Dec 212012

If you’re tempted to toss some loveable pets on your holiday gift list, go right ahead — even if you’re sticking to a tight budget.  Plenty of presents for furry pals are inexpensive, if not free.  Some are easily pulled together from items that are already in the house.

Food treats

For a no-fuss dog gift, a fresh jar of peanut butter is  a yummy idea, assuming the pup enjoys the flavor and it’s nutritionally okay for him. Peanut butter is a popular and versatile treat,  especially when rubbed  inside a hollow rubber toy with a hole, such as a Kong. Dogs are happily busy for a while licking  out every morsel.  To add a festive flair to a grocery store purchase, tape a homemade label over the jar’s actual label. Draw a fun design and mention the dog’s name, perhaps something like “ Exclusively for Mr. Whiskers ”

homemade dog treats    Photo/Humane Society of the United States

If you prefer something more gourmet, pull out the baking supplies and whip up some healthy homemade dog  treats. A recipe for Bowser Biscuits is featured on the website for the Humane Society of the United States. The mix includes, among other items, a banana, peanut butter, soy milk and whole wheat flour.

Ben from Santa Fe Animal Shelter provides a recipe his pooches enjoy.

Peanut butter and oats biscuits


  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (you can use another type of flour if your dog is sensitive to wheat)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth (I used smooth this time)
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water
  • Additional flour for rolling

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350° F, mix dry ingredients together. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 40 minutes. Turn off the oven and let them cool overnight. If you and your dog don’t want to wait,  cool them completely on a wire rack before serving. Instead of cutting out  shapes with the left over peanut butter and oatmeal dough,  roll it into balls. Ben makes a cross hatch fork mark on the dog cookies.  The cookies get very hard, just the way dogs like them.

Household items that are great cat toys

presents for catsPhoto/Humane Society of the United States

Kitties are terrific at repurposing. So many items that seem ordinary — even trash to us  —  are exhilarating for cats. That offers potential for budget-friendly gifts. Cat toy suggestions from the Humane Society of the United States include round plastic shower curtain rings, ping pong balls (perhaps tossed into a dry bathtub), paper bags without handles and tubes from paper towel rolls. Another idea is to fasten a few cardboard boxes into a home-made kitty condo. Cut out sections for windows and doors. For decoration, add the cats’ names or other embellishments.

More DIY kitty gifts

Tie little bell balls to string, or several strings, for a swinging musical toy that dangles from a doorknob, suggests Susan Hargreaves, founder of Humane Educators Reaching Out and Animal Hero Kids.

Another simple handmade gift idea offers cats cozy nooks for napping. Decorated shoe boxes and line them layers of soft towels or blanket pieces.

Students at Hialeah High School use a similar technique when making supplies for local animal shelters, according to teacher Michel Estopinan.

The teens, who are members of the school’s Youth Lead For A Humane World Club,  stuff the bottom of boxes with cotton balls, then top that cushy section with overlapping  layers of washcloth. The washcloths are fastened to the walls of the structure with paper clips.



Photo/Michel Estopinan






DIY dog toys

Old socks are a good starting point for DIY dog toys.  Remember, if you’re going to introduce a dog to the idea that socks are toys, it’s going to be your responsibility to keep “good” socks out of the pup’s reach, according to Ben of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter. Dogs shouldn’t be expected to know the difference between humans’  favorite socks and the well-worn pair that’s acceptable for play.

For a sock toy, Ben suggests inserting an empty plastic water bottle into a sock. Tie the top of the sock into a secure knot. Lots of dogs enjoy the crunching noise of the water bottle. A similar variation is a tennis ball or two tossed in a sock, with the top tied.  The toy works nicely for toss and fetch games.  As with most toys, it’s always wise  to supervise play. Remove and discard toys if a dog is gnawing through the items and possibly ingesting bits of fabric or plastic.

Sports fan apparel

footballdogs Photo/Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States’ online shop, Humane Domain, offers football jerseys for pets for $21.95. Add the pet’s name, for an extra $6. For a less expensive version, make your own from a regular T-shirt or tank top. Use fabric markers or iron-on numbers and letters for the embellishment.



Homemade gift voucher

Select a nice activity for you and the pet to enjoy together, then create and print out a gift voucher. A dog walk or extra excursion to a dog park might be perfect for a pooch that’s part of a neighbor’s or friend’s family. If you’re so inclined, offer a dog bath. Or petsitting for a pal’s cat. For youngsters designing gift vouchers for their own pets, encourage them to think about what their animals enjoy. Surely lots of kitties would happily cash in vouchers that offer rubbing behind the ears. Warning: Even if the pet eats the voucher, you should still provide the treat.

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