Cats love tearing into gift-wrapped packages, especially when there's something special for them inside. For cats and cat-lovers on your list, here are some suggestions for holiday gifts that are sure to please. All have been given paws-up approval by a picky panel of four-footed experts.
The kind of which I speak are very small, lightweight toys made of ping-pong-ball material covered with rabbit fur. Cats and kittens toss them high into the air and carry them around. The mice come in natural shades of gray or white. Despite their fluorescent pink ears and eyes, the gray ones are lifelike enough to scare the Dickens out of the human who discovers he or she has just stepped on one. (About $1 apiece, less in packages of 12 or 48)
Multicolored Rattling Mice
These bright-colored, plush toys aren't much bigger than the furry mice described above. What makes them irresistible is the discreet rattling noise inside. They come in a package of 12, enough to captivate every cat you know or to wrap as a mouse-a-month gift pack for one special pet. (About $6 a dozen)
Miracle Beam Laser Toy
Similar to the laser pointers used in office presentations, these hand-held toys are as much fun for the humans as for the cats. You touch a button to make a bright, red dot of light appear, lead kitty on a merry chase and then, mysteriously, disappear. Laser toys are best given to adult households because, like all laser pointers, they can injure pets or people's eyes if the beam is pointed directly into them. (About $8)
It may not look like much, but this interactive toy gets 'em all gyrating on the floor. Sold in a package of three, the Cat Dancer is a length of wire with little rolls of cardboard on each end. The springy action of the wire drives cats wild! Hold one end in your hand, bounce the wire and watch 'em dance. You can also twist the wire into a loose loop so Cat No. 1, batting at Point A, sets things in motion for Cat No. 2 at Point B. (About $10)
Organically grown in Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna area, this stuff is dynamite. It's sold primarily in stores catering to the tourist trade. Ideal for gift-giving are small catnip pillows covered with various cotton fabrics, all featuring kitty motifs. Loose catnip makes a potent "marinade" for spent catnip toys. Just put them into a screw-top jar with the catnip for a few days. (About $5)
Catnip Stocking Toy
Look in the supermarket pet section for a 3-inch catnip toy that looks like a pink-and-white, kitty-size sweat sock. Long after flashier toys are abandoned, cats continue to wrestle and carry these lightweight favorites. The appeal has something to do with the combination of softness, light weight and small size. (Under $5)
Packed in a cardboard canister, these paper-thin slices of bonito are pure ambrosia, even for finicky cats. An all-natural product containing nothing but freeze-dried bonito, Kitty Kaviar is low in magnesium and ash. That means it's easy on the kidneys and urinary tract, a thoughtful consideration when buying for an older cat. (Under $5)
Wild Side Salmon for Cats
These kitty treats are freeze-dried nuggets of wild Alaska salmon. Every cat I know goes bonkers over them. Like Kitty Kaviar, they are a healthy, all-natural products low in magnesium and ash. The colorful graphics on the foil package make a nice-looking gift, especially appropriate for Alaskans to send Outside. (Under $5)
I have seen all of the above in Juneau stores in recent weeks. But cats don't care if a gift is store-bought or home-made. Two years ago, I let my 6-month-old kitten, Axel, decide what to send to my brother's cats out of state. I filled a baggie with duplicates of the toys Axel loved best: One furry mouse, one practice golf ball (the holes made it easy to carry), a plastic ring torn off a milk-bottle cap, a wad of aluminum foil about an inch in diameter, a well-used twist-tie from a bread sack, and a 2-inch stainless steel bolt.
Linda Daniel has spent her life in the company of cats, most of whom simply showed up at her door. She's a believer in spaying and neutering to reduce the number of homeless cats.