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Pet Pampering: Going Too Far?

by | Jan 30, 2013 | Cat Behavior & Care, Dog Training & Care | 12 comments

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there’s ample opportunity to pamper our furry wonders. We all love our pets–or we wouldn’t have ‘em. I’m all for spoiling dogs and cats, within reason–and when it doesn’t cause other problems.

My dog gets a bit of people food now and then. He’s even allowed on the sofa, and receives far too many doggy toys to count, despite disemboweling the squeakers in record time. . .

Oh, who am I kidding! He gets a LOT of people food (he loves broccoli), the end of the couch is his spot, and he usually beats me to bed in the evening.

The cat also gets his share of lap snuggles, on demand. He also enjoys treats from my plate, especially lean meat and fish. And I found a deep blue leash that matches his stunning eyes for the ultimate in fashionable pampering.

Pampering Pets

There’s reason behind some pet products. I have no problem with folks dressing up collars and leashes with colorful patterns. Some pets actually benefit from wearing sweaters to keep them warm in frigid temperatures–check out these cold weather tips–or protected from sunburn pain. Special treats that don’t upset the digestion or proper nutrition can help with bonding and training. Heated pet beds ease doggy arthritis, and water fountains encourage kitties to drink and reduce problems with urinary concerns. Heck, even painting the dog (or cat’s) toenails is a harmless indulgence, and those colorful nail covers like SoftPaws actually prevent clawing and digging.

But can pampering go too far?

Too Much of…Everything?

One obvious example of going too far is treats. We’re loving our pets to death and creating fat cats and dumpy dogs. That predisposes them to all the same health problems that overweight owners risk–arthritis, diabetes and more.

But what about fun products? Can a dog or cat have too many toys? DON’T ask the pets, you know what they’ll answer. 🙂

I receive an enormous number of press releases either in the regular mail or via the Internet. They promote everything from kitty bling to doggy tuxedos–what else should the pampered pet wear to a wedding, right? They also offer all kinds of cat and dog toys that frankly appeal more to the human than the furry consumer. Heck, I’d wear some of that pet jewelry, if it came in my size! *ahem*

A couple of years ago I got a pitch for a Father’s Day gift that appeal to both the fur-kids and Dad. These include the “doggy driver” golf clubs that loft dog balls into the air to chase (“practice your swing and delight your dog”); baseball bats that do the same thing, and slingshot-like mechanisms able to launch balls and toys 220+ feet. I have to say the idea of swinging a club for the dog to chase a ball scares me when I think of any dog trying to grab the club and getting wacked in the teeth.

Pet Purses, Oh My

On the other side of macho appeal, you get the “cutesy-diva-fashion” appeal. Harmless, right? Well I had an “oh-my-heavens!” moment when I got a promotion for a “puppy purse of the month” club.

I’m not making this up.

It’s designed for the smaller “portable” size dogs (or even cats). You strap the pet into the little designer sack so his feet dangle through the holes. He has a “purse handle” attached on his back, or a longer strap for over-the-shoulder portability. That’s right, this product turns your pet into a fashion accessory. The owner can then carry the pet over a shoulder like a living, breathing briefcase and the pet’s fuzzy feet never touch the ground. The puppy purse product line comes in all sorts of fabric and patterns.

Just shoot me.

There is so much wrong with this, I don’t know where to begin. I’m appalled.

Pets On the Go

Certainly pets may enjoy going places with you. Maybe an ill or injured pet (as described in the product benefits) might be conveniently toted with one of these. And I’ll agree there are benefits to keeping the small dogs safe and out from under our feet (or within bite-range of larger dogs). I do have a pet stroller to keep my cat safe while enjoying the outdoors. However, more small dogs get bitten and attacked by larger dogs when dangled from the arms of a fearful owner.

More than that, dogs and cats are living, breathing, thinking creatures. You don’t turn them into luggage! If you take a look at some of these doggy models, their body language reads anything but delighted–and pampering and spoiling should be something the pet likes. I can only imagine the nasty comments my cat Seren might make if presented with one of these outfits.

Give ‘em toys, for sure. Lavish attention, absolutely. Dress yourself up and accessorize with jewelry et al. But when pampering transforms our pets into mere fashion statements, I gotta draw a line in the kitty litter. Give me a break!

What “oh-my-doG” kinds of pet products raise your hackles? Am I all wet about the puppy purses? What do you think?

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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

12 Comments

  1. Patricia Hubbard

    Excellent blog. You are 100 percent spot on. I feel really sorry for the animals that have to go through this. If only they could talk, I can imagine what they would say.

    • amyshojai

      Thanks Patricia. I suspect if pets could talk, we’d get an ear full!

