'Green' pet gifts are big this season

The economy be damned, most pet owners still manage to provide holiday gifts for their four-legged friends. At the Annual H.H. Backer Annual Pet Industry Christmas Trade Show last month in Rosemont, Ill., which previewed many new products, a common theme was "being green."

You'd think that picking up after Fido is the right "green" thing to do, but that's not always the case; the average plastic bag takes 1,000 years to biodegrade. You can now get the job done with Earth Rated Poop Bags, which biodegrade in 40 days. The bags are available in various quantities, and some even smell like lavender (at least while empty). Bags are available in over 2,000 retail stores and online. Learn more at http://www.earthrated.com.

Of course, it's an important call to wear the right thing while carrying those poo bags. Major League Baseball umpire Timothy Timmons in an expert. Timmons and wife Leslie are the founders of PooPoo Couture, makers of stylish handbags you can use to carry those aromatic bags while walking your dog.

"Of course, dogs need to their business on walks, but it doesn't have to be everyone else's business," Timmons notes. Bag styles include cheetah and zebra prints, hot pink, or for the guys, a camouflage pattern. Handbags are $12.50. Learn more http://www.facebook.com/poopoocouture.

Green is actually the name of this product, a great gift for anyone with a cat or a dog who scarfs down food so fast that it comes right back up. This green plastic "interactive pet feeder" looks like a forest of trees or a patch of high grass. You drop kibble or treats around the base, and dogs or cats must use their noses and/or paws to scrape out the bits of food. It's impossible to eat more than a few pieces at a time. See the product in action at http://www.northmate.com, $39.99 at select pet stores and online.

Veterinary behaviorist Dr.Ilona Reisner of Philadelphia is among a growing contingent of pet experts who strongly support the idea of pets eating out of toys like Green because it's fun, mentally stimulating and can provide entertainment when owners are away from home.

The Nina Ottosson Treat Maze ($12.99 to $19.99) and the Nina Ottosson Dog Miracle ($29.99) are ideal for entertaining pets while their people are out sipping holiday eggnog. The Dog Miracle is truly a complex puzzle; dogs use their snouts and/or paws to move around a labyrinth of puzzle pieces of various shapes and sizes to find the hidden food. Ottosson toys are available at many specialty pet stores. Learn more http://www.companyofanimals.us.

One reason why at least half of all cats are overweight is that often food is left out for them 24/7. But most cats don't have an automatic shut-off valve, so if food is there, they eat. And the more they eat, the more they want to eat; cats are adept at training their people to be automatic food dispensers. The Cat Slim by Pet Safe is simple blue ball with a hole for kibble; food falls out as kitty rolls the ball. Over time, most cats can learn to search for hidden balls, giving them a chance to "hunt" indoors. Each ball is $7.95, available online and at many pet stores.

Table snacks can also lead to overweight pets. Lickety Stik for cats is a kind of feline popsicle; one lick equals just one calorie. The product is advertised as 20 licks per stik; $2.99 at pet stores and online.

Sometimes Fido is invited to the big howliday party, where fashion counts. At http://www.barkerandmeowsky.com and Macy's stores, check out the holiday necktie for dogs. It's a very appropriate green with red dog bones, $12.

There are two categories of dog toys: those for most dogs and those for dogs who seem to destroy every toy. That's where Bionic dog toys come in ($8.99 to $19.99). Online, the toys are said to be made of a "revolutionary material." They're washable, they can float, and they qualify as "green" because they can be recycled. For a listing of specialty pet stores carrying Bionic toys, check: http://bionicplay.com/wheretobuy.html, and learn more at http://www.bionic.com.

What dog doesn't love to catch squirrels? Safer than the real thing is Three Squirrels in a Log, complete with the durable plush rodents (each containing a bouncy rubber ball) and a log to keep them in, $14.50 from http://www.barkerandmeowsky.com.

For Portuguese Water Dogs, Labradors and all dogs who love fishing, http://www.barkerandmeowsky.com is also offering Karl the Koi fish toy, $15.95. Entering the New Year, a Koi is a traditional symbol of good luck.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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