LOS ANGELES — Just over half of American pet owners will buy gifts for their pets this holiday season, and they'll spend an average of $46 on their animals, with toys and treats topping the list, according to a new AP-Petside.com poll.
Sixty-eight percent of pets getting gifts can look forward to a toy, 45 percent to food or another treat, 8 percent new bedding, 6 percent clothing, 3 percent a leash, collar or harness and 3 percent new grooming products, the poll showed. (Some pets will get more than one gift.)
"Christmas is about the pets," said Gayla McCarthy, 58, of Kekaha, Hawaii, whose Australian shepherd, Echo, will find a toy under the tree. McCarthy even got a shirt for her husband as a gift to him from the dog, and she'll be giving collapsible bowls that she ordered online to all their friends' dogs.
Although the average budget for pet gifts among those surveyed was $46, 72 percent of those polled said they'd spend $30 or less. Those who bought gifts for their pets last year said they spent $41 on average.
Overall, 51 percent of those polled this year said they would buy holiday gifts for their pets, a figure that's been relatively stable in the last few AP-Petside.com polls. It was 53 percent last year, 52 percent in 2009 and 43 percent in 2008.
Income does matter. Those making $50,000 or more say they plan to spend an average $57 on their pets. Those making under $50,000 say it will be $29.
Major pet retailers have been taking part in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday frenzy for a few years. Petco Animal Supplies Inc. plans a 72-hour "Black Friday Weekend Blowout," said Greg Seremetis, vice president of marketing.
Products for both pets and pet owners will be available, he said. "Including pets in holiday gift-giving has been a growing trend in the last few years. More and more pets are being treated as family members and being included in holiday traditions, including having a gift waiting for them under the tree," he said.
PetSmart Inc. plans to open stores at 7 a.m. on Black Friday, followed by a "Countdown to Christmas" sale beginning on Dec. 16, said spokeswoman Stephanie Foster.
Online retailer Foster & Smith Inc. plans a live, streaming, four-hour (11 a.m. - 3 p.m. EST) webcast full of sales and giveaways on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, spokesman Gordon Magee said. "As far as we know, with the exception of QVC ..., no other retailer has done a live broadcast like this on Black Friday and Cyber Monday," Magee said. "We are going to give it a go."
Younger pet owners are more apt to say they'll buy their pet a holiday gift, including 56 percent of pet owners under age 50. Among those ages 50-64, it's 47 percent, and among seniors, 39 percent, the poll showed.
Lauren Beard, 22, of Felton, Pa., and her family lavished their dog Groovy with gifts last year – including treats and bones – because it was the chocolate lab's first Christmas. "We still love her but it's a little less exciting this year," Beard said. So she reduced her budget of $70 last year to $50, and hopes to get some things on sale. She'll also buy a gift for Groovy's best friend and neighbor, a golden retriever named Tessie, Beard said.
Ronda Singleton and her husband live in Elk, Wash., and raise and show standard poodles. But they don't plan to get gifts for their dogs or for each other. "If we need something, we go get it," she explained, adding that the dogs get treats all the time. She and her husband like to celebrate holidays with traditional dinners and church services.
Thomas Koch, 69, in Raleigh, N.C., has something special to celebrate this year – adoption of his adult son should be finalized, he said.
The two will spend the holidays with their dog, Jessie, a Sheltie-chow mix, and two cats, Tanz and Callie.
Last year, Jessie got toys and the cats got play mice and a large bag of catnip. "They liked it so much we just threw it on the carpet and let them roll in it," Koch said.
He covered the goodies last year for a mere $8, but is setting aside $10 this year just in case prices have gone up.
George Smith, 43, a father of three in Adams County, Colo., says pets are "part of the family, just like our kids." But they keep the holiday gifts for Miley, a golden retriever, and Zippity, a cat, low-key: no fancy wrapping or stockings, just $10 worth of toys and treats.
Steve Gottula's budget was $100 last year and he figures it will run about the same this year for his two dogs and seven cats. Odie, a dachshund, and Sky, a Dalmatian, will get special bones, and the cats will get catnip and mouse balls.
Gottula, 48, his wife Leigh (she's the one who brings home the strays) and five kids (ages 6 to 16) live with the nine pets in Spring, Texas.
His daughters have made stockings for the pets – with their initials – and they are always part of holiday celebrations, Gottula said.
"The cats like to play with the paper and ribbon and get lost in the boxes and wrappings," he said.
What do his pets mean to him? "They are entertaining, they are companions. They have little senses of humor. They all have personalities. If you give love to them they give it back – it's unconditional," he said.
The AP-Petside.com Poll was conducted Oct. 13-17 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,118 pet owners. Results among all pet owners have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.