Let your holidays go to the hounds, the terriers and the retrievers
What’s on your hound’s Hanukkah wish list? Has your cat got something special he’s craving for Christmas?
From dog-friendly dreidels to edible grass gardens, everything your pet could ever dream of fetching, chewing or batting around is in stores this holiday season, and pet owners are lapping it all up and begging for more.
According to the American Pet Products Association, a nonprofit trade association serving the interests of the pet products industry, 53 percent of dogs and 38 percent of cats will receive gifts this holiday season.
In 2011, the organization estimates, Americans will spend $50.84 billion on purchasing pets, feeding them, caring for them and showering them with gifts. That’s up from $48.35 billion spent in 2010.
Local pet shop owners say this should be far from a ruff holiday season when it comes to retail sales. Cat and dog lovers are already out there shopping, and sales so far are brisk.
Even before the kitty-sized pumpkin get-ups and doggie ballerina costumes were off the shelves, people were hunting for pet-related holiday items, said Melanie Dallas, owner of Sloppy Kisses — A Treat Boutique for Dogs, which has locations in Clifton Park and Saratoga Springs.
The first shoppers of the season are typically on the prowl for festive outfits for their four-legged children to wear during holiday photo shoots, she said.
“We have really cute holiday dresses for the dogs,” Dallas noted. “The dresses have sequins and velvet, and they’re modeled after little girls’ dresses.”
There’s no need for owners of male dogs to feel left out: Dallas also stocks fetching plaid holiday vests for them, along with snowman sweaters and holiday-themed bandanas, leashes and collars.
More popular with the canine crowd are the treats found in the bakery cases at Sloppy Kisses. Dallas sells biscuits shaped like Santa, stockings, snowmen and Christmas trees. “They’re all iced with a natural, unsweetened yogurt icing and then carob, which is a safe alternative to chocolate, and they’re all homemade peanut butter biscuits,” she said.
Pet-friendly holiday toys sell well at Country Acres Farm and Pet Center in Burnt Hills. A snake with a body made entirely of squeakers is the best-selling dog toy right now, said store manager Brad Cooper. Cat lovers prefer to purchase faux rodents, mice, frogs and ducks that can be stuffed with catnip, he said.
Despite the far from purr-fect economy, pet owners are still shelling out for holiday gifts, Cooper said. “They’d probably go longer between groomings or cut down on expensive dog food — they try to switch to something not so expensive,” he said. “But in terms of toys and stuff, I don’t see a definite relationship between the [economic downturn and the amount people spend on pet gifts].”
Marie DeBrocky, owner of Head to Tail Pet Wellness Center in Schenectady, agreed. “People that love their animals love their animals regardless, and they find a means to provide for them. I’ve had a steady increase [in sales] all year, and I think this holiday is our biggest yet, so I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
DeBrocky sells holiday apparel for every four-legged fashionista, from the smallest poodle to the hefty golden retriever. “We’ve got holiday sweaters, Santa Claus coats, holiday scarves and hats,” she said.
Her shelves are also stocked with scores of squeaky toys — stuffed Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer dolls and a full line of Hanukkah toys, including yarmulke-wearing teddy bears.
Hot for hounds this year are real deer antlers — to chew, not wear — although plush, strap-on, fake pairs are available too.
“There are companies in Colorado and Texas that actually collect them and cleanse them and process them. And dogs absolutely love them. They’re very durable; they’re very flavorful. That’s a big seller right now,” said DeBrocky.
DeBrocky urged shoppers to keep safety in mind while picking out gifts for furry family members. “Try not to buy that cheap little [toy] with all the stuffing that they might ingest,” she cautioned. “Because then they’ll spend their holiday at the vet and we wouldn’t want that.”