Howl-iday gifts for our four-legged friends can be a hard find, but if you're in the mood to make or buy something locally made, we have a few ideas to make sure everyone has a meow-ly Christmas.

Toys for cats and dogs can be a great way to keep them entertained, provide comfort and keep them from developing problem behaviors.

Although cats can be pretty picky about toys, dogs often are more than willing to play with any object they can get their paws on. When considering a gift for a dog, the Humane Society of the United States has several suggestions to get you on the right track.

• Dogs love to chase, chew and carry toys, so the Humane Society suggests you make sure whatever the toy is, it is size appropriate so the animal won’t choke on it, and it will not come apart easily into smaller bits.

• Avoid or alter any toys that aren't "dog-proof" by removing ribbons, strings, eyes or other parts that could be chewed off and/or ingested. Discard toys that start to break into pieces or are torn.

• Take note of any toy that contains a "squeaker" buried in its center. Your dog may feel that they must find and destroy the source of the squeaking, and they could ingest it, so don’t leave a dog alone with a squeaky toy for prolonged periods of alone time.

• Look for stuffed toys that are labeled as safe for children younger than 3, and that don't contain any dangerous fillings, including nutshells and polystyrene beads. But even "safe" stuffing isn't truly digestible. Remember that soft toys are not indestructible, but some are sturdier than others. Soft toys should be machine washable.

• If you're thinking about giving your dog rawhide chew toys, be sure to check with your veterinarian about which ones are safe and appropriate for your dog. Because these toys may pose choking hazards, only give them to your dog when you’re there to supervise. Also, be aware that many rawhides are byproducts of the cruel international fur trade. For a humane alternative, consider toys made of very hard rubber, which are safer and last longer.

• Very hard rubber toys, such as Nylabone-type products and Kong-type products, are fun for chewing and for carrying around, and they are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can hide treats in some of these toys which will provide a lasting distraction for your pet.

• You can make "rope" toys. Make sure the rope you pick is knotted at the ends and won’t shred into loose strings during rough play. 

• Tennis balls make great dog toys, but inspect them often. When they are chewed through, throw them away at once.

• Get the most out of your dog’s toys by rotating them weekly, and only keep a few toys out at a time. If your dog has a favorite, such as a soft "baby," you may want to leave that one out all the time.

Purrrr-fect toys for feline friends  

Cats love leaping, jumping and dashing. They are predatory animals, and just because they may not have real prey to chase, that doesn't mean they can't act out their inner hunter.

It takes very little to amuse a cat — a crumpled ball of paper, a pen left on a desktop, a newspaper spread open on the floor or a paper bag.

• Most cats like small objects that are "flickable," such as a cork, a feather or a light ball, that they can swat and chase.

• Cats also love paper bags and cardboard boxes. Make sure you remove handles, tape and anything else that a cat might get caught in.

• Some cats go wild for the red dot of a laser toy, chasing it around the floor and up the wall. The cat gets a good workout, and you don't even have to get off the couch. The play can be frustrating, so when the game ends, offer your cat an actual toy to grab.

• You can make your own cat toys as well. Round plastic shower curtain rings, Ping-Pong balls or plastic practice golf balls with holes, empty cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towels, cardboard boxes, paper bags and twine all make great materials. Let imagination be your guide.

Some items that you should never include in a cat toy are loose string, yarn, ribbon, dental floss, paper clips, safety pins, rubber bands or plastic bags, especially dry cleaner bags.

Pamper your pet — locally

If the Christmas crunch has left you out of time, you can find great local gifts at stores such as Crafted QC, 217 E. 2nd St., Davenport. The store offers great pet-themed gifts from local artists.

Some favorites include water and food bowls built up on boxes and stools so bigger dogs don’t have to bend so far for eating and drinking. The store’s Sarah Marx and Mary Talbert also make Kitty Krack, which are seasonal felt toys for cats with catnip, and catnip balls.

According to the Humane Society, catnip is safe, and your cat won't get addicted to it. Their reactions to it may vary, though. Some cats can get overstimulated by it to the point of aggressive play, while others just get relaxed. Then there are some some cats that are not affected by it at all.

The store also offers paw print art, and classes to make your own pet-themed art. One popular class includes string art, where you use nails and string to create a figure on a wooden plank. Shawna Fibikar is Crafted QC's resident string artist, who hosts monthly classes. Visit Crafted QC’s Facebook page or website, craftedqc.com, for a schedule.

The store also offers Riley’s Calendar, from 13-year-old Milan artist Riley Ellis. Proceeds from the hand-drawn calendar are shared with the Quad City Animal Welfare Center.

Todd Welvaert is a regular Radish contributor.

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