By now the gifts have been opened, and their surprises sprung. But have you noticed that it isn’t always the intended items that deliver maximum impact? A kid or an animal might be more captivated by the box something came in than the toy itself.

Besides being drawn immediately to any new box that lands in the house, I’ve watched my cats get excited about cardboard toilet rolls, paper bags, sheets of newspaper and wiffle balls. Animals don’t assign monetary value to gifts, so the criterion is simple. An item must be fun.

If you’re like many pet guardians, you spoiled your animals rotten over the holidays. I’m sure they deserved the lavish attention. But as these photos illustrate, your cat or dog may prefer to commandeer toys that weren’t intended for them. Toys they grow much more attached to than anything you could think up or choose.

One of my cats known as Little C (short for Little Carreen) has taken a dedicated liking to a threesome of dolls that I played with when I was a kid. At first I tried to keep them away from her for the sake of posterity. Then I thought, why not? I don’t have a grand use for the dolls. And she deserves a chance to play, too. 

Little C enjoys licking their hair down flat, flinging the dolls into the air, and carrying them around the house by their heads.


Here are the three dolls. They are battered and well-loved. As you can see, I can barely get the shot before the Black Paw swoops in to grab her favorite doll again. It feels like King Kong. I’m always finding their clothes around the house and putting them back on. Clearly a few pieces have gone missing permanently. 


Little C loves her dolls so much that the other cats in the house are growing interested. Here’s Sam inspecting the collection.


Little C is always comforted when I present her tiny doll.


I tried to rescue Doll Favorite back when she was snatched from the photo line-up, but as you can see, the consequences were dramatic.