Good Gifts for Cats or Dogs

With festivities such as Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas, you may be giving a pet as a present or looking for great gifts to give your pet. So it's important to consider options that really have your pet's welfare at heart.

After all, the RSPCA often appeals for a responsible approach to pet ownership.

For many years the 'A pet is for life, not just for Christmas' tag line has appeared in adverts and car stickers all over the UK. But the sad fact remains that many cats and dogs are abandoned during the months after Christmas as they get bigger and the kids have lost interest in them – especially if the owner hasn't managed to train or look after them properly.

In fact, last year the number of abandoned pets rescued by the RSPCA alone was well over 7,000, a 23% increase on the year before. And half of those were cats.

Owning a pet comes with a lot of commitment of course. They chew, need lots of attention, give you sleepless nights, and make puddles – and worse – on the carpet. They will take a long time to educate into 'human' ways, so a good supply of patience, even at times when you are at your wit's end, is vital.

Companionship

But once they are house-trained a cat or dog will be an invaluable companion and will give years of devoted pleasure. And if you have a dog, you are exercising yourself come rain or shine, as well as your pet when you take it for a walk! You'll find too that there is quite a social circle of people you meet walking their dogs.

So if you are giving a pet as a present – especially to a youngster who is thinking of the cuteness of a puppy or kitten (rather than the less welcome side effects), you really do need to think about the long term welfare of the new member of your family.

Just like you or I, pets are subject to falling ill or having accidents – and the ailments are remarkably similar to those suffered by humans.

Says Karen Jakes of AA Pet Insurance: "The most frequent claim is for a growth or tumour, followed by injury for dogs and, as most people know, dogs can be accident-prone. For cats, renal failure is the most common serious complaint but other frequent claims are for road accidents, diabetes and hyperthyroidism.

"It's also worth noting that over the Christmas period, vets find themselves dealing with chocolate poisoning – for dogs and cats eating chocolate can result in severe illness and can be fatal.* Dogs can have a sweet tooth so stick to chocolate drops specially formulated for them – and keep the chocolate box out of reach so pooch doesn't help himself!"

Treatment for some pet problems can be quite expensive. For instance, a vet's bill to sort out a dog injured by a car could cost up to £1,800 while a cat suffering from a hernia could cost over £3,000. "That can be quite a shock, especially at a time when the average family is finding it more difficult than ever to make ends meet," says Karen.

So whether you're welcoming a new pet into the household, or already have a cat or dog, perhaps the best present for them is an insurance policy. "It might be a genuine life-saver one day," Karen adds. "What's more, your pet will still be covered even if they do manage to swallow the policy document."