Saturday, 20 December 2008

Do they know it's Christmas?

No. Cats, dogs and other pets are wonderful and intelligent in their own way, but they don't share our anticipation of the imminent Christmas celebrations, nor are they hankering after a load of new stuff. But the pet food aisles in the supermarkets, the pet food stores in the retail parks and the online pet stores are groaning with seasonal products for all kinds of pets.

So many things we associate with Christmas have been turned into products that are, purportedly, for pets, but will only really entertain their owners. For cats and dogs, there are advent calendars, Christmas tree ornaments, edible Christmas cards and plastic Chistmas stockings containing food treats and toys. Dogs may also receive plastic toys in the shape of crackers, Santa shaped chocolates, and 'crunchy snowballs' made of white chocolate. Product marketing is even aimed at owners of small mammals and there is a special stocking for hamsters, with chocolate drops.

There is a proliferation of 'turkey flavour' versions of established pet food products. But they can contain as little as 4 per cent turkey. Most domestic cats are smaller than today's factory farmed turkeys so would be unlikley to hunt one down, and it would not be a natural food choice for most dogs either. The seasonal ranges are packed with confectionary that won't help the pet obesity epidemic. A lot of the Christmas products for pets seem to be an opportunity to wrap up established lines in another layer of plastic. We often say that children play more with the packaging than the toys we buy them, so maybe at least the pets might have fun with that for a bit.

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