The birthday girl looked stunning. Penelope had a fresh shampoo and blow-out, a shiny coat of nail polish, and a new $900 Swarovski crystal-encrusted ball gown. You would expect her guests to be positively entranced.
Sam sat across from her and stared fixedly at the cake, while Chuck, sitting to her right, looked bored and scratched his ear with his foot.
“Poor baby,” crooned Monica, scooping up Penelope, her gorgeously coiffed Maltese. “But don’t worry about those rude party guests; Mummy got you some fabulous presents!”
Welcome to the world of pampered pets. Doggy birthday parties are just the tip of the iceberg.
Furry family members
Pampered pets such as Penelope are experiencing the results of a big trend in the pet industry—the premiumization and humanization of pets. Luxury and health-enhancing pet products are on the rise, as manufacturers seek to cash in on the love we feel for our furry friends.
Recent data from international market research firm Euromonitor reveals that many Canadians view their pets as family members.
But which of these pet products will benefit Fluffy, and which are simply too much—or even hazardous for your pet?
Togs for dogs
Sweaters and jackets
“I’ve had about six Chihuahuas in here today; they get really cold, and they shiver. Especially when that wind from the north kicks in,” says Gerry Bennett, who works at Winnipeg-based Hip Pooch, a pet boutique. Doggy sweaters and jackets help small or short-haired dogs to be comfortable during the winter in very cold climates. Hip Pooch even carries down-filled parkas for dogs.
Boots and shoes
Also popular are boots and shoes that some owners buy for their pets to help keep their paws warm in icy weather. Certain boots can also protect paws from broken glass or stones, which may be a concern for urban dog owners walking their pets on city streets and sidewalks.
For the pet owner worried about their pooch’s eyes, look no further than Doggles. “I sold some of these to a lady whose dog rides with her on her quad [all-terrain vehicle],” says Sue Wagner, who owns Wags Pet Partys in Saskatoon. Wagner says these goggles for dogs can also be useful for older canines that are losing their vision, as Doggles help to reduce glare, thereby enhancing visibility.
The price of pet clothing varies. Vancouver pet boutique, barking babies, carries everything from raincoats to a line of Italian cashmere couture. Manager Jocelyn Wong says that purchases can range from as little as $10 to thousands. “We truly have something for everyone here,” Wong says.
Some arguably over-the-top petwear on the market now includes Halloween costumes, pearl and rhinestone necklaces, neckties, thongs, and even bridal wear. Be wary of these items, which can have dangling bits that a pet can chew off and choke on.
Pets should always be monitored when wearing clothing or accessories.
Fetch the credit card
Gone are the days of the humble rubber bone or squeaky mouse. These days the pet market is flooded with luxury pet playthings. These include chew toys shaped like mini designer handbags (the “Chewy Vuiton”) or credit cards (the “Muttstercard”).
For the spoiled feline, how about a $300 designer cardboard box to play in? Okay, so it’s called a Cat Cocoon and is made of many layers of cardboard glued together into a visually pleasing egg-like shape. But will kitty really know the difference?
The most important thing about a toy is that it’s safe for the pet that will be playing with it. Toys should be the appropriate size; a common pet hazard is undersized playthings that are demolished and choked on by a pet.
Animals can also choke on yarn or string. Make sure that the toy is made of material that is nontoxic for your pet and won’t splinter (visit the American Animal Hospital Association website at aahanet.org for helpful information on dangerous pet toys). Eco-friendly pet toys can be a good option, and many companies produce these now.
No matter how many fancy products you buy for your furry companion, remember that what your pet really needs is your time and attention. While products can make the time you spend with your animal extra fun, there’s no substitute for regularly scheduled walking, playing, and grooming sessions.
And don’t forget about the occasional birthday party.
Spending on Spot
Canadians spend about $3 billion annually on pets, according to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, though some experts estimate this figure to be even higher. Some of this spending involves food and veterinary care. What accounts for the rest of the money spent? Nonfood pet supplies play an increasingly significant role.