There is no better time than the holiday season to make your loved ones feel extra special, and that includes your cat. Now you can thank kitty in a generous way for the value it adds to your life all year round. To aid you in this effort, we searched for the most exciting, innovative cat gifts of 2008. Backed by cat experts, the following 12 products will enhance your cat’s standard of living in each area of its life.

1. SLEEP: Round Heated Cat Bed
Infused with low-voltage heating, Petmate’s cat bed is cozy and comfortable. It also comes with a chew-resistant power cord. “My first thought is, what a terrific idea!” exclaims animal behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, professor at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass., and author of The Cat Who Cried for Help (Bantam Books 1997). “Cats love warm places and gravitate towards heat,” he explains. “Unfortunately, that makes them do bad things, like get under the hood of the car.” To avoid such calamities, this toasty bed offers a safe alternative.

2. FOOD: Le Bistro Electronic Portion-Control Feeder
With the convenience of Petmate’s programmable feeder, your cat will love the punctuality of its meals. Easy to program, the feeder dispenses preset portions at specific times every day. “It’s like a robot feeding your cats,” says Dr. Dodman. “Rather than have food sitting out all the time, there will be this noise, and your cats will immediately know that food is being dispensed and run excitedly to get it.” Cats will appreciate the precise feedings, while you benefit from the efficiency of this easy-to-clean device. Just keep in mind that no robot can replace the good company and assurance you can provide for your cat at dinner and other times of the day.

3. FITNESS: Complete Cat Gym With Cat Hammock
Because holiday treats and frequent catnaps may pack the pounds onto your favorite feline, this majestic, nine-level gym combines exercise and excitement to keep kitty trim and fit. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that cats need a 3D environment, so this is exactly the kind of thing I’d recommend,” says Dr. Dodman. Featuring climbing surfaces, scratching posts, a big cat condo and a cozy hammock, Cozy Cat Furniture’s Complete Cat Gym with Cat Hammock allows for a range of movement, similar to what cats would do in the wild.

4. FUN: Kitty Cat Playhouse
Petmate’s new playhouse is the perfect diversion for cats that like to spice up their lives with variety. The playhouse includes toys, a plush carpet for deeper scratching, two levels of hiding fun and insulation for added comfort. “It includes lots of creature comforts — it’s a good idea that will depend on the individual cat’s preferences,” says Dr. Dodman. The warm bleached linen color of the playhouse will complement your home décor as well.

5. FASHION: Tan Plaid Wool Coat for Cats
While your cat’s own coat is naturally magnificent, why not provide your pet an extra one for added warmth this winter? Online boutique The Gilded Paw offers a stylish and practical plaid wool coat. Certified reflexologist Jackie Segers, author of Reflexology for Cats (David Bateman 1997), loves the idea. “It’s so pretty and a great gift for cats that have short coats that feel the cold in winter.” Just slip the coat over your pet’s head and seal the Velcro closure on its belly. Easy to wash, this coat will allow your cat to be stylish and comfortable all winter long.

6. HYGIENE: Self-cleaning Litter Box
It’s not a new product, but it is an innovative idea, which is why LitterMaid’s litter box has been a favorite with cat owners for over 10 years. Here’s how it works: As the cat leaves the box, sensors set a timer for the cleaning cycle. Ten minutes later, a rake combs through the litter, opens the waste receptacle and deposits clumps before closing the cover and returning to the normal position. The sealed, disposable waste receptacles include carbon filters and make waste disposal easy. But, “if you don’t replace the litter, it starts to smell,” says Dr. Dodman, who has allowed his own cats to use this type of box for years. “It’s a big, heavy box,” he warns. “You still need to clean it, and it’s a little bit of work.”

7. ECO-CONSCIOUSNESS: Grow Your Own Organic Catnip Plant Kit
Team up with your cat on this eco-friendly project. Most felines go nuts for catnip. If you have a green thumb, From the Field’s Grow Your Own Catnip Plant Kit will offer both you and your pet loads of fun. The kit comes with catnip seeds, one peat pellet disk and a small sample of catnip. “It is the gift that keeps on giving,” asserts Segers, who adds that fresh catnip is always more pungent and effective than dried versions of the herb.

8. COMFORT: Relax-a-Cat
With several scratching and playing surfaces, Imperial Cat’s uniquely shaped scratcher will draw your cat in on a daily basis. Jennifer Bristol, director of the Animal Haven shop and sponsorship program in New York City, vouches for the popularity of Imperial Cat products. “Cats love to lounge on them, and they sleep on them, too,” she says. And with its sleek look and feel, it’s reminiscent of an art sculpture.

Ripple massagers, acupressure pads, body-stroke groomers and a gum stimulator lure cats in for the perfect self-grooming session. Hagen Living World’s interactive cat toy penetrates fur deeply for an intense massage and allows cats to feel pressure points under their paws. This four-in-one spa also massages and cleans teeth and gums as cats gnaw on it. Whether you’re home or away, this toy will nurture your cat with an ultra-sensory experience.

10. SKIN CARE: Shea Butter Skin Repair and Dander Care
Free of color and scent, this gentle herbal formula from SheaPet helps control minor skin care issues like dry skin and hot spots. Premium skin conditioners and shea butter promote a healthy coat and soothe irritated skin. Segers suggests that this is “a great alternative to steroid creams, which I feel just mask symptoms rather than actually heal mild skin conditions.” If your cat has serious skin issues, however, do not replace a visit to your veterinarian with this product.

11. SURROUNDINGS: Kitty’s Garden
Just because your cat lives indoors doesn’t mean your pet is not a nature lover. “Plant-eating is a natural behavior for cats,” says Dr. Dodman. “A study found that 35 percent of cats in the world eat plants,” he adds. To prevent your cat from chewing on harmful plants, SmartCat offers another option: You can create a safe, nutritious potted garden for your cat. Kitty’s Garden comes with an elegant box, peat moss and organic seeds. In just four to six days, your cat will have a garden of oat, rye, barley and wheat grass to chew on, which will provide vitamins, help to control hairballs and aid in digestion.

12. SYMBOLIC GIFT: Pet Portrait Cat Bowl
This personal designer cat dish by Tails by the Lake will forever seal your cat’s identity as a true member of the family. That’s because it features a hand-painted picture of your own pet! Individually signed by the artist, the dish is microwavable and dishwasher-safe. “Great gift, kind of cute, humorous and usable,” chuckles Dr. Dodman. “I think that’s definitely something I would think about as a gift.” With a quick Internet search, or a visit to your local pet store, you can track down the perfect holiday gift for your kitty. Your cat will likely appreciate the effort, replacing a famous holiday carol’s “rings” chorus with “five happy meows.”