The 3 Surprising Ways 'Pet Parents' Are Treating Their Pets Like Humans

Could today's children experience "sibling rivalry" -- with the family dog?

As an increasing number of Americans consider their pets to be like children -- and themselves to be "pet parents" -- the concept of sibling rivalry is taking on a whole new dimension.

According to a 2011 survey by Harris Interactive, over 9 in 10 pet owners (91 percent) say they consider their pet to be a member of their families. It turns out the tendency to perceive pets as family members may even have a biological basis -- a recent study by the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital found mothers' brains showed similar responses to their babies and their dogs.

With pet owners fully embracing the role of "pet parents," a new trend has emerged called "pet humanization," which is the desire to provide pets with human-quality products. Since Americans spent $55.72 million on pet industry expenditures in 2013, this translates into big business, with consumers demanding premium products and with price being almost no object.

Here are three surprising ways families are treating their pets like -- and sometimes better than -- humans:

1. They purchase "people quality" pet food -- According to Psychology Today, "74 percent of pet parents said that they share at least one meal with their dogs each day." As people dine with their pets, they also want their pets to consume the type of diet they eat themselves -- which means the pet food industry is rushing to catch up with more natural, organic pet fare. However, before you feed Fido a meal of quinoa and kale, keep in mind you need to research the diet appropriate for your breed. Golden Retrievers, for instance, will eat anything and may need a low-fat diet. Also, be sure you aren't offering your dog a repetitive diet. Mix it up with an assortment of foods such as salmon, duck and chicken -- your dog will appreciate it!

2. They secure the best doggie day care - Today's pet parents are vetting dog sitters the way people might vet a potential babysitter for their (human) children. When considering care for our Golden Retriever, for example, my wife and I interviewed four potential dog sitters. Some key interview questions included inquiring about a potential sitter's insurance and what they would do in case of an emergency. Also, a fun tip is to ask your sitter to snap a selfie with your dog during their visits, so you can see everything is okay.

3. They style and frequently groom their pets - From hoodies and flannel shirts to booties and raincoats, many pet parents are insisting that they and their pets wear matching styles. It's getting even more extreme with grooming. Pet parents may spend more on dog grooming than they would on their own hair. When selecting a groomer, be sure to communicate how you like the dog's hair to be styled and ensure they use the right shampoo -- for example, make sure hypoallergenic shampoo is used if your dog has allergies.

The Bottom Line

"Pet parents" are prioritizing and investing in their canine "kids." As people increasingly embrace pets as integral members of the family, the demand for human-quality pet food, service, clothing and grooming will continue to grow.

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