Couples are increasingly adopting pets instead of having families as economic realities mean they are delaying having children.
A pet dog or cat may become a "surrogate child", and be given the family position of a boy or girl, without many of the responsibilities such as clothing or schooling. However, many are not prepared for the emotional investment that a pet requires.
Your dog or cat isn't a little person even if they act like a toddler. Some things - such as giving them certain human foods - can be....
According to one psychologist: "Animals are surrogates for children and appeal to our need to nurture. We've even selectively bred dogs to make them more like children... to be attuned to our emotions and to give unconditional love."
As long as owners are prepared for the responsibilities, there's nothing wrong with treating a pet as a fully-fledged family member, but many forget that pet behaviour is very different from humans.
Mark Singleton of Pets4Homes.co.uk, a pet classifieds and advice website, said: "Owners need to be aware that pets don't behave in the same way as children. It's easy to fall into the trap of treating them as a human and ending up with all sorts of behavioural problems.
"Your dog or cat isn't a little person even if they act like a toddler. Some things - such as giving them certain human foods - can be positively dangerous."
With progressively complex pet toys, clothing, and fashionable grooming - families with a disposable income are increasingly spoiling their animals, but that need not necessarily be a bad thing.
Mark added: "Responsibility as a parent and responsibility as a pet owner is very much the same thing. As long as they're treated with care, a pet can quite easily become a 'surrogate child'.
“And like a child, they've got to be treated with care and respect."
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