The United States birth rate just hit a record low, as more and more twenty- and thirty-somethings are putting off the parenting phase of their lives. But make no mistake, they're still spoiling, coddling, primping and using baby-talk. It's just directed at ... furrier companions. Have pampered pets become our adorable and adopted, but no less important children? Here are 23 ways that pet ownership is basically parenthood -- minus the maternity leave.
1. The first time you hear your pet cry, you're hooked.
Has the world ever known a more beautiful whimper?
2. Your pet deserves the best, so you buy her a bed as soft as a cloud.
Sometimes even a 22-carat-gold mattress won't please your picky pooch... so you end up just letting her sleep "next" to you -- which soon turns into her letting you sleep next to her. On your bed.
This probably comes at the expense of your significant other, or your general comfort, depending on the size or willingness of your pet to share.
But you just can't say no to that face.
3. You splurge on organic fresh food for your pet.
But all he seems to want is Meow Mix and catnip. Or maybe your very particular Labrador is always lusting for more Kobe Beef jerkey infused with truffle oil (it only costs $1,000), and the other neighborhood dog parents are starting to judge you.
4. You take your pet everywhere, and sometimes forget it has legs of its own.
Why make your dog exert himself on your walk/run when you can just bring him along in a jogger-stroller? And if he gets too "cool" for that, you'll pimp his ride:
A John Deere for doggy!
5. You try so hard to do everything right, but still, potty training remains your Everest.
It looks SO easy on the box!
6. You can't help dressing your pet up.
Even though she hates it.
He just looks so dang cute. Have you considered buying him a pair of Roberto Cavalli shorts? They're worth the hundreds of dollars! How about other accessories?
She'll thank you when she's older!!
7. Even his most awkward phases are incredibly adorable to you.
What do you mean, his head's too big for his body??
8. So much so, that you pay for fancy professional photo shoots
Even though your pet will probably refuse to smile normally.
9. You document each milestone, and every year you throw your furry friend a birthday party fit for a king.
One pound of steak for every year of his cute little life! When he gets older, a classier Red Carpet Champagne Party might be in order.
10. You can't bear to go on vacation without your pet.
Even if you Skyped every night, it wouldn't feel right...
So, you put your four-legged friend in a nearby luxury resort just for pets. This one offers "cuddle dates" -- or massages -- for an extra $20 a night (on top of the $105 nightly rate).
Doggy yoga classes! They're real.
12. If downward dog doesn't lift your pets spirits, you can always try a spa day.
A nice relaxing facial should take the edge off....
For good measure, give her a nice pawdicure, and she'll be good as new!
13. Still, you wonder if your pet has social anxiety issues.
She's always fighting with her reflection -- is it low self-esteem?
Just to be safe, you ask your friend to recommend a pet psychiatrist.
14. You worry that your pet might be too "different" to qualify for exclusive doggy day care schools.
He just thinks outside the box, ok??
15. Still, you know the truth: your pet is just a misunderstood genius.
After all, you only cheated a teensy bit when calculating his IQ.
16. That's why you're so proud when your dog graduates from his iPad training course.
The first in his family to get a degree!
17. But then you worry your pet is becoming too obsessed with technology...
What if all the pet-based TV programming she's watching makes her forget how to communicate face-to-face?
18. You decide to spend more time just hangin' out with your dog.
Nothing says bonding like a day in the park, especially if it has 42-gated acres of water and woods to play in.
19. And you try to pass down all your favorite, old-school hobbies.
Or maybe you always suspected that your cat had perfect pitch and teach your little Mozart to play the piano.
20. Still, you know that you can't protect your furry friend from all the scary things in the world
So you try to keep your baby close by your side.....
That way, she won't go getting into trouble.
21. To be honest, you kind of have trouble letting your pet grow up
After all, she still fits in her doggy high chair. And in your arms..
Sort of. But he'll always be your little shnookums.
22. And you admit it, sometimes you're obnoxious.
You can't help it if you raised the best cat in the universe.
23. No matter what, you know your pet is worth it all...
After all, that kind of unconditional love doesn't come around any old dog year!
That said, if pets really are the new babies, we can only imagine what new pet trend will come next -- pet godparents? Doggy karate? A precocious feline slyly reading a novel?
Oh. Well, damn.