Gifts for Rich Bitches (Literally)

Pooch and Pussycat Pampering Reaches New Heights

By Buck Wolf

March 4, 2003 --   If you don't mind catering to a rich bitch, I've got a few suggestions.

These might be tough economic times, but Fido and Whiskers aren't suffering. Americans are expected to lavish $31.5 billion on their pets this year, according to the American Pet Products Association. That's 5 percent more than last year, and nearly double the amount spent in 1994 — presumably on kibble, catnip, rawhide chewies and other creature comforts.

For comparison's sake, current U.S. pet expenditures represent half the gross domestic product of Iraq and about $8 billion more than North Korea's.

Even though the number of abandoned animals increases when the economy suffers, diamond dogs and pampered pussies are living it up like never before. And if you want a glimpse of how upper-crust critters party, check out the opening this week of the American Dog and Cat Hotel — the newest pleasure palace in Las Vegas.

High-rolling hounds can live it up in $79-a-night private suites with a color TV, custom-designed beds, and round-the-clock room service offering gourmet dog biscuits and bottled water. A state-of-the-art sound system fills the air with cool jazz for a tail-wagging good time. And if that gets dull, video-on-demand services offers 101 Dalmatians, Lassie and other canine classics.

Feline guests are offered three-story vacation condo, including a penthouse with stained-glass windows, the purrfect recipe for hours of peaceful rumination. "If they want sushi, we'll call up a sushi chef," says hotel manager Christopher Easley. "It's all about serving the customer."

These Vegas pet accommodations might seem a little lavish, even for Siegfried & Roy's menagerie. These days, however, nearly every major city offers posh pet vacation pads that would leave most of us on hind legs begging for a dog's life.

At the legendary Hotel Lancaster in Paris, pets and their owners can stay in the very room Marlene Dietrich called home for three years. The concierge even provides an extra-cushy $80-a-day pet bed with nightly chambermaid service that includes cat treats or a dog bone on the pillow, instead of a mint.

"Vegas is the No. 1 travel destination, and they're actually one of the harder places to visit with your pet," says Barbara DeBrey of Puppy Travel in Salt Lake City, a travel agency devoted to pet lovers — one of the fastest-growing segments of the tourism business.

Nearly 65 percent of pet owners frequently travel with their furry family members, up from 58 percent in 1995, according to a 2001 survey of Americans from the American Animal Hospital Association.

The Lancaster reports that many four-legged guests come from the United States via the Concorde, which will book a separate seat for a pet. A $1,000 plane seat might be expensive, but how do you compare that with forcing a virtual family member to travel in the cargo hold?

The American Dog and Cat Hotel is hoping to ease travel pains with an exclusive online booking program through — which will allow pet owners to find proper pet day care while they enjoy Fun City.