If you are a pet lover, as I am, you will certainly understand my desire to make my pets' lives as comfortable and as interesting as possible. And because they are important members of my family, I celebrate their birthdays, include them in parties, and, of course, shower them with presents, especially at Christmas. (This year, all of them -- dogs and cats and birds -- will be receiving some gifts that are homemade and practical and others that are fun and stimulating.)
The three dogs -- two female French bulldogs and one chow chow -- crave presents and attention. The Frenchies, Francesca and Sharkey, wear doggy coats frequently and often can be seen bejeweled and bedecked. On the other hand, my chow, Paw Paw, at the age of 12, really only wants gifts of tasty food and a comfortable bed.
The five Himalayan cats -- four boys and one girl (brothers Vivaldi and Verdi, Bartok, Mozart, and Elektra) -- love toys, snacks, catnip-filled objects, interesting perches, and cat beds, preferably ones located in pools of warm sunlight or very near sources of heat.
My flock of bright-red canaries enjoys edible treats such as stalks of fresh broccoli and pear or apple wedges, but the birds also crave stimulating, noisy toys and secure, warm covers at night. Smart doggy coats are difficult to find and even harder to fit. The well-tailored versions we designed and sewed fit beautifully and are entirely comfortable for dogs that have smooth, short coats and that love to stay dry and warm. The bullies wear T-shirts and various types of sweaters and coats all year long, and these glazed, water-resistant slickers are sure to be among their favorites.
Cats, of course, don't like to wear things -- I would never insult one of my felines with a coat or a collar -- but they do love to cuddle. The cat beds we made use a Nantucket-lightshiplike basket as the base, so they look nice in almost any interior. Fitted with soft cushions and an electric pet-bed warmer, these shallow beds are a dream for cats and small dogs.
Birdcages should be placed in rooms where there is a lot of activity. Birds like to sing or chatter, and they need the interaction with other members of the household to remain happy and vociferous. At night, they desire security and a draft-free environment, which can be created simply by covering their cage with a cloth or an old sheet. But why not sew a custom birdcage cover that can be draped every evening and removed each morning with ease? A soft fabric -- flannel, thick cotton, even a lightly quilted textile -- can be made to fit the cage. I used an elegant linen for my cover.
Cat perches require well-branched and heavy-limbed pieces of wood. I use ones from trees that have been blown down in a storm or others that have been cut in our woods-management program. Trunks with interesting bark and shapes make the best perches and look almost like sculptures. Of course, my horses and donkeys and poultry will also all receive treats and presents for the holidays. But because more of us have cats and dogs and birds, I wanted to concentrate on and share my ideas for their gifts in this column, so that your pets can enjoy the holidays with new clothes and elegant new toys as well.