lola enjoys spending her day either lounging on the cat trees or playing with her siblings, Pepé Le Pew and Fifi La Fume. Lola would love to be adopted with at least one of her siblings, although she’ll be fine as a solo cat or in a home with another cat there already.


White cat with black ears, tail and saddle sits, paw forward, on a thick red-patterned pillow in front of a Christmas branch, with three wrapped gifts in front of him and a red pom-pommed cap on his head.

Yeti is 4 years old. His foster parent says he’s very laid-back and comfortable to be around, and there’s nothing abominable about him! He’s open to greet new house guests and interact with them. He loves rubbing on feet. He gets along with other cats but has boundaries. He’s quite independent. His favorite things are being petted on his back, chin and ears and playing with wand toys wands.. He’s a very loving and cool cat to be around.


A helping paw

Pet License Amnesty extended to Dec. 31

The city of Long Beach has extended the fee and penalty waivers for pet licenses to Dec. 31. Anyone living in the highlighted Community Development Block grant neighborhoods, as shown on the above map, may request a waiver by phone at 562-570-7387, by applying by mail at 7700 E. Spring St., or in person at the shelter. The waiver program is not available online. Visit this link for license requirements. Call 562-570-7387 for additional information.

Great furballs of fun!

Whiskers in Wonderland annual celebration: Sunday, Dec. 4, 4–7 p.m., Boathouse on the Bay, 190 North Marina Drive, Long Beach, tickets $65.

The Little Lion Foundation, along with other rescues and shelters, has found it particularly difficult this year for unwanted and homeless cats and kittens in our community. The organization has fought the good fight along with all of you to save as many as they could and have touched the lives of over 1,100 furry little souls in 2022. The battle continues—Little Lion needs your help to keep going in 2023. They’d love you to join the rescue for an enchanted evening on the bay, mingling with like-minded, animal-loving people. Enjoy hors d’oeuvres and refreshments from the bar, and browse and bid on an assortment of raffle items. Get your tickets here, and bid on silent-auction items at this link. Little Lion is an all-volunteer nonprofit, and every dollar goes back to saving cats’ lives.

Courtesy of Long Beach Animal Care Services

Long Beach Animal Care Services’ Inaugural Happy Howlidays Series

 A size 16 stocking full of holiday events is waiting to be opened by you! Pull out your new best friend who’ll share memories beyond holidays, discover ways to keep all your buddies healthy, and join the party at the shelter at Long Beach Animal Care Services for a wrap-up! What a gift!

The events in order of appearance are:

Saturday, Dec. 10

Happy Howlidays Adoption Event, Houghton Park, 6301 Myrtle Ave., Long Beach, 1–5 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 16

Adoption Waggin’ at Pet Supplies Plus

2086 N. Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 17

Happy Howlidays at LBACS, 7700 E Spring St. (at entrance to El Dorado Park, no parking fee for shelter guests), 4–6 p.m.

At this event, you’ll stuff our pets’ stockings in the kennels, register for an ugly sweater contest, decorate ornaments, donate gifts, enter a raffle and shop at vendors.

Sunday, Dec. 18

Pet Wellness and Adoption Event, MacArthur Park

1321 E Anaheim St., Long Beach, time TBD

Helen Sanders CatPAWS Calendar on sale: $15 at this link

Start 2023 off with heart with this calendar that features 13 months—you’ll start 2024 off right, too—of rescued cats whose humans want nothing more than for them to live the full, cherished lives they deserve. Each cat in the calendar donated funds to CatPAWS to further the rescue’s efforts to give the cats and kittens they pull from the shelter the care they need: bottle feeding, spay/neuter vaccines, lifesaving medical efforts and loving hospice care. Now, each calendar sold will go toward all these good things for cats. As you begin your holiday shopping, please consider adding a CatPAWS 2023 calendars to your gift list, and get one for your own stocking! Purchase by December 13 to ensure we can get them to you by year’s end!


Foster for a while—or furever!

Pug Rescue of Korea adoption event: Saturday, Dec. 3, 1–3 p.m., Centinela Feed & Pet Supplies, 4700 Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, adoption fees apply.

Pug Rescue of Korea is a group of some of the most dedicated, unselfish humans you could find this side of sainthood. The volunteers first attempt to find homes for the dogs in South Korea, but because the rehoming rate is lower than it is here, the remaining pugs get a first-class flight to Los Angeles, where they’re fostered and sent to good homes. This will be their first adoption event—the nonprofit regularly had found homes for all of them in the past, but as with too many rescues and shelters, they’ve seen more supply than demand, as one of the volunteers put it. The rescue will bring five little puggies from 6 months old to 8 years old. Please stop by and help them purchase supplies and see if you can find your “Seoulmate”—their pun, not mine, for a change. They invite your dog to come along to see how they get along. More info available here.

 Long Beach Animal Care Services has expanded adoption hours as follows: Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests are welcome to browse until closing. To speed up any adoption process, email [email protected]. To foster, email [email protected].

If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!

These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list. Keep in mind that the rescues are self-supporting and need donations and volunteer help. Most of them cannot accept found or unwanted pets. Contact Long Beach Animal Care Services for options.

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