More of us are now delaying having human babies and instead adopting a fur child as a test run, who we treat as a pseudo-kid.
No judgement from us here, we get it. Pets are part of the family and sometimes, are your family (and often easier to get along with). Society has slowly recognised this shift and adapted to our changing priorities, and as proud animal parents we wholly and solely applaud these moves.
1. Pet parental leave
You're allowed maternity and paternity leave when you have a human baby, so what about when you adopt a fur child? One company in Scotland has considered this and is offering staff time off to care for their newly acquired dog - to help them settle in to their new home. As anyone who's tried to train a puppy or rescue dog would know, it's a full-time job and they can't really be left alone (unless you enjoy your home being destroyed).
The 'Paw-ternity Leave' program, introduced by craft brewer Brewdog, gives new pet parents seven days of paid leave. After that week is up, they're also encouraged to bring their fur child into work as they're a relaxing force to have around. The benefit is available to its 1000 staff members across the company's two locations in the UK and USA.
^ As if Brewdog's schmick offices weren't reason enough to be jealous.
Chain store Pets At Home recently introduced a similar program for its 8200 staff, but it is limited to one day paid leave (still, we'll take it). Manchester-based IT company BitSol Solutions has followed suit, allowing employees three weeks’ paid leave when a pup arrives.
“Pets are like babies nowadays so why shouldn’t staff have some time off when they arrive?" BitSol Solutions company director Greg Buchanan tells Mirror.
Brewdog isn't the only company that allows pets in the office. Amazon, Mars and Purina are among 10 animal-friendly workplaces in the US, while closer to home Google Sydney and Cotton On are happy for dogs to come to work with employees.
Feel free to highlight and send this to your own HR department as an FYI.
2. Pet bereavement leave
Anyone who's lost a pet knows the pain is all too real and the stages of grief are the same as losing a human family member. To cope, pet parents are forced to use annual leave to recover from the loss as opposed to bereavement leave. However some workplaces in the US including ice-cream juggernaut Ben and Jerry's, have recognised pets, while not classified a dependant by government standards, are still part of the family and so have introduced paid pet bereavement leave.
In Australia, there's been somewhat of a push to make this a reality too. In 2014 workers at Rio Tinto asked for this in their new benefits package however, it was quickly shut down. As yet, no company has made it a formal policy to offer paid leave for the death of a pet. Perhaps we need to give it a few more years until we catch up to the US on this one...
3. Pet hotels and resorts
No longer do you have to ship your fur baby off to a small cage at the vet, cattery or kennel as there are now 5-star hotels they can check in to. Sure they’re often more expensive but they also have more amenities so you can go away knowing your fur child is in safe hands (which as a crazy pet parent is worth every cent). From themed rooms, to playtime in the jungle gym, premium pet food and on-call wait staff – this is a way you can be sure your pet isn't just boarding, they're actually having a luxury vacay too. It's almost like sending the kids off to camp for the week, they'll hate it at first but won't want to leave when you pick them up.
^ The jungle gym at Sydney's Divine Creatures luxury cat hotel.
4. Pet-friendly hospitals
When you're sick, all you want to do is be around loved ones - and now that includes your beloved pet. Juravinski Hospital in Canada is now allowing pets on the visitors' list for critical care patients as administrators have realised that perhaps laughter isn't the best medicine, it's the unconditional love from your fur child. After all, research has shown pets reduce blood pressure and stress levels hormones so makes sense. In fact, this is something we'd definitely like to see rolled out worldwide.
5. Pet-only airport transit lounges
Anyone who's travelled with a pet would know the stress of seeing your fur child stuck out on the tarmac in a plastic crate while the engines of super-powerful planes roar next to their sensitive ears. When someone eventually comes to collect them, they're carted off to a shed out the back of the airport somewhere until you can collect your luggage and go pick them up. Distressing, to say the least.
The animal-loving folks over at JFK airport in New York are not okay with this scenario so forked out US$65 million (AUD $85 million) to build what they've dubbed The Arc - a 1858m2 oasis transit lounge for animals only. Perks include a salon where dogs can duck in for spot of grooming, a massage or 'pawdicure'; bone-shaped splashing pools for a little relaxing swim between flights; as well as a cat adventure jungle. It's like a creche for animals.
Those who stay overnight will sleep in human-sized beds, watch TVs and keep in touch with their travelling parents via webcam.
6. Pets as plane passengers
Australia isn't down with this yet but in the US and Europe, it's completely normal to see a cat or dog tucked under the passenger's seat next to you (here in Oz pets can fly but go into a pressurised section of the cargo hold) on a domestic flight. They're considered excess/accompanied baggage and charged as such but hey, we would 100 per cent be willing to give up taking on board our novel and cosmetics bag in exchange for a furry travel buddy.
7. Pet carriers
Lastly, there are now ways for us pet parents to take our fur babies with us wherever we go. No, we're not talking about subjecting them to the humiliation of a lead, plastic crate or cardboard box like animals. Today, our pets ride in style and comfort - just like a human bub.