A little homework ensures the fun and games do not turn ugly
Over the years, Teresa Wong has bought numerous toys for her 11-year-old Schnauzer Suki. But what her grey pooch likes best isn't a plaything for dogs. 'I work in the toy industry, so one day I brought home a remote control car,' Wong says. 'Ever since she was little she has loved to play with cars. And the noisier it is the more she seems to love it.'
While Wong is aware of a choking hazard associated with a toy that isn't intended for four-legged users, she buys cars that are for young children, so they are sturdier and don't have parts that will break off easily.
Chief veterinary surgeon at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Dr Jane Gray says: 'There are a lot of dog and cat toys that should be checked as if you were a parent with a small child. There should be no loose eyes or squeaky parts that could be bitten off and swallowed.'
The size of your dog also needs to be taken into account when buying toys. Owners of big dogs need to be more careful, Gray says, since their pets are more likely to break toys and rip pieces off.
'Something for a Pekinese or Pomeranian may not be suitable for a Rottweiler or a German Shepherd that is much stronger. So it's really important to get an appropriate toy for the size of the dog,' she says.
Every week Gray sees cases of dogs ingesting foreign objects, anything from bits of plastic to corn on the cob and a toy part on rare occasions.
Gray suggests getting toys that will function as toys, and also provide entertainment and simulate natural behaviour. She says a fun and interactive toy for man's best friend is a Kong, which is a durable rubber cone with a space in the middle that allows owners to stuff treats inside.
'Those toys are great. With a little peanut butter inside it encourages dogs to chew and play with the Kong - it's a healthy way for your dog not to chew your furniture, and get some reward and enjoyment out of it.'
At Whiskers N Paws (www.wnp.com.hk), owner Vada Chung suggests dog toys that are engaging. 'A toy should occupy their time and give them something that they can solve themselves, but maybe with some help.'
First on the list is the Yuppy Puppy Treat Machine. It's an old-fashioned gum ball machine for canines, with a red bottom and clear globe on top. By pressing a bone-shaped lever, a treat is released.
'It takes a little bit of training, but when they get it, they have this look of amazement,' says Chung, who opened Whiskers N Paws in 2008. 'If you play with them and show them, they get really interested. They are into your reaction too, and then the reward becomes a big bonus.'
Another dog pleaser is the ultra-durable ball with two pieces of rope attached called the Jolly Pet Romp-n-Roll Dog Toy. She says the company that makes the toy also produces items for horses and dolphins, so it's a puncture resistant and non-toxic toy that floats and can be kicked around like a soccer ball.
For some feline fun, Gray says to choose something they can chase and play with. 'Some of the best ones are basic, you don't need to get fancy.' As cats naturally chase small animals such as mice, Gray suggests something as simple as a ball with a string attached.
If cat owners don't already have a toy mouse for their feisty feline, Chung suggests the Catfisher Fishing Bobber, which has self-righting weighted bottom (in the shape of a cat face) with an up-right wire that dangles a mouse. 'The way it wobbles really gets the cat's attention. They paw at it and get mesmerised,' she says.
Whenever an animal is given a toy, Gray advises supervision at all times, especially cats. 'They can eat and tear bits off fluffy toys. Just like in dogs, cats can ingest bits, particularly string. If it gets stuck in their intestines, the guts can spasm. Sometimes it can pass, but most of the time it can cause a serious problem. And it can kill them.'
'For cat toys you need to look for well-made stuff, or it won't hold up to clawing. As for toys with catnip inside, make sure the quality of the catnip is high, or it won't be effective and you'll end up wasting your money.'
Other useful items for indoor cats are a cardboard scratching box or a post, which helps them keep their nails short. Gray also recommends a cat perch where your furball can hang, scratch and act 'like cats perched on a tree in the jungle'.