Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Well, I’m all for Christmas presents for pets.

This year, the pet in my life – my sister Trish’s black lab – is getting a box of Greenies and some fancy treats that quite literally have his name (Jack) on them. Greenies are dental chews, and, while I don’t want to imply that Jack should be doing a better job brushing his teeth, he did just see a pet dentist, and we all want Jack to keep his fine white choppers in good shape.

Plenty of people get their pets gifts:

An estimated 50% of dog owners will buy their dog a gift, spending an average of $10, and 36% of cat owners, spending $7.80 per gift, the group says.  (Source: WSJ Online)

An average of $10? Guess I went overboard. And my gifts to Jack will by no means be the only presents he receives. By dollar value of the total swag Jack gets at Christmas, I’m guessing he’s something of a one-percenter.

Pet gifting is extending beyond dogs and cats:

Now, more families are trying to include other types of pets in their Christmas festivities, including guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters and rabbits.

Some 28% of owners of these “small animals” are expected to buy their pet a Christmas present this year, spending an average of $16 per gift, according to the trade group American Pet Products Association.

Sixteen bucks for a rodent vs. ten for a canine? I know it’s all in the eye of the pet-holder, but I’ve yet to meet a hamster that’s worth 60% more than a dog. But if it’s your little guy, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year, etc., it’s hard to restrain yourself. And there’s plenty of stuff out there to spend on.

New items include gingerbread houses and scuba-diving Santa decorations for fish tanks and reindeer antlers and Santa hats for guinea pigs.

Hamsters are harder, Mr. [Steve] Chattin [VP PetSmart] says. “You try to put a hat on a hamster and their natural instinct is to take it off,” he says.

Red, green and white shredded-paper bedding to line animal cages is a big seller to “pet parents,” PetSmart’s term for its customers.

Santa hats for guinea pigs, eh?

On Christmas Eve, I’m sure that Jack will be sporting a holiday collar.

But that’s about it.

Other than an assortment of collars, the only clothing Jack owns is a Thundershirt, which is supposed to calm a dog down when it’s scary outside.

But if you do want to dude your pet up:

Many dogs happily sport Christmas sweaters, hats and bow ties, but persuading other species to wear clothing over their fur coats isn’t always easy. Petco says its new holiday stoles, made for rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets, were designed in consultation with a veterinarian toBN-GB906_1217pe_M_20141218120730 (1) be sure the fit is safe and comfortable, especially given the animals’ propensity to chew, burrow and squirm. Ms. [Jennifer] Loesch  [VP Petco] says “the stoles have Velcro closures for a quick breakaway if they want to wiggle out of it.”

For those less likely to wiggle, Ms. [Cindy] Breninger sells Santa hats for tortoises online.

Not content with a Santa hat, Ms. Breninger crafted up a little Christmas tree for her little critter to tote around. (Question for K&R: What Would Sluggo Do?)

I suspect that most folks don’t deck out their turtles.

But ferrets, now there’s another story altogether.

Ferrets are, apparently, the new dog.

Not only does Marshall Pet Products make all  kinds of Christmas gear with which to deck the ferrets:

Demand for holiday-themed ferret hats is so strong that next year Marshall, based in Wolcott, N.Y., plans to add a witch hat for Halloween, a party hat and a top hat for black-tie events. The Uncle Sam hat, sold for over 15 years, has become increasingly popular as more people involve ferrets in Independence Day parties, Ms. [Linda] Cope says.

As. More. People. Involve. Ferrets. In. Independence. Day. Parties.

We the ferrets of the United States…Ferret

When in the course of ferret events…

All ferrets are endowed by their creator…

Would the average ferret include being dressed up as an elf under the “pursuit of happiness”?

Is this a great nation (or at least an imaginative one) or what?

Meanwhile, back to the holiday at hand.

Dara Foster, a pet stylist based in Port Washington, N.Y., advises pet owners to remain calm and loving when trying to dress any animal, but especially hamsters and guinea pigs. “They don’t understand voice commands, but they’ll pick up on your energy,” she says. “And avoid anything with sleeves if you possibly can.”

Ms. Foster mostly dresses dogs on behalf of private clients and pet-product companies and for media events. But she anticipates her client list soon will include other types of animals as more owners seek ways to humanize them.


Rather than trying to figure out how to make pets more like humans, maybe we should be figuring out how to make humans more like pets. (Or at least like dogs…)

Anyway, they may not know it’s Christmas, but Merry Christmas to critters every where.

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