Step aside, boys and girls, you are not the only ones who will be receiving gifts from your mom and dad this holiday season! According to one survey, 39% of pet owners regularly include their four-legged family members on their holiday shopping list. Whether their pets have been naughty or nice, these—mostly—Millennial pet paw-rents plan to spend an average of $50 on their pets’ gifts this year.

If your pocketbook is feeling the pinch this holiday season, don’t feel pressured to purchase your pet’s present. Remember, pets value your companionship more than anything—except maybe bacon. Still, if you feel your pet needs something they can put their paws on, consider our Mt. Horeb Animal Hospital team’s budget-friendly pet gift ideas. 

#1: Cruise the neighborhood with your dog

If your dog’s tail wags when you say the words, “Car ride,” this holiday gift is as close as your driveway. Start each car ride by ensuring your dog is secure in their seat belt, car seat, or crate, and then hit the open road. Whether you’re going over the river and through the woods or simply around town to check out the holiday decorations, your dog will surely appreciate this adventure with you.

#2: Made with love—do-it-yourself pet toys and games

If you’ve ever watched your pet destroy an expensive toy in minutes or have more fun with a present’s packaging than the gift itself, do-it-yourself (DIY) or upcycled enrichment toys may be a smart choice. Get ready to raid your recycling bin and get in touch with your crafty side by offering your pet these popular favorites:

  • Snuffle mats — Hide small treats or kibble in a snuffle mat and watch your pet sniff out each tasty morsel.
  • Towel games — Scatter treats or dry food on a towel. Scrunch or roll up the towel to create a fun activity at no additional cost. 
  • Busy boxes — Fill a cardboard box with your pet’s favorite toys and treats wrapped in crumpled packing paper or folded cardboard tubes, then let them dig out each prize.
  • Reach boxes — Cats love pawing treats from these challenging puzzles. If you’re not ready to make your own, check out this retail version.
  • Cardboard tube treat puzzles — Place treats inside a cardboard paper towel or toilet paper roll then push in the sides to create a fun problem-solving challenge.
  • Hide a treat — Scatter empty cardboard boxes throughout a room, then hide smelly treats in random boxes. Let your pet search them out.
  • Host a playdate with familiar pet friends — If your pet is the social type, invite their four-legged friends over for a holiday playdate, gift exchange, or pet treat swap.

#3: Bone appétit! Whisk up some love with homemade pet treats

Store-bought pet treats generally include unhealthy ingredients, such as sugars, artificial dyes, excessive calories, and a hefty price tag. You may be surprised to learn that making healthy and affordable homemade pet treats is easy as pie. In fact, you can save cash and decrease food waste by repurposing many holiday dinner ingredients (e.g., leftover skinless turkey, pumpkin, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes). Always ensure each ingredient is plain (i.e., no sauces, salt, seasonings), xylitol-free, and nontoxic to pets. 

If baking isn’t your thing, look for frozen or no-bake pet treat recipes. These generally take fewer than five ingredients and can be prepped in fewer than five minutes.

As with all dietary decisions, consult your veterinarian if your pet has food sensitivities, allergies, or a history of digestive issues. To prevent your pet from gaining weight, ensure their treats’ calorie count does not exceed 10% of their daily caloric intake.

#4: The gift of self—spend some one-on-one time with your pet

The best pet gifts aren’t necessarily things. Pets covet spending time with you. Positive social interactions with your pet provide emotional and physical health benefits, including reduced stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and cholesterol. 

Take a break from the holiday hustle and bustle to make time for your pet. Put away your electronics, and give your pet some undivided attention and love. Check out these fun activities:

  • Learn something new — Check out trick tutorials on YouTube and teach your pet a cute or silly new behavior such as spin, sit pretty, or bow.  
  • Play a game Nosework is a fun activity that any dog—or cat—can play. Start by hiding your pet’s favorite treats or toy, and gradually increase the challenge by hiding the items in out-of-the way home areas. 
  • Sniff out an adventure — Sniffing is a natural, healthy, and satisfying behavior. So, leash your pup, and let them follow their nose. 
  • Channel your inner athlete — Set up a home agility course using safe low-height obstacles (e.g., couch cushions, a child’s play tunnel, peewee soccer cones). 
  • Cuddle up for a movie — Snuggle on the couch with your furry friend and some air-popped popcorn, and see who falls asleep first!

Holiday gift giving is an expression of affection and appreciation, but all your pet really needs from you is love and care. For your pet’s year-round veterinary needs, contact our Mt. Horeb Animal Hospital team.