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Posted on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 10:30 a.m.

The expert's top picks for pet toys, perfect for holiday gift giving

By Lorrie Shaw


flickr photo courtesy of SuperFantastic

Each day, I see a lot of pet toys get used, abused, enjoyed — and sadly, some are ignored. In compiling this list, I did one simple thing: I paid attention to what pets used, how and for how long. One thing is clear. All pets are different: the way that they play, what gets and keeps their attention and how long the toy lasts varies.

I have the unique vantage point of not only having three pets of my own, but seeing what my charges are into as well. With so many variables as far as size, preference and physical ability that I've observed, there is a lot of variety for your consideration:

For dogs:

The Kygen Hide-a-Squirrel plush puzzle toy

Our Gretchen's favorite, this fun, durable toy comes with three stuffed squirrel toys that squeak.
Insert the squirrels into the "tree," and let your pooch do the rest. Dogs have fun figuring out and working to extract the squeaky contents. Be assured that this toy is durable: both of our dogs had difficulty destroying it. I even machine wash and dry the tree and squirrels. It's available at better pet supply stores.

The Kygen company also makes these other plush puzzle toys: IQube, Intellibone, Hide a Bird, Hide a Bee and more.

Classic Kong

This is the self-professed "world's best dog toy," and I know that your dog will agree. Great for puppies and dogs alike, this stuffable rubber toy is an essential toy in every dogs' life. Helpful in teething or keeping mouths and minds busy, the hollow yet durable toys can be stuffed with goodies like canned food, peanut butter, Kong spray, Easy Cheese or with kibble that's been soaked in water — and then frozen. Give a frozen Kong to your pooch as you leave for work, and he'll stay busy and satisfied for a spell.

Kong Extreme

This is the same as above, but more resilient. It's our choice, as our Bruiser is a power chewer and hasn't destroyed his yet.

Senior Kong

Ditto, but with softer rubber to accommodate an aging dogs dentition. Why should young pups have all of the fun?

The company also makes a Kong Wobbler. Great for dispensing treats or a meal, it will be a hit. Watch the fun here

Premier Busy Buddy line

Tug a Jug, Kibble Nibble, Football, Chuckle — just to name a few help your dog transform destructive chewing habits into healthy playtime. Tug a Jug and Kibble Nibble are great "foraging toys" that allow pooches to use their natural instincts, but in a directed, healthy fashion.


A ball launcher that saves your arm and keeps your hands dog slobber free? Believe it, friends. And, dogs go crazy for it.

Tennis balls

Tennis balls get a bad rap from a lot of folks because they feel they're unsafe, but in all honesty, every dog that I know treats theirs pretty well, used under supervision. If they get "popped," we just toss them and offer new ones. Happiest dogs ever. We buy them by the bag full and use them with the Chuck-it.

For cats:

Furry mice

These old standbys stand the test of time. As close to the real thing as they can get, toss one out and cats will chase, stalk, attack and bat these simple joys of feline life. Available at pet stores, grocery stores and discount stores everywhere.

Cat trees

Felines love to perch, hide out and scratch their claws. Cat trees give them everything that they want, and more. Many styles, sizes and price ranges. Here's a example.

Kitty City

These unique cat "houses" give cats what they love, and the flexible design allows you to "build" a structure that suits your cat.

Undercover Mouse

This nifty gadget will engage your cat with its "interaction." It has variable speeds to choose from and it's durable. Available from


Need I say more? Cats everywhere (though some young cats do not react to its intoxicating effects) love this natural herb. It's available in catnip toys or in its dried form. Sprinkle it on the floor and let them have fun.

Peek a Prize toy box

Cats love to explore and "dig out " things that are hidden. The Peek a Prize gives them what they need to satisfy their exploring and manipulating skills. Available from Pioneer Pet Products (SmartCat)

Paper bags and cardboard boxes

Yes, we frequently leave these lying around for our cat, Silver and he loves them. Plus, they are free.

So, there you have it, fresh opinions from those that matter — the pets themselves. But one last thing. The best gift that you can give your pet: yourself, and your time. Don't forget to play today.

Lorrie Shaw is owner of Professional Pet Sitting, and a regular contributor to's pet section. She wrote the popular piece "The bucket list for pets: What does your dog want to do before he dies?" Reach her via e-mail and follow her pet adventures on Twitter.


Lorrie Shaw

Wed, Dec 22, 2010 : 6:01 a.m.

Indeed, Sarah! We always save the ribbon from gifts, too and I tie it to the back of a chair and our kitty goes crazy for it. Laser pointers are a fun toy, but I do find that some cats get a little overstimulated and can't get satisfied with that alone. It turns on their "seeking" mode and if they don't have something to "catch" when hunting, the get frustrated. I use lasers in tandem with a toy that they can pounce on and and catch, and "kill". I point the laser, simulate a hunt and then end at the toy -- and there's their "reward".

Sarah Rigg

Tue, Dec 21, 2010 : 9:32 a.m.

I've had two different cats with very different personalities, but they both like these two toys: 1. Store-bought "bird" toy at the end of a handle that you can dangle and make them chase it and jump for it. With jingle bell, it's even better! Poor man's substitute: A bit of curly twine that you can trail along the floor and make them pounce on. 2. Laser pointer. I don't know very many cats that don't like to chase the red dot!