By Sue Manning
LOS ANGELES: Dogs have more to look for under the tree this Christmas than cats do.
Fifty-six percent of dog owners say they'll buy their pets a gift this Christmas, but only 48 percent of cat owners plan a gift.
A majority of all pet owners — 53 percent — said in an Associated Press-Petside.com poll that they plan to get their animals a present this holiday season.
Debbye Meszaros' two dogs, Sasha and Sophie, will be getting rawhide bones while the family hamster, Star, gets a bigger wheel and Princess, the guinea pig, gets new bedding.
''There will also be something under the tree from the animals to the kids, too,'' said Meszaros, 40, of Olney, Md. Last year, when her husband was stationed in Italy for the Navy, the family managed to find edible rawhide greeting cards to give other dogs in the neighborhood.
The AP-Petside.com poll, conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, also showed that women (56 percent) are somewhat more likely than men (49 percent) to buy their animals a gift.
The number of pet owners planning to buy presents for their animals this year is nearly the same as last year.
In an October 2009 AP-Petside.com poll, 52 percent planned to buy a gift for their pet, an increase over 2008, when just 43 percent said they planned to buy their pet a gift.
The results suggest the increase seen in last year's poll was sustained as the economy continued its slow recovery.
The Page family in Moriarty, N.M., will stuff stockings full of toys and bones for their black Labs, Addy and Bella. There may be a little something under the tree, too, along with all the gifts for the family's four children, said Heather Page, 32.
''Our dogs used to get a lot more attention before we got kids, so if we can do this little thing for them I think that's good,'' she said. ''The kids find it very entertaining to open the gifts for the dogs.''
But the other animals? Out of luck. There will be no presents for the family's barn cats, koi or zebra finches.
Last year was a big year for Cindy Bailey's rescue cats — they got new beds. This year it will probably be toys, said Bailey, of Davenport, Iowa. The cats will also make the family Christmas card and photo — but not so Green Birdie, a parakeet.
''We don't do much with the bird. He's an afterthought, poor thing. He was never a very social bird,'' said Bailey, 59, who still plans to buy a toy for Green Birdie.
Irene Belanger, 71, and her husband live in a retirement complex in Goffstown, N.H., and they aren't allowed to have any dogs, but that doesn't stop her from shopping for her ''granddogs.''
Elvis, a 13-year-old black Lab, belongs to her oldest son and likes chewy bones, she said. Her daughter's long-haired dachshund loves treats and her smooth-haired fox terrier likes anything she can push around, Belanger said.
The poll showed that the majority of pet owners who plan to buy their pet a gift are dedicated even in the face of financial adversity: Even among those in families touched by job loss in the past six months, 56 percent planned to buy their pet a holiday gift.
Karen Wardlaw, 58, of Roseburg, Ore., said she plans to leave her Pomeranian Wolfee with a friend for the holiday while she visits her brother.
There won't be a tree because she won't be home, there will be no cards because stamps cost too much and there will be no Christmas photo because she doesn't have a camera, Wardlaw said.
But she has one last toy from a four-pack for Wolfee waiting in the closet for when she gets home.
The poll showed that renters (66 percent) are more apt to pamper their pets than homeowners (49 percent). And while fewer than half of those who attend religious services weekly or more often say they plan to buy their pets a gift, 60 percent of those who never attend services do.
The AP-Petside.com Poll was conducted October 13-20, 2010, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,000 pet owners nationwide, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.
Deputy director of polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.Online: http://petside.com/petgifts.
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