Gadgets, Classes, DVDs: Pet Trends Just Hype?

More on PawNation: Cats, Dogs, Lifestyle
Forget catnip for your cat. Put away that ball of yarn. And for your dog, ditch the sticks and rubber rings. They are all so yesterday. The latest diversions for the animal in your life run the gamut from pet strollers to sports classes for your pooch's inner Olympian. Here's help deciding whether any of the new trends belong in Fido or Fluffy's life...and in yours.

Digital Distraction

You have to work late -- again -- and your pets are not pleased. Can you keep them amused by popping a DVD into your player and setting the timer? CATDVD ($20; www.catdvd.com) shows birds flying, squirrels frolicking, and mice cavorting, all to outdoor sounds and other familiar noises that entrepreneur David Casto thought would appeal to animal viewers. Doggy Daycare DVD is an hour-long video of stimulating visuals such as romps on the beach, belly rubs, and hilltop views seen from a dog's-eye view, enhanced by hundreds of sound effects in frequencies heard best by canines ($29; www.doggydaycaredvd.com).

Expert opinion: Chicago veterinarian Sheldon Rubin, DVM, says a DVD won't hold the attention of some pets for very long. If loneliness is the issue, he asks, "why not get another pet?" A recent study showed that dogs are better able to handle stress when they're in the company of other dogs. But depending on the temperament of your pet, noise can definitely help fill in the gap left by your absence, says Bernadine Cruz, DVM, who practices in Laguna Woods, CA. A cheaper way to go: Tune the TV to cartoons or Animal Planet. Those programs are likely to comfort and entertain just as well as videos made for pets.

RELATED: Cheap, DIY Remedies for Your Pet

Going For a Ride

Sales of pet strollers are climbing: They've increased about 50% over the past 3 years, say manufacturers. And these are luxury vehicles -- not just crates on wheels. Take the Fifth Avenue Pet Stroller by Kittywalk Systems ($210; www.kittywalk.com), with its uncovered cage in front and rear hooded area. When your pet tires of window shopping, she can retreat for a nap.

Expert opinion: Owners contemplating this costly purchase may wonder if animals enjoy being treated like kids, but Cruz says strollers have a place. "I have one for my own cat, Bogie," she says. "Giving senior pets that tire easily a walk in town counters boredom." And as most cat fans know, a bored feline of any age not only sleeps too much and gets fat but can also wreak havoc on the curtains. An enclosed pet stroller is ideal for a cat that resists a harness and leash or a small dog that has difficulty walking. "It helps them get out and smell the roses," says Rubin.

RELATED: Caring for an Older Pet

Four-Legged Workout
As a pup, Briar, a wolfhound mix, couldn't resist jumping into the neighbor's pool, so her owner took her to Canine Water Sports in Monroe, CT. It's part school, part day camp: A typical session allows owners and dogs to swim together for the bonding experience and includes lessons for animals on basic boating skills, like jumping from a craft. Other schools offer training in agility and sheepherding. For a list of clubs that can refer you to schools in your area, go to the American Kennel Club's Web site (www.akc.org). Costs vary: A 1-day class at Canine Water Sports (www.caninewatersports.com), for instance, is $150.

Expert opinion: "Be sure to match the activity to your dog's abilities and natural preferences," says Rubin. In other words, swimming classes aren't likely to make a water hater love the ocean, no matter how much you'd like to bodysurf with him.

RELATED: Is Your Pet Too Pudgy?

-- Kathleen Doheny

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