Holiday presents aren’t just for humans anymore. A 2018 report by PwC said that high-earning millennials in particular were spending big on their pets for the holiday season, spending an average of $183 on pet gifts, with average consumers spending $67. Local retailers expect this year’s pet holiday buying to be bigger than ever.
Stores like Petsmart sell tiny antlers, Santa costumes, ornaments, and other festive accouterments for hamsters, rabbits, and other small pets. But by far, cats and dogs are the biggest beneficiaries of their owners’ holiday generosity.
Gregg Bernhardt, owner of the Bag of Bones Barkery in the Mercerville Shopping Center in Hamilton says that every year, consumers are spending more to buy gifts for their furry friends.
“Pets appreciate gifts more than actual human kids do,” Bernhardt says. “People actually get more enjoyment out of focusing on pets Christmas morning. They’re so excited and so appreciative of everything, and I totally understand that because kids are getting more and more demanding these days with the kinds of gifts they want on Christmas.”
Bag of Bones stocks a wide selection of seasonal holiday-themed toys and treats alongside their year-round line of party hats, candles, wrapping paper, cakes, and decorations for cat and dog birthday parties. The holiday toys come in both Christmas and Chanukah-themed varieties.
Bernhardt, who has run Bag of Bones for the past 12 years, says interest in holiday pet gifts seems to grow every year. “Every year, pets are becoming more and more part of the family just like their human kids. Every year we have to kind of up the bar a little bit because everyone is looking for the next big thing.”
The latest trend is for pet toys to mirror human objects and activities. “They want everything to mirror what we eat, and what we play with,” he says. One company makes a toy pizza in a pizza box, french fries in a fry container, and even a realistic replica of a rotisserie chicken.
For some reason, doughnut-themed treats and toys are also huge this year. “They’re colorful and sparkly and sprinkly. People are into the whimsical stuff this year,” Bernhardt says.
In contrast to the realism trend, magical and whimsical themes are also popular. Unicorns, witches, and wizard paraphernalia are in high demand.
Just as humans like to enjoy holiday meals, some give special feasts to their pets. As the name suggests, the Barkery specializes in making fresh-baked treats and meals for pets. This year, it is offering a “petsgiving” feast for Thanksgiving. The one-pound meals cost $16 and consist of ground turkey breast mixed with pumpkin seeds, roasted squash, apples, and cranberries; whipped sweet potato with a yogurt drizzle; and a side of baked apples.
The shop works with veterinarians to make sure all its meals are pet-friendly for cat and dog health, with no sugar added.
But why not slip your pet some of the human holiday feast under the table instead?
“We want to share our holiday meals with pets, but it can be dangerous, especially with all the spices and butter we use,” Bernhardt says. “We see a lot of pancreatitis this time of year from people feeding turkey skin and things like that to pets.”
The store will offer a Christmas meal as well, possibly consisting of shepherd’s pie. For both Thanksgiving and Christmas, Bag of Bones is providing holiday meals to all of the stray pets at EASEL animal rescue in Ewing and the Trenton Animal Shelter.
As of mid-November, more than 100 people had signed up to buy Thanksgiving meals for their pets.
“It’s really nice to see more and more people coming in to participate in the holidays with their pets,” Bernhardt says. “Everyone gets so busy and stressed out at the holidays. It’s really nice to see people remembering the pet is a part of the family too.”
Bag of Bones Barkery, 364 Route 33, Mercerville Shopping Center, Hamilton 08619. 609-528-0101. www.bagofbonesbarkery.com