Don't worry, at least half of animal owners spill their problems to their pets, accor' />
Do you think you're mad when you start talking to your dog?
Don't worry, at least half of animal owners spill their problems to their pets, according to a new study.
And it gets worse - a third of women say their dog is a better listener than their partner, while 15 per cent of men reckon their dog shows them more affection than their loved ones.
Pet-care company Purina, which commissioned the research, said New Zealanders were increasingly humanising their pets and treating them as members of the family.
Pet-care expert Shivaun Statham said that people were "definitely tending towards treating their pets less like animals and more like children".
The survey of pet owners showed that nearly all dog or cat owners admitted to "cherishing pets", with more than half considering themselves a parent to their animals.
The research also found that the traditional, rural image of dogs as workers is fading, with pet owners more likely to pamper their dogs, let them sleep inside and feed them top-shelf products.
One in five respondents let their dog sleep in their bed every night.
More than half of pet owners bought birthday presents for their dog or cat, spending up to $50 on presents. Many of them threw birthday parties or sent their dogs and cats to be specially groomed.
New Zealanders are following American and European trends in splashing out on animals.
A multimillion-dollar market is being built around the move to spoil animals with pet weddings, makeovers, clothing and luxury goods.
Ms Statham said there were downsides to coddling pets, however. Dogs could suffer behavioural problems if treated too well, and become too dependent on their owners.
She also said feeding animals human food could make them more prone to health problems.
* 61 per cent of women tell their dog about their problems.
* 31 per cent of women feel their dog is a better listener than their partner.
* 24 per cent of men used their dog to talk to a good-looking stranger in the park.
* 14 per cent of men said their dog showed them more affection than their loved ones.
- Source: Purina Pet Survey