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Thirteen Essential Pet Products

Updated on March 16, 2011

This week's Thursday 13 focuses on reviews of the best pet care products and toys for dogs and cats. Most of these products have been through rigorous testing by the PDX pride of Rori, Skylar, Tabby, and Carbon (and foster kittens and cats). The dog products on the list have either been tested by the cats as well or have been highly recommended by friends who have dogs.

Nature's Miracle Stain and Odor Remover

Nature's Miracle is truly a miracle. It got cat urine out of a futon after Skylar's sister Lydia decided to make her displeasure at moving known. Even though the urine soaked into the futon, there was no more odor after treatment with this! We also spray it in the litterbox after the old litter is dumped out, before we put the new litter in. Other uses include pretreating stained laundry, litterbox "misses", vomit puddles, butt wipes on the floor, pretreating soiled bedding, and soaking carpet to get rid of old or new urine stains and smells that have gone into the padding.

There are a few different products in this line. We like the "Just for Cats", but there is also an orange-scented one that works better on tile and grout, and a general one.

Bow Ow and Me Ow First Aid Kits

Bow Ow and Me Ow kits are available at PetSmart and online. Basic pet first aid kits usually contain bandages, eye wipes, styptic powder, antiseptic, gloves, and tweezers. For most pet families, that simply isn't enough in an emergency.

Unless you think you need a disaster-relief sized first aid kit, you should get something with the basics plus other essential products. You don't want to overburden yourself, but you do want to be prepared for the bites, scratches, deep wounds, and possible broken bones that come along.

The Me Ow kits for cats and Bow Ow kits for dogs provide the basics plus a cold pack, triple antibiotic ointment, a pet first aid book, hairball remedy, door emergency sticker, and "Home Again" lost pet recovery tag/subscription.

A very sick Lydia on a Wee-Wee pad
A very sick Lydia on a Wee-Wee pad
Baby Kitten Rori eating food on a lap pad
Baby Kitten Rori eating food on a lap pad

Pee Pads (disposable and reusable)

Pee pads are essential for puppy-training, but also have many other uses. We foster bottle-baby kittens sometimes, and pee pads are great for lining the bottom of the carrier. They also protect floors and chairs from urine from sick or incontinent pets, and protect your lap and car when transporting sick animals to and from the vet.

The best disposable pee pads we've found are Four Paws Wee-Wee Pads. They have a blue plastic backing with an absorbent front. We use these for sick animals and to line kitten carriers.

The best reusable pee pads are actually human infant lap pads. They are made with three layers: two outer layers of cotton with a waterproof vinyl layer in the middle. This gives the pad a soft feel under the paws, but also protects the surfaces. They can be washed and reused. They are available at many baby stores and online, in small or large sizes. We use them for kitten playtime, feeding time, and to protect laps while riding in the car. The cats sometimes use them as mini blankets to lie on as well.

Food Bowl Placemat

The best food bowl placemat we have found is actually a litter box mat! Carbon likes to fish in the water bowl, so we needed something that was absorbent. We tried the pee pads, but he threw them into the water bowl, soaking up everything in it before the other cats could drink any.

The Petco litter box mat has an absorbent cotton top layer with a waterproof non-skid bottom layer. If Carbon throws it over the bowl, it lays on top rather than flopping in. It can also be cut to size.

Toy mouse in sink
Toy mouse in sink

Cat Fancier's Association Furry Mouse with Rattle

This mouse is Carbon's absolute favorite toy! It has ended up in the sink (as pictured), in the bathtub, carried around in his mouth, in his toy stash under the couch, in the window, and almost everywhere else in the house. He even sleeps with it sometimes! It was a gift from a friend, but we also found them at PetCo.

Kongs (various kinds)

Kongs are great for dogs, but there are also Kongs for cats! Dog Kongs are rubber, bouncy, and have a hole in each end so you can stuff them with treats or put peanut butter in them.

We have other "treat toys" in this household, so our cats don't have a regular Kong. They do, however, have a Hugga Wubba, which is also made by the Kong company. I have written another hub reviewing the Hugga Wubba in detail, with a cute video of a cat playing with one.

Go! Cat Go! Play-n-Treat Ball

The "treat toy" we use is called a Play-n-Treat ball. It opens like a plastic Easter egg, except it is round with a hole in one side. It pops open, cat treats are put in, then it snaps back into place. When it rolls, the treats come out the hole. All the cats in our household love this toy, and it rewards them for playing. Even Skylar, our arthritic senior cat, plays with it for the treats.

Bamboo De-Matting Rake

Our cats love being brushed! They run right over when they see the brush come out, and rub against it on their own. Most people know about the Furminator, but there is a less-expensive product that does the same thing. It's the de-matting rake.


One of our cats, Tabby, visits nursing homes as a therapy cat. Regular-sized food and water bowls are too bulky to carry around, so we got a Port-A-Bowl, made by Outward Hound. The inner lining is water-resistant nylon, so it can hold water with minimal leaking. It is also machine-washable and dryable, and folds into a nice size for a pocket or purse.

Carbon sitting in the stroller
Carbon sitting in the stroller
Kittens Rori and Knut playing in the stroller basket
Kittens Rori and Knut playing in the stroller basket

Pet Stroller

There are many kinds of pet strollers available. The one we have is made by Pet Gear, and was under $100. It has a mesh zip-up front, so it is relatively easy to put the pet inside. There is also a basket underneath for shopping and storage.

Most models fold down for easy storage when not in use. Some have detachable carriers, and some are built for two or more pets. Many of them accommodate baby stroller gear like drink holders, trays, and rain covers.

Our cats love to sit, play, and take naps in the stroller even when it's not being used. We live within walking distance of the vet, so it's easier to stroll there than lug a pet carrier. Tabby also uses it for her therapy cat visits.

Ball in Track Toy

The favorite toy of all our foster kittens is the Crazy Circle. It is a ball inside a doughnut-shaped toy, with holes to bat the ball through. The ball does not come out, but rolls around inside the doughnut, enticing the cat to bat at it through the holes.

There are many versions of this toy. Some come with a lighted, flashing ball. Others have a cardboard scratching area in the middle. We stuck with the basic design, and they love it, as you can see from the video.

Laser Pointer

Tabby's favorite toy is the laser pointer, aka the disappearing red dot. She will chase it for hours, if given the opportunity, even leaping halfway up the wall or door after it! Again, there are many different versions of this toy. We've found the cheapest ones work just as well as the more expensive ones. Most of them have replaceable watch-sized batteries, but you can buy the toy itself for the cost of the battery.

Havahart Trap

We take care of feral cats, so a trap is a necessary piece of equipment. The Havahart Easy Set Trap is what our local feral cat rescue group uses. It does not hurt the cat, just contains it. It is truly easy to set up. The food goes onto a metal plate in one end, with the spring-loaded door on the other end. Once the animal steps on the trap, the door comes up, locking in place. There is a handle on the top to carry the trap, so there is no contact with the animal inside.


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