DETROIT — When the stock market took a nosedive this summer, Steve Sturn was bummed about the performance of his 401(k). But the uncertain economy didn't stop him from splurging on Bruno, his French bulldog. Sturn bought a $15.95 bone-shaped cake from Three Dog Bakery in Plymouth, Mich., to celebrate Bruno's first birthday.
"He loved it," said Sturn, 31, of Ann Arbor, Mich., who works for a mortgage company. "He went at it."
Sturn, who is engaged, doesn't have any children, unless you count Bruno and Rod, a 10-month-old Boston terrier. "They are like family members," Sturn said. "This is a special occasion. It's like a kid's birthday."
Despite a weak economy, pet owners continue to spend big money on their pets, pampering them with everything from massages to treats and teeth whitening.
Americans spent more than $3.5 billion in 2010 on pet services — a figure that has doubled in the past decade, fueled by high-end grooming, luxury pet hotels and day care, according to the American Pet Products Association, a nonprofit trade association.
We spent $45.5 billion on pets in general in 2009, $48.35 billion in 2010, and an estimated $50 billion-plus this year.
The weak economy might actually be the key reason why people are pampering their pets, according to Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, a science adviser at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"We saw this post-9/11," said Zawistowski, who has written a college textbook about the relationship between people and animals. "People were home nesting. Part of that home nesting is the comfort our pets give us."