How the rich pamper their pets
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Want a happy, relaxed pet? Do what the rich and famous do for their companion animals--think outside the litter box.
Some 63% of U.S. households, or 71 million homes, now own at least one pet, up from 64 million just five years ago. The result? Americans now spend a whopping $41 billion on pets--more than the gross domestic product of all but 64 countries in the world. And annual spending is expected to hit $52 billion in the next two years, according to consumer research company Packaged Facts.
Amazingly, the pet industry is the seventh largest retail industry in the U.S., exceeding the jewelry, candy, toy and hardware industries. Moreover, after consumer electronics, pet care is the fastest growing category in retailing, expanding about 6% a year. Clearly, consumer demand in the pet industry is at an all-time high.
In fact, a 2006 survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturer's Association showed an astounding 92% of pet owners spent the same or more on their pets during the most recent recession period. Many pet owners are even forgoing luxuries in their own lives in order to make sure their pets are living in the lap of luxury ... literally.
For the rich and famous, of course, there's no real need to skimp on amenities--human or animal. And for the latter, there is certainly no lack.
Gone are the days of leaving pampered pets loose in our backyards or in an outdoor doghouse. Pets are now roommates, their homes being outfitted with many of the same amenities one would expect a parent to provide their pampered children. Premium pet foods that cost more per meal than ours, kitty litter changes color when it needs to be cleaned (don't want Felix to get upset or discouraged). Toys come in more shapes, sizes, colors--and prices--than a single pet store can stock, and, of course, there are cozy beds with silk sheets and cashmere throws for Fido to curl up in at night.
If that's not enough, many of us experience guilt and worry about the psychological and physical state of our pets as well. There's no end to the types of service providers that are cropping up to satisfy each and every need for our pets, whether real or perceived by the owner.
And, not your run-of-the-mill services, as the rich and famous are seeking "premium" services for Fido and Felix who are now regarded as bona fide family members that deserve the same over-the-top pampering as their masters and mistresses. Indeed, many such owners spend lavishly on their dog or cat to assure its health, happiness and overall well-being--and to foster an overall positive atmosphere in the home environment, no matter how many paparazzi are climbing over the back fence.
As work and personal lives of the rich and famous become busier and more stressful, many have come to realize that a balanced, happy pet is going to have a soothing effect on the household at large, providing attention, affection, unconditional love and other such emotional support that may otherwise go un- or under- fulfilled.
This escalating ultra-high-end consumer demand has spawned a myriad of boutique-style pet businesses that have capitalized on this emerging trend. From acupressure, reiji and pet massage for the stress-induced muscle tension in Felix to hydro-surge and oatmeal spa treatments and aromatherapy, to pet whisperer animal psychiatrists--there is no lack of ways for the wealthy to pamper their pets.
First Published January 17, 2008 9:30 am