Maybe it’s because we feed them and rub their bellies, or maybe it’s because they can’t understand exactly what we’re saying, but pets are among the very few things on earth that are almost guaranteed to love you if you love them. Sometimes they love you without checking to see if you’re on the same page first, too.
And to our immense credit as a species, we do a pretty good job of honoring that sort of uncomplicated goodness.
We buy them presents solely for them, like Kong balls and ultra-durable fluffy bunnies they can gnaw at to their heart’s content, and then we buy things that serve as a little present for us, too — like litters that clean themselves automatically and tiny rope toys that look like your dog is smoking a cigar. After all, we’re only human.
I grew up with five dogs, two cats, and a tiny snapping turtle that I got to keep for the week my mom didn’t know about it. I know it’s great to have pets, and I know from experience how invested I was in their happiness. And I figured: The more you care, the more detailed your research and trial approach, the better your recommendations. So I decided to ask my coworkers what were the best things they ever bought their furry friend, hoping for at least a few responses.
In the next hour, I had over 20 emails and more than a few with attachments of a coworker’s dog or cat rolling around and tearing into their newest toy. Even if you read through them all and don’t pick up anything for your own pet, it’s nice to see that kind of dedication and care for another little life. Plus, I think the original theory held true: People really care about their pets. Each recommendation has some personal significance and a happy accountability to our furry best friends attached.
Below you’ll find tried-and-true recommendations for some of the beings we love the most, plus exactly why we love them:
A tough dog rope for the most energetic (or determined) of dogs
It may seem like a simple choice, but we delayed buying dog toys for a while and every stuffed animal in the house became fair game for “tug”. Pretty soon the house was becoming a graveyard of childhood memories and we were sick of vacuuming up fluffy insides.
We caved and bought a simple rope and though our Australian Shepherd has managed to get through one knot, it’s proved to be “Gronk-proof” (our dog’s name) after three weeks. — Spencer Lambert
Close but not quite a cigar
A cigar toy. He chewed this thing for days and days. — Andrew Meola
A ‘thundershirt” for separation anxiety
I didn’t buy it for my pet, but a friend bought this and it worked wonders for his rescue that suffered from extreme separation anxiety! When my friend would leave his house, his dog would bark, run around and whine, but as soon as he put this “thundershirt” on, the dog would stand perfectly still! It’s insane. They also sell ones that say “security” on the back, I think, which is really cute! — Jennifer Martinez
A laser pointer
Flickr / @frankieleon
A laser pointer. Cats and dogs lose their freaking minds over lasers. They can’t get enough of them. I’ve never seen a toy that pets love to chase more, and it requires almost zero effort on your part. — Rob Price
Only the most durable of toys
My puppy Nubs loves two things: toys and destroying toys. Fluff and Tuff brand stuffed animals are indestructible. They last for months through the roughest and toughest play sessions. — Melia Robinson
A glowing safety leash
I got this leash for my English Bulldog. It has three different LED light settings. I like to use it on the slow flash setting. It’s great for walking him at night, especially in the city when cars might not see him crossing the street.
People always stop and ask me where I got the leash too! — Julia Le
An automatic self-cleaning litter box: a gift for you both
I’ve had this for about 5 years. — Brian Lee
Food that makes them feel healthy and strong
This is the best dog food I’ve ever bought. Expensive, but it’s turned my dog into a very healthy beast! And made by a small-batch operation in Wisconsin! — Matthew DeBord
A running water fall that will both dazzle and mesmerize
My cat LOVES her water fountain. Cats prefer running water to still so she spends a lot of time sitting at it and drinking. She appears to get anxious when I unplug it. — Becky Peterson
A nearly indestructible toy that feels like it’s fighting back
The Kong Wubba Classic doesn’t look like much but it has two crucial things going for it: It’s apparently indestructible, which dog owners know is a major and frequent flaw of other dog toys. And the legs flap around when the dog shakes it, hitting your dog in the face, and giving it the impression that the octopus is fighting back, which dogs love. — Jim Edwards
Pretty much anything from KONG
The Kong Extreme toy is an incredibly durable rubber that my dog can’t tear up and swallow — and it was essential in crate-training her, as well as controlling her separation anxiety. Every day before I leave, I swab a little peanut butter in the top, drop a few treats in, and plug the top with a slice of carrot. (During the summer, I prep a few ahead of time and pop them in the freezer.) Then I give her the Kong — and instead of focusing on the fact that I’m not there, she goes to town on the Kong. My wife and I immediately saw a drop-off in anxiety-related behaviors, like getting into the trash or chewing on furniture. She hasn’t chewed on anything for years, in fact. — Dave Mosher
I’m also a fan of Kongs, they’re strong and you can put a treat inside and they’ll be busy for a little bit. — Barbara Corbellini Duarte
Everyone should have one of these for their dog, especially as a puppy, they’ll sit down and play with it for ages while you can get some peace and quiet for a bit! They come in different sizes as well but the bigger the kong the longer they’ll play. It makes for a great reward for crate-training too! — Madeleine Sheehan Perkins
A bike carrier so you can both enjoy the day outside
I call it the poochie wagon! Worth every penny. — Jessica Orwig
An automatic pet feeder that does portion-sizing
My sister bought our cat, Elvis, an electric pet feeder. This was key because unlike other (read: normal) cats, Elvis can’t use a regular automatic feeder (that dispense enough cat food to keep the bowl full) since he’s an overeater. It also has timer settings so we were also able to regulate exact times that he gets fed and get him on a better routine. — Navah Maynard
Simple shelving so cats can stay active and happy
I bought two wall shelves for my cats and positioned them in the corner of our bedroom up near the ceiling. Our cats can jump from our bed, to the dresser, and up to the shelves, and they LOVE it. It helps them stay active and also gives them a place to go and sit or sleep away from human hands if they want some “me time.” Best $40 spent on their well-being. — Kim Renfro
Similar pick: Ikea Wall Shelf Unit, $37.95
A tiny jersey of his or her (your) favorite team
A tiny New York Giants jersey. He’s a fan, he just doesn’t know it yet. — Andrew Meola
A toy that has all the pizzazz and energy that you might not always have
When my cat was a kitten and had SO MUCH energy at night I would turn this on in another room so I could go to sleep or study. It spins but changes direction and moves unpredictably so he never gets bored and guaranteed he’ll play with it at least a half hour. — Emma Mayor
A tool to keep all that shedding from accumulating
The FURminator… most amazing product ever. — Beth Frutkin
A litter box that gives them their privacy, looks nice, and keeps cat litter in its place
This thing is magic and it makes cats look like they’re pooping in the future. The liner is made of that Ikea bag plastic, so it won’t tear, and litter falls back into the box when cats jump out. — Rob Ludacer
Literally the BEST thing I have ever purchased for my cat. I guess this is really the best thing I’ve ever bought for myself, but there’s no litter on the floor, and they like it because it gives them privacy.
It’s kind of pricey, but I had a traditional litter box at first and there was always cat litter on the floor (gross), so I feel like it’s worth it! Also, it kinda looks like furniture. Kinda. — Amanda Henning
A gentle leader to teach them how to walk with you and not against you
The gentle leader helped me teach my dog to walk. It doesn’t hurt them, but if you use too much it will damage their fur in their snout. — Barbara Corbellini Duarte