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Valentine's Day is for pets, too

7:30 AM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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Many folks will pamper very unconventional valentines today: their pooches. And their felines. And even their feathered friends.

One in five Americans will show their non-human companions some love, spending a collective $815 million on Valentine's Day goodies for their pets, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation.

In another survey, the American Pet Products Association says pet owners have treated even fish, horses and "small animals" to Valentine's Day gifts.

It may sound strange to some, but to loving pet owners, these animals are invaluable companions and it makes those owners "feel good" to coddle them, says Kristen Levine, a pet expert and founder of pet-focused marketing firm Fetching Communications.

The physical interaction that comes with taking care of a pet is even more special -- and novel -- in an increasingly digital world, she says.

"You communicate digitally with most people in your life through text, e-mail and Facebook," she says. "But you can't do that with your pet."

Seizing the opportunity to capitalize on these love-struck consumers, pet retailers, manufacturers and shelters have rolled out myriad Valentine's Day-themed promotions that tout everything from adoptions to "be mine"-logoed dog clothing to heart-shaped dog treats.

The ASPCA features $15.99 heart-dotted cat collars and $9.99 heart-shaped dog tags on its site. It also helped those without a furry companion to line up a last-minute valentine by hosting a live-streamed "dating show" on Tuesday that showcased some of their pets up for adoption.

"Adoption is a message that we're always trying to get across," says Olivia Melikhov, social-media manager at the ASPCA. "We thought Valentine's Day would be a perfect time to remind people of that, since everyone is talking about love and meeting their match."

Ahwatukee Commons Veterinary Hospital in Phoenix asked folks to submit pet pictures to its Facebook page as part of its Valentine's Day photo contest. The winner - decided by which picture gets the most "likes" -- will receive a $25 gift card toward services at the clinic.

And NoviPet, a distributor of nutritional supplements for dogs, is using a Valentine's-themed Facebook campaign to market its vitamins. "Omega 3 & 6 promotes heart health in canines, and after all, the heart is what matters on this special day," says its promotion.

As for animal lovers who don't have the time, money or inclination to spoil their pets, there are no worries. Fido or Felix won't feel slighted if they don't get a special treat, reassures Levine.

"The reality is that your pets don't know its Valentine's Day," Levine says. "You're not going to get grief if you don't come home with anything."

Laura Petrecca and Sabrina Treitz, USA TODAY

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