You are by no means alone if Bella and Missy are on your Christmas present list - and they're not your children.

The furry members of many Kiwi families will not be left wanting this Christmas, according to a survey of pet owners.

Research by Bombay Petfoods, manufacturers of the Jimbo's brand, shows that nearly three-quarters of New Zealanders (74 per cent) always or sometimes give their cat a Christmas present while 85 per cent of dog owners always or sometimes buy a festive gift for their canine companion.

This ties in with the finding that 65 per cent of cat owners and 61 per cent of dog owners want their pet to feel like part of the family, says Bombay Petfoods' general manager Dave Allan.


Other research - the New Zealand Companion Animal Council's report Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016 - showed even higher figures; more than 80 per cent of people with cats and 77 per cent of dog owners considered their pet to be family.

"Kiwis make pets part of the family and are intimately bonded with them - and what do you do with family members at Christmas? You cherish them and spend money on gifts for them," says Allan.

Feedback from Jimbo's customers on the company's Facebook page reveal gift giving, food treats and generally including pets in the festivities are common practice in their favourite rituals and treats at Christmas.

Having fun playing with wrapping paper rather than what's inside it is a common theme - although don't make the mistake one contributor made: letting the dog see you wrapping the present and lacing it with dog biscuits. The carefully wrapped cylinder of tennis balls didn't make it through to the big day, being removed from the tree and "unwrapped" early. "Deconstruction" of gifts is another common theme.

Allan has a similar experience at his home on Christmas Day, with his dog Poppy: "We wrap presents up for her and she knows which ones are hers.

"We have a competition to see how quickly she can 'kill' a new rubber toy. A rubber chicken lasted half a day, but a rubber Santa was dead in about 30s. She'll then get into having a wrapping-paper fight. She makes a big mess every year, but we don't care - it's Christmas."

Then there are those who not only give presents to their pets but receive presents from their pets in return (sounds like someone is doing some double-shopping). One contributor noted: "I thought our dogs were hard done by - spoilt with gifts every Xmas - until we had kids. Now 'the dogs' still give birthday and Christmas presents to both kids but somehow never get anything on their birthdays nor Christmas."

Giving pets food treats is another popular habit, with many people allowing their animals to share in the Christmas dinner - either giving them their own portion or slipping them titbits off the table.

However, while one day of human diet might not do your pet too much harm, Allan warns against giving them too much unusual food or making it a regular habit. Sugary foods are also a no-no, and if you give your cats the cream, you might end up giving them a tummy upset - and no one wants a cat with diarrhoea on Christmas Day.

"You don't want to give your dog the ham bone nor any turkey bones and remember to hang those chocolate ornaments above dog-level on the Christmas tree," Allan says.

A safe bone, appropriately sized for the dog (and raw, not cooked) or a rawhide or pig's ear "Christmas cracker" are good food treats for canines. Cats will probably appreciate a bit of turkey or roast chicken. After all, they are part of the family...