Pets

Are pets taking over the world? The extremes pet owners go to for the love of their furry friends

OTT or perfectly reasonable?

By Karyn Henger

There's no doubt about it - we love our pets. They're part of our families and bring great joy to our lives.

In turn, they've become more ingrained in our wider communities. This year Greater Wellington regional councillors voted to allow pets on public transport. Dedicated dog parks are dotted all over the country. Dog societies like Schnauzer New Zealand even host annual Christmas parties for their furry members and their owners.

Never before have our pets been so catered to. But have we gone too far? We look at some of the pet-centric products and services that have been developed for fur babies. Over the top or entirely appropriate? We'll let you be the judge.

Companies offering pawternity leave

This is a movement that started overseas but this year a Kiwi company, Airsorted, joined the march and began offering 'pawternity leave' to its employers too.

Pawternity leave is paid leave to stay home with a new pet to help them settle in to your home.

A Scandinavian pet food company, Musti Group, instituted pawternity leave earlier this year, and New York-based data company mParticle followed suit.

Airsorted, a Kiwi company that manages Airb'nb accomodation, now offers an extra week of paid leave to anyone with a 'new arrival' of the fluffy variety.

Airsorted manager Frances Mannion told The Breeze, "We think it's hard to get a new animal and have to head off to work the next day so having an extra bit of time to settle in just seems like a no brainer to us."

The first week with their new parents is crucial for pet babies, according to the SPCA: "If they're not stressed and they're feeling comfortable and secure then they're less likely to get sick and cause you other problems."

Furniture just for cats

Tired of your kitty leaving hair all over the couch? Obviously she'll need her own couch. Ikea launched a range of furniture for felines last year that is as lovely as any of their ranges for humans.

The newest pet-friendly designs to impress are from this super-chic collection by Japan's Okawa Kagu, pictured above. The collection comprises miniature versions of existing designs that purrfectly fit fancy felines.

Cats are renowned for making absolute slaves of their owners - how many of these things do you do for your cat?

Pet jewellery

Pet apparel and accessories have been around for a long time but over time, the offerings have become more couture. You can now accessorise your pooch in Karen Walker jewellery. The Karen Walker limited edition dog collar range includes elements of her range for humans and is so gorgeous you might be tempted to buy a collar for yourself.

Doggy daycares

Not a bad idea when the alternative is leaving your pooch home alone every day.

At Pets In The City in Auckland, you're promised safe and happy play times in supervised indoor play areas with trained staff. Scheduled activities include "games, skill development and rest".

Studio Hound in Epsom, Auckland caters for small dogs. Dogs can play together in a fun indoor space or "just lounge around on our couches and beds".

"Special care is taken for nervous or shy dogs to ensure they have a great day too," they reassure.

Grooming services are also offered with many doggy daycares. You can even book your pup in for a wash and blowdry!

If a full day of daycare sounds too much, you can hire a dog walker to take your pooch out while you're at work. One dog owner told us her dog loves the dog walker more than he loves her.

Pets with their own social media accounts

Pets have become social media stars in their own right, with followings that rival that of celebrities. Take Max and Louise, a pair of Parson Russell Terriers from France who travel the world and 'post' their adventures on Instagram. In recent times, John has featured in their escapades too.

They have a following of 65,000 and run with the bio: 'The pets of Instagram that spend more time on holiday than you.'

Penguin Bloom, a magpie that joined an Australian family and transformed their lives, has inspired a book that Hollywood heavyweights Reese Witherspoon and Naomi Watts are now making into a movie. Penguin has an Instagram following of 169,000.

Doggie dress-up shows

Even our Prime Minister admits to following an Instagram account of a woman who dresses up dogs in cute outfits. (You can hear Jacinda Ardern's admission in the video below.)

A growing number of Kiwis are not-so-secretly obsessed with dressing up their dogs, and attend doggie dress-up shows, complete with catwalk modelling and fashion photography shoots. In the Instagram post above West Highland White Terrier Sugaray poses for fashion photos wearing a newborn baby's sweater, toddler's shorts and a bow tie collar with Christmas decoration teddy attached. Unfortunately Sugaray soiled his shorts not long after this snap was taken.

Dog birthday parties

In some homes the dog's birthday is as enthusiastically celebrated as other family members'. Pet owners invite friends - canine and human - to mark the occasion with cake, balloons, party hats and party games. When cake smash parties (to mark a human baby's first birthday) were big the trend was quickly picked up by dog owners. This was a good time for dogs.

I confess I once attended a dog birthday party with four dogs and their respective owners. The cake was not edible - it was made of dog food. Party games were played, we sang happy birthday and the humans made a toast to Louis, who is sadly no longer with us. (This is why we threw the party. We knew he would be leaving us soon.)

Home baking for dogs

For the home baker who loves to get creative in the kitchen, why stop at baking for friends and family? The internet is awash with recipes for doggie cupcakes and other baked goods, and the flavours sound almost fit for human consumption. Peanut-honey pupcake, anyone?