  2. Brenda

    My fear would be our dear cat wriggling out of it. He is part Burmese (the Houdinis of the cat world they say and he proved) & once during his first months indoors he opened his pet carrier WHILE I was explaining to my husband that being part Burmese he might manage to do that! The puppy purse was actually what I imagined & wanted IF IT WOULD WORK ON A CAT because ours was a feral outdoor dear who wanted to live indoors but he misses the outdoors sometimes and bolts out the door on what he considers beautiful days (or evenings) and this way I could walk around the cemetery or our yard with him (IF HE WAS SECURELY IN IT) and better satisfy his cravings to sniff the air. (Of course I do carry him already, just not outside our yard.) Certainly your concerns about dangling pets being attacked by large ones is a good point that all must keep in mind!

    As you see, I had dreams of taking ours places I cannot safely take him and this puppy purse could (were he to stay in it) be the answer to everything. It ought to be more comfortable than a pet carrier it seems to me if they got used to it.

    The upside of the whole thing I think is the pet gets more attention IF the human can take them places. And with global warming moving our waterways farther inland people would need them for evacuations.

    My rambling two cents anyway.

  3. Brenda

    Why was he IN his pet carrier you may ask? Trying to get him accustomed to it I recall or just back from vet.

    A question: the pet carrier that our dear one escaped from is the sturdiest pet carrier I have ever seen. Aside from always being with him & always having one’s hands on the carrier door to keep it secured, what would the solution be if we were ever to have to evacuate or travel to assure he did not get out of the carrier?

    • amyshojai

      Yikes, is it a soft sided with zipper or a hard plastic crate?

  4. Karyl Cunningham

    Friend of mine had an atlatl made for balls. She used it to give a good throw when her arthritis kicked in if I recall. 🙂

    That puppy purse is just… ugh. I’d ask how that’s even comfortable but those people probably don’t care. I can deal with it if they’re in something more “closed” like the soft-sided carriers and such (I admit there are days I want to cart my kitty around for comfort, but I don’t think she’d like that too well LOL)

    • amyshojai

      Yep, we’re primates. We like to hug and squeeze, and lug ’em around like babies. More of a benefit for us, I suspect.

  5. Jana Rade

    Well, I think that the main question here is: WHO IS REALLY BEING PAMPERED? Do we really think that dogs prefer being carried around in a designer purse or would rather actually walk and run? Do we really think that a dog will appreciate a designer $50,000 diamond studded collar? Or dog bed and wardrobe that looks like from a Barbie world? I think not.

    So, why don’t we start by actually pampering the dogs, rather then ourselves? Before we get something for them, why don’t we stop and think – is she actually going to appreciate this?

    How can we REALLY pamper our dogs? By giving them time. And walks, And play. And companionship. Good quality food. Regular veterinary check-ups. Tooth brushing. And yes, treats, within reason of course.

    • amyshojai

      Amen! Time, love, care=TLC! Thanks for commenting on the blog Jana.

  6. Chris

    I WISH water fountains actually increased water intake for cats, but the science doesn’t support it*. The concentration of their urine is not more dilute. What water they drink may taste better but it seems they are born with a low thirst drive** and are not swayed to drink more water when it’s in a fountain*. Increasing their water intake can be done through feeding canned or raw food and adding extra water or tasty liquid, like broth made from unseasoned boiled poultry carcass***.

    A dry food diet for cats should be avoided #

    Feeding human grade (“people food”) meat protein is not spoiling pets but is providing optimum and appropriate nutrition when fed in a balanced manner.##

    Sources:

    *Grant DC: Effect of water source on intake and urine concentration in healthy cats, J Feline Med Surg 12:431, 2010.
    http://winnfelinehealth.blogspot.ca/2010/09/water-fountains-for-cats.html

    ** Zoran, Debra L., DVM, PhD, DACVIM, “The carnivore connection to nutrition in cats”,
    http://www.catinfo.org/docs/zorans_article.pdf

    *** Pierson, Pierson, Lisa A., DVM, “Cats Need Plenty of Water WITH Their Food”

    # Pierson, Lisa A., DVM, “Feline Urinary Tract Health: Cystitis, Urethral Obstruction, Urinary Tract Infection”, http://catinfo.org/?link=urinarytracthealth

    Schultze, Hodgkins, et al, “Species-Inappropriate: The Dangers of Dry Food”, http://feline-nutrition.org/health/species-inappropriate-the-dangers-of-dry-food

    Hodgkins, Elizabeth, DVM, “Diabetes and Obesity: Preventable Epidemics”, http://feline-nutrition.org/health/diabetes-and-obesity-preventable-epidemics

    ## Pierson, Lisa A., DVM, “Making [Balanced] Cat Food”, http://catinfo.org/?link=makingcatfood

    • amyshojai

      Hi Chris, thanks for the comments, and especially thanks for the citations. The first study actually did show an increase in water intake from fountains, but apparently that doesn’t change the cat’s body from concentrating the urine. Very interesting. I’ll have to follow up with Dr. Laflamme to see if there are any more recent follow ups (this appears to originally have been reported in 2009), and of course Dr. Hodgkins is the best! Hoping to see them both again next month at WVC.

      Seren has 2 fountains, and she preferentially drinks from them compared to the other water bowls I have around the house. If that’s pampering, so be it! 🙂

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