Pampered Pets: Things Owners Do for Love

Despite the current economic climate, some pet owners still want to give their animals the best of the best, and sometimes a simple belly rub or table scraps just won't do.

From first-class jet setting to manis and pedis, here are some of the crazy things that pet owners are doing for their furry friends.

Insurance Coverage

Business: VPI Pet Insurance

Just like humans, animals have unexpected accidents and illnesses. Pet owners are looking to give their animals the best care and treatment possible by purchasing pet insurance packages, which fall into the property and casualty realm in the insurance industry, according to Grant Biniasz, public relations supervisor for VPI.

Location:  The company is based in Brea, Calif., however pet owners anywhere in the U.S. can buy policies.

Services Offered:  VPI offers plans that cover accidents and illnesses, which include a wide range of ailments from a laceration to chemotherapy, says Biniasz. The company also offers CareGuard plans, which include flea and heartworm preventives, physical exams and vaccinations. Under the plan,  pet owners can take their animals to any vet office and pay upfront for treatment, and then submit the claim afterward. Reimbursement is given according to a benefit schedule, according to Biniasz.

Prices:  For cats, plans are priced between $20 and $30 monthly, and for a younger dog, between $30 and $40. Plans are offered for more exotic animals like birds that cost about $8 monthly. Pre-existing conditions may exempt an animal from coverage, says Biniasz, but if the condition has cleared up within six months, he says the pet may be eligible for coverage. VPI insures close to 500,000 pets annually nationwide and claims to own about 61% of the market. However, Biniasz says only 1% of U.S. pet owners opt to insure their pets.

Why pet owners love it: The nature of accidents and illnesses are is so unpredictable and treatment can be costly, so users want to make sure their bases are covered. According to Biniasz, many of its clients have experienced the  hefty price tag that comes with some veterinary care. “Whether it’s pet insurance, a savings account or credit card, all pet owners should consider how they will pay for an accident or illness," he said. "Veterinary care is growing in sophistication, with an increasing about of technology and specialists. All of that comes with an increase in cost."


Business: Faithful Companion Pet Cremation Services by Marrocco

Pet owners looking to give their beloved animals a proper send off are turning to pet cremation services.

Location: Clifton, N.J.

Services offered: Jim Marrocco, owner of Faithful Companion, opened his business in September 2010, and has cremated a variety of pets including parrots, cats, dogs, guinea pigs and pot-bellied pigs. The business offers private family viewings as well as pick up and drop off of the deceased pet and its remains.

Prices:  To have the pet picked up, cremated and delivered to the home within 24-hours the company charges $345. If owners bring their pet to the funeral home, the cost drops to $295, for average-size cats and dogs. For smaller, exotic, pets like parrots or hamsters, the cost is $150.The prices are not set by the poundage of the pet being cremated, according to Marrocco.

Most Popular Requests: Many pet owners ask to see their pet being cremated, Marrocco says. The home offers a family room with private-viewing services, and the remains are placed in specially-designed boxes. Marrocco's family has been in the funeral service business for more than a century and started offering the service after realizing people truly consider their pets as family members. "In the boxes people will put the pet's favorite toy, or will write on it or put letters in," he said. "It helps with closure. For them, it’s a healing process to go through, and going to the pet crematory helps them."


Business: The Barkley Pet Hotel & Day Spa

Pets need pampering too, and owners are paying for their furry friends to have all the spa specials they can have at places like The Barkley.

Location: Westlake, Calif.

Services offered: The Barkley offers overnight hotel stays for animals, as well as day-spa treatments like "Paw-dicures," massages, grooming and yes, fur dying, according to Malia Rivera, director of marketing for the hotel. The hotel also has an on-site animal hospital in case any guest needs medical attention.

Pet owners can view their pets in their hotel rooms from any computer, via Web cams, Rivera says.  There are also rooms for exotic animals like rabbits, and turtles, as well as an avian area for birds. The hotel service includes three handler walks a day, two in-room dining services, as well as maid and linen service. There is also a doggie day camp available and limo service is available for pick up and drop off.

Prices: The most popular service is the Salon Groom, which breed specific, according to Rivera, and  includes a mud mask, facial massage, drying cabanas, pawdicures, and hair dying. The package begins at $30, and can go up to $100 depending on the size of the dog or cat. Hotel stays range from $44.50 to $72.50 a day.

Why pet owners love it: Pets are very simply their owners' most prized possessions, says Rivera.

"Similarly to how we pamper ourselves, people are using that same behavior for their pets. It's not just about getting your dog bathed. It's about the mind, body, soul and wellness of the pet."


Business: Pet Airways

Instead of having pets fly in the storage area of passenger planes or under the seat, some pet owners are opting to fly their pets on this animals-only airline service.

Location: The company currently serving pets in Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York, Omaha and Phoenix and plans to open in five new cities this year.

Services offered: Founder and Chief Development Officer Alysa Binder said all "pawsengers" are dropped off at the airports serving Pet Airways in a building that is similar to a vet office. Pets are hand carried onto the plane by a pet attendant and owners are allowed to watch the process. There are lounges in each drop off/pick up building that are equipped with tissues  for the owners that have trouble saying goodbye. Cross-country trips include a pit-stop in Omaha for a potty break. Pets fly in carriers, supplied by the airline, which has flown cats, dogs, geckos, hamsters and gerbils. The airline is working on a new program for more exotic pets like birds, Binder said.

Prices: The flight cost ranges from $99 to $250 depending on the location and size of pet.

Who uses it? Pet Airways flies animals that are being adopted to new homes, pets that are being relocated, showdogs and even animals stuck in the middle of custody battles, Binder said.

"Owners really do care about the safety of their pets," she says. "It's a fun, happy community."


Business: The Zoom Room

Location:  Milwaukee, Wis.,  Austin, Coconut Creek, Fla., Hollywood, Monterey Bay, Calif., Culver City, Calif., and Longmont, Colo.

Services offered:  The Zoom Room offers parties for humans and their four-legged friends—mainly dogs. Past parties have included marriage ceremonies, "Bark-mitzvahs," adoption anniversary parties and Doggie Disco celebrations. Many of the parties hosted have themes and are shaped around holidays like Christmas and Halloween. The room has a laser light theme and special disco gloves with lasers that entertain the doggie guests, according to Founder Jaime Van Wye.

Prices: Parties start at $150 for two hours, which includes the clean up, set up and use of space, as well as all of the utensils. The price point is for a 10-dog party, and goes up incrementally, but doesn't typically cost more than $300. People often purchase add ons, Van Wye says, like gluten-free cupcakes for the dogs. It is also encouraged that people bring food for the human guests, and in the past Van Wye says customers have gone all out offering  catering and a full bar.

Why pet owners love it: Many pet owners may not have children and treat their pets as children,  explains Van Wye. "It's really a substitute for their child. I think that people really want to connect with their dogs," she said. "It lets everyone be a kid again."