As you put together your holiday shopping lists for friends, family and significant others, don't forget the ones who are truly there for you through thick and thin: your pets.
America, as a country, loves to indulge its animals. Last year the nation spent $60.28 billion on their pets. This year that number's expected to jump to $62.75 billion. While most of that, admittedly, goes for food and health care, there's still plenty being spent on treats and presents for our pets.
The American Pet Products Association reports there are 85.8 million cats being kept as pets in the United States and 77.8 million dogs. (Freshwater fish are the most popular pet, though, with 95.5 million swimming around in our homes.) All totaled, 65 percent of U.S. households own a pet. And this holiday season, more than 50 percent of dog owners and 38 percent of cat owners plan to buy their pets gifts, says the group.
If you're one of those people, here are a few items they might enjoy.
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Some pet owners can't bear to be separated from their fur children during the day but may not work in a pet-friendly environment. Furbo lets you keep an eye on the animals —whether it's day or night — and chat with them via a two-way microphone/speaker combo.
That microphone also will send you an alert if your dog starts barking. And to ensure your pet remains loyal, you can also toss them a treat via the device when you get the urge.
Playing a game of fetch with your dog is a great way to bond. But sometimes Fido's still raring to go long after you're done. Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster can help you out with this blaster, which shoots a ball up to 50 feet in the air. The toy uses special softer balls to reduce the risk of injury. And it makes playing with your dog even more fun.
Just as a Fitbit or other step monitor can motivate you to get enough daily exercise, iQPet StarWalk can help you keep track of your dog's day-to-day activity. The device monitors total steps, when a dog is most active, distance traveled and temperature.
It lights up to alert you when your dog needs to get more exercise. And that light is also handy on those nighttime walks, ensuring you and your pooch are visible at all times.
Developed in conjunction with Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, the Voyce Health Monitor is a collar that is more than just a step counter. It also monitors your pet's heart and respiratory rates and quality of rest, which can help your veterinarian better identify potential health issues and give more cogent health advice.
It's waterproof and boasts a battery life of seven days (which beats many of the smart devices we humans use).
Pets sometimes draw the short straw when we humans have dinner or after-work plans. With this smart feeder, though, your dog or cat won't have to go hungry while you socialize.
The PetNet Smart Feeder is a device that measures portions based on a pet's age, activity level and weight. You can rest assured that no matter how hectic your life gets, they're always getting the food they need.
Cleaning the litter box is an awful job, no matter how much you love your cat. Petsafe takes the ick out of the chore with this automated device that scoops waste away 5, 10 or 20 minutes after your cat finishes its business (ensuring that your kitty won't be terrified of its toilet). Note that beyond the initial charge, the device uses specific disposable litter trays, which you'll have to buy from the company. (Those should last up to 30 days each for a single cat, says Petsafe.)
Got a pet that's apt to roam? Nuzzle, releasing this month, has an embedded GPS to help you find them if they happen to wander off. There's no monthly fee, and the collar comes with two batteries (each of which lasts up to five days), so you don't have to remove it from your pet to keep it charged. You'll also be able to check how active your pet has been during the day via the built-in activity monitor.
Dogs and cats love to find somewhere snug to curl up for a nap. And all too frequently, that's on your couch. The K&H Self-Warming Pet Cots are made with a fabric that captures body heat and reflects it to the animal. There's no electricity required, and the frames are sturdy enough to support most household pets easily.
If you hate changing the litter and don't have the budget for a self-cleaning box, there is another option. Kat Paks are disposable litter boxes/houses that are environmentally friendly materials. Made from recycled paper, it's lightweight, water resistant and strong. Better still, there's no clean-up. Just toss and replace every week or so. (They're also very handy if you take your cat on the road with you.)
Price: $20 to $29 per month
Sometimes it's just easier to let someone else pick out the perfect gift. BarkBox and MeowBox are monthly subscription services that deliver treats, toys, chews and gadgets hand picked to engage your pup or kitty. For BarkBox, you can sign up for a 1-, 3-, 6- or 12-month subscription. MeowBox can be shipped monthly or every other month.