So is all this doting a problem? Is there any harm in treating our pets like children?
Andrew Zbeeb, who owns the pet-training and sitting company Frogs to Dogs in Atlanta, said pet pampering is usually harmless. But it can turn potty training and overfeeding into big problems, Zbeeb said.
"I'll put my training hat on and tell you there could be negative effects if you're treating animals like a human being. It's OK to love your pet and pamper your pet and put dresses on your pet, but it's still a domesticated animal. It's not a human being," Zbeeb said. "It can lead to disappointment for human beings, and the (animals) may have false perceptions of the world."
At the same time, while "people may get carried away with (doting on their pets), it's sweet," he said. "And (those connections) extend a human's life."
Consider Brittany Anderson of Minnesota, who grew up sharing her cereal with hamsters. Now a recent college graduate, she has three guinea pigs she spoils. They eat fruits and vegetables, get plenty of exercise outside their cages and orange slices in their water. On holidays, they get presents. They're playful, social animals, Anderson said, and she can tell when they're upset.
"If I'm going to have a pet, I want to treat them the best I can," she said.
That includes dressing them in clothes, some of which she designed.
"When any kind of animal wears clothes, it's hilarious and cute," Anderson said. "It's less common to find guinea pig clothes. Right now I'm (making them) for fun, as a hobby, but it's a dream of mine to design (and sell) animal clothes."
Harold A. Herzog Jr., a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, has made the relationship between animals and humans a primary focus of his research and career. He isn't terribly concerned about animal doting.
"I don't think there's any harm in excessive pet pampering unless they're sacrificing clothing for their children, or vet bills are $20,000. Things can go south ... but it's a harmless pleasure if people want to dress their guinea pig up for the most part," he said.
From rescue to regal
Herzog does see a trend among pet owners: Rescuing animals has become fashionable. Owners might treat animals especially well as a way to make up for their pets' earlier difficult lives, he said.
"One of the things we've seen is a dramatic decrease in purebreds," Herzog said. "I talk to a lot of people about their animals and the first thing out of their mouths is, 'They are a rescue animal.' It's a fad, a good moral fad. There is a certain borderline fanaticism to it."
Just a few years ago, a sick puppy named Lucas came into Michelle Soares' life. She was an unemployed student, and the treatment for parvo, a potentially deadly virus, would cost $3,000 -- with no guarantee of recovery. It was a risk, but she took out a credit card loan and paid for it.
"He was just a puppy," Soares said. "So I started looking for a job because I had to pay that huge bill. When I first brought him back home, I had been at my current job for a week and I just went to school part-time."
Today, Lucas has no worries. He's healthy, and Soares now works as an office manager for a wine distributor in Newark, New Jersey. Lucas eats organic dog food and Michelle's home-cooked dog meals -- boiled eggs, chicken, peas and carrots. For snacks, he eats homemade frozen treats.
His biggest concern is playing ball. At 8 p.m. on the dot, he gets to play indoor ball. If there's any delay, he whines -- loudly.
"He's crazy. He's like our kid," Soares said. "That's how we treat him."
Kate Lewis from Virginia Beach, Virginia, found Lola, a collie-shepherd mix who suffers from seizures, at a shelter and wanted to give her the best life possible.
Lola has gone sheep-herding, which she loved; dock jumping, which she didn't; and bobbing for hot dogs at a fair for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She's been on beach trips and joined Lewis during "Take Your Dog to Work Day."
"She really is a family member. That's how we look at it, especially because she is a rescue," Lewis said. "We took responsibility for a life. You do everything you can to make that a happy experience."
Then there's Neva Edmunds of Lakewood, Colorado, whose doting is filled with gratitude. Edmunds survived three bouts of cancer, and during the most recent, her rescue cat, Lucy, was "better comfort than any pain medication."
Now lucky Lucy goes on walks with a leash, something she took to immediately -- no training required. Edmunds keeps treats in the kitchen, the bathroom, her office and even her bedroom.
"I live alone and work alone. Lucy is a great companion. If work is hard, I can always look over and see her calm breathing as she sleeps and all is well," Edmunds said. "Compared to what she does for me, I could hardly repay that debt with any amount of pampering."