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In tough economic times, pet gifts keep going

November 25, 2008 |  5:04 pm

the mother of all cat toys?

While the economy tanks and media outlets fill with stories of displaced pets amid the foreclosure crisis, another trend in the animal universe has emerged, a phenomenon that leaves L.A. Unleashed slightly bewildered and bemused. These same media outlets also are producing stories about holiday gift giving for pets, and if there's a downward trend here, we have yet to see it.

Consider this Associated Press report from suburban Chicago:

Emilie Wilson’s menagerie includes 15 ferrets, two dogs and four cats, including a hefty gray feline named Tonie Stewart who rides in style inside a pet stroller during family outings.

Wilson spent $300 on Christmas gifts for her brood last year and figures she’ll exceed that sum this year. And despite the recession-like economy, the suburban Chicago woman has no plans to scale back pet presents anytime soon.

“I couldn’t care less if there’s anything under the tree for us, as long as there’s something for Tonie,” she said.

If_only_he_could_talk

People associated with the pet products industry "are finding themselves in a veritable oasis among much of the gloom of American business." Sure, it seems counterintuitive, but for some folks, the family pet comes first, whether the "extra" is a mere chew toy or a case of organic cat food or a $1,000 designer bed for the canine who may very well be sleeping at the foot of your bed ... for now.

The AP report suggests this is a growth industry:

Market researcher Euromonitor International, which tracks sales of pet food and accessories but excludes the cost of animals, grooming, training and other expenses, puts this year’s animal expenditures at $23.9 billion. But the group forecasts the segment’s sales are still on pace to grow more than 13 percent by 2013.

Another AP report, published earlier this month, stated that "shoppers are scrimping on holiday gifts, but not when it comes to their pets."

Among those who plan to spend less on gifts this year, only 23 percent are doing so on their pets, according to a survey released by Consumer Reports. The vast majority (84 percent) said they plan to cut back spending on themselves.

One of the L.A. Times' newest blogs, To Live and Buy in L.A., recently listed an array of products for the dog in your life (and featured the star of the Heidi Chronicles herding sheep, a gift available for purchase). Other possible gifts included light-up collars and magnetic sleeping pads.

Your cat may insist on a new litter box or the world's most glamorous scratching post.

And don't forget the "traditional" holiday sweaters and, even -- dare we say it -- reindeer costumes. We're not sure if we should encourage this behavior, but it doesn't matter. You're bound to see it soon.

-- Alice Short

Photos: At top, a lounging cat. Above, a very festive pooch. Credits: Associated Press; Mario Tama / Getty Images

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