"He loves it. It has an elevated seat with a drawer in it. ... He's high so he can look out the window. Now I say, 'Get into your seat,' and he gets right in," Bornstein said. "My children tease me that he's my only child now and that all my attention is on him."
Emily and Devin Hurley live in Sacramento, California, with three cats, two hens and two rabbits. The cats feast on chicken and fish, and the hens eat eggs (yes, really) and yogurt.
The rabbits, Phoebe and Duke, are cage-free and sleep in the Hurleys' bed -- even