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I’m at my neighborhood butcher shop, inquiring about the freshest cuts of meat. The friendly gentleman behind the counter patiently helps me decide, wraps up a steak then asks, “Special occasion?” It’s my dog’s birthday. I don’t even eat meat.

I’m not alone in spoiling my four-legged friend. A whopping 64% of us cook our pets a separate meal at least three times a week, according to recent OnePoll research. If that’s not dog math, I’m not sure what is.

I grew up in what we called an “animal family,” which meant that no matter how many pets we had, Mom would take in any stray she came across. Over the years, we had a chow chow named Chow, a pot-bellied pig, a ferret, countless other pups and a smattering of cats. But these weren’t pampered pets; they were more like backyard barn animals.

Oh, how times have changed. My mother and grandmother, who now live together and half-jokingly call each other sorority sisters, have just one pup: a feisty min pin/dachshund mix who lives better than I do. To them, Dudley isn’t a dog — he’s my brother. He gets Greek yogurt for breakfast, a Steak ’n Shake burger for lunch and cookies in between for being a good boy (boy, not dog). Meanwhile, my mother-in-law makes her own food from scratch (vet-approved, of course) for her beloved dachshund, Elsa, who lazes the days away in front of a fireplace.

My own senior pooch, a Lab/Australian shepherd named Delta Burke, has a subscription to the Farmer’s Dog, a service that delivers human-grade meals to our doorstep. My dinner, on the other hand, is usually a slice of pizza or some sad leftovers. I guess it’s safe to say that we’re still an animal family.

So when did our furry friends start eating like humans — only better? A 2019 Canadian Veterinary Journal study found that “most pet owners reported giving equal (53.1%) or more priority (43.6%) to buying healthy food for their pets compared with themselves.” As in: No, Fido, you take the last scoop of caviar.

Remember those Fancy Feast commercials with a white-gloved waiter revealing what must certainly be a gourmet meal? Instead, it’s a crystal dish piled high with — surprise! — cat food. Lori Richmond of Brooklyn, New York, emulates this in real life. Her blue Burmese, Mona, has an only-for-her pink crystal dish for her freeze-dried chicken as well as her own stroller, babydoll seat, doll crib and human toddler chair. Mona’s first birthday party was practically purrfect, complete with a tiny treat-filled piñata and glam gifts like a princess carriage and a pop-up play tent.

Are Our Furry Friends Eating Better Than We Are?

Illustration by Michael Iver Jacobsen

In Long Island, New York, Emily Cappiello feeds her Siberian husky, Dakota, whatever she’s having for dinner, off a dinner plate of her own: chicken, salmon, even caviar with crème fraîche and potato chips. Dakota also enjoys sushi, which Cappiello plops into the pooch’s mouth using chopsticks (obviously). “She’s here for a good time, not a long time,” Cappiello says of her pampered pup.

This raises a fair question: Is human fare actually better for our pets? Veterinary surgeon Cat Henstridge, known as Cat the Vet, has a hot take. “It’s extremely unlikely that home cooking all your pet’s meals will give them a balanced, healthy diet,” She explains. “My advice is to choose food made by a brand that employs a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, so you know they have the expertise to ensure their products are balanced and healthy.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s a faux paw to have a little foodie fun with our furry friends. Around the world, high-end hotels are cashing in on this craze. New York City’s luxe Mark Hotel boasts amenities like pet beds, dog bowls and its signature Woof Woof Kit with a collar, a to-go water dish, waste bags and other extras. But it’s the Spoiled Dog’s Menu that takes the cake. Curated by esteemed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the in-room dining offerings include the Healthy Bite (salmon with a cucumber, apple and spinach salad) and the Svelte Pup (hard-boiled eggs, steamed rice and mixed market vegetables).

If you think that’s rich, the five-star Egerton House Hotel in London hosts a doggie tea service in its posh dining room. The afternoon delights include chicken liver and beef meatloaf paired with peanut butter biscuits and carrot cupcakes. The dog-tini, meanwhile, is crafted with chicken consommé and garnished with a meat skewer.

And don’t forget dessert. Pupper Cup ice cream is made exclusively for pooches. This coconut-based sweet treat is swirled with ingredients like salmon, peanut butter and blueberries. Founder/CEO Kelly Crook admits she is typically less spoiled than her four-legged clients. “I’ll be roasting a wild-caught salmon fillet for Pupper Cup then go make a PB&J for myself,” she jokes. She really kicks it up a notch for holidays and other special occasions — think roasted filet mignon with carrots. Sign me up for that Christmas dinner!

So what’s the final verdict from our vet? “It’s absolutely fine to spoil your dog, and this sounds delicious enough for humans as well!” Henstridge concludes. “The occasional treat like this is a wonderful way to indulge them and share a lovely bonding experience.”

That’s all the pawsitive reinforcement I need. For Delta Burke’s next birthday, I’ll be treating her to a bacon Pupper Cup. But I draw the line at blowout bashes and over-the-top gifts — because she is a dog, after all. Just don’t tell her that.

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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