British Columbia·In Depth

'You name it, it's in there': Have we hit peak pet stroller?

Dogs and cats in strollers? How can you not have an opinion?

Old dogs, eccentric owners and 'fur baby' movement combine for pet stroller's moment in the sun

New Yorker Lena Gershenov ordered her pet stroller from Ann-Marie Fleming's Canadian-based company. Her cats clearly enjoy all aspects of it. (@petsncharge/Lena Gershenov)

Nancy Jelenic doesn't go anywhere without Mr. Pickles and Georgy Girl.

As the name of her Yaletown store — Barking Babies — suggests, Jelinec thinks of the Chihuahua and Yorkie as her "dog children." She takes them everywhere: work, hairdresser, grocery store.

More often than not, she puts them in a carrier she holds on her chest. It makes them more mobile and helps hide them in places where they're ... ummm ... less than welcome.

The carrier is one thing, Jelenic says. But a pet stroller?

"Not yet," Jelenic says frankly. "I own the store. I'm just not there yet."

Old dogs and eccentric clients

Let's be honest. This story is based on a completely unscientific observation.

Nevertheless, the facts are irrefutable to anyone with a brain and the slightest access to Instagram: we've hit peak pet stroller. And cats are getting in on the action.

Jelenic first noticed them when she lived in Japan. More recently, she's seen an increase in companies carrying pet strollers at trade shows. As for customers, they come in two different types.

Barking Babies owner Nancy Jelenic holds a satisfied customer at her Yaletown pet store. She carries her two dogs everywhere, but isn't quite ready for a pet stroller. (CBC/Jason Proctor)

"Most of our clients with older dogs have strollers," she says. "And some of the eccentric clients, they might have a stroller with a younger dog. It's just easier for their lifestyle."

As the owner of Dog Quality, a 100 Mile House company built to serve aging canines worldwide, Ann-Marie Fleming says she's also seen steady growth in stroller demand.

"We have this growing population of senior dogs that start to face those same challenges that people face, which is needing some assistance products to get them around and help them keep happy and active," Fleming says.

"A stroller is one of the most popular products to do just that."

And now for a word from our feline friends

But what about the cats?

Fleming says she's seen a spike in feline business. It used to come mostly from people whose cats had health problems. But now all pretence has been abandoned.

"I think in the cat world, it really is a way to bring them with you," she says.

"Not every cat will walk on a harness or on a leash, so it's a great way to transport them or bring them along."

Lena Gershenov admits to being crazy about her eight cats. But the New Yorker insists she's no crazy cat lady. She just likes getting out there with her pets.

That's Lena Gershanov's Bengal cat Clyde pushing a friend around in their Dogger pet stroller. Gershanov says her husband sometimes pretends they're not together. (@petsncharge/Lena Gershanov)

She ordered a Dogger pet stroller from Fleming after trying out three different brands. She has posted videos and pictures of cats Lancelot, Arthur and Clyde out for strolls at high-end department store Neiman Marcus.

She's even taught them to push each other.

Her husband pretends he doesn't know her.

"And then when I go to visit my daughter in Manhattan, everybody has a stroller," she says. "With cats, dogs, bunnies — I mean, you name it, it's in there."

'Everything is a matter degree'

This is the moment where an expert on animal and human behaviour explains — hopefully — how it ever became "normal" to watch human beings pushing animals around in baby buggies.

A role for which University of B.C. psychology professor and dog expert Stanley Coren is uniquely qualified.

"It really depends upon which strollers you're talking about and what the reasons are for doing it," Coren says. "Some of them are quite sensible and some of them are quite silly."

UBC psychology professor and dog expert Stanley Coren and his dog Ripley. He says some pet stroller usage is sensible. Some not so much. (Submitted by Stanley Coren)

Coren says a stroller might be the perfect solution for an aging dog like his old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel whose failing hips made anything more than a walk around the block a challenge.

To be clear, he didn't get a stroller. But he respects people who, given a similar situation, might.

As for perfectly healthy toy dogs: "I find that usage of these pet strollers is a bit silly. And as far as cats — cats are not my cup of fur. I don't think the cat enjoys it at all and I don't see the sense of them."

Coren says being too high gives a small dog an attitude. It also cuts them off from the interaction with both humans and other dogs that he says is crucial to canine development.

He notes that as far back as ancient Rome, Julius Caesar commented on a trend that saw Roman women carrying small dogs around instead of infants.

"This is the reason why people hate psychology. You'll present a symptom or whatever else and the psychologist will say "On the one hand it's okay and on the other hand it's not." he says.

"Everything is a matter of degree."

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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