Must-haves for furry friends

January 23, 2019

Keeping a dog or cat safe while out of the comfort of their home is important, and having a collar and leash is a good place to start when shopping for a pet.

Sheri Scarborough, with Downtown Dog in Aiken, said that for smaller dogs, a harness is best to keep them under control and protect them, especially since a collar can crush their larynx.

Whether a collar or harness, an up-to-date tag attached with names and phone numbers can help return a lost or roaming pet back to its owners. For cats that are both indoors and outdoors, a tag with information is also important.

Scarborough recommended a four- or six-foot leash for keeping dogs under control when out and about.

Both she and Claire Grimes, with the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, said retractable leashes aren’t the best option for keeping dogs under control, and can be dangerous for the animal and person.

For keeping pups entertained, retrieve and enrichment toys come in lots of varieties. Scarborough recommended Tuffy toys, saying they market themselves as the toughest plush toys out there, and retrieve toys, which can get pets worn out.

Grimes recommended Kong toys, and said at the SPCA volunteers fill the toys with peanut butter and freeze them, so it takes a while for the dogs to get through.

Grimes also recommended brain teasers for dogs, mentioning one where a treat is hidden under one of many cups, and the pup has to find the treat.

“Dogs love that kind of stuff,” she said, “It’s very engaging for their brain instead of just throwing a ball and picking it up and bringing it back, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home.”

Cats also need enrichment, Grimes said, and toys with feathers or bells are good for cats. A laser pointer can also be used to entertain cats.

“I mean, you could sit on the couch with a laser and just entertain yourself all night,” Grimes said.

Other things important for cats is a litter box and food and water bowls that are separate from other animals in the home, Grimes said.

“If you have other cats at home, make sure you buy an extra litter box because the smell from that cat to your new cat may deter your cats from using their litter box an they’ll urinate somewhere else,” she said.

Other cat necessities are a place they can exhibit their natural behaviors, such as perching, scratching and hiding, and Grimes said many cat towers have all three of those in one.

Aside from the physical accessories, Grimes said having a pet microchipped, and making sure they are up-to-date on shots and vet visits is vital, as is mental stimulation.

“They’re just like humans – they need mental stimulation,” she said. “They need social interactions with animals of their own kind, so if they don’t get along with other dogs and can’t go to the dog park or to the pet store or something, they need to get their energy out another way. The boredom is when we see things like running away from home – that’s actually a dog taking themselves on a walk because they’re that bored.”

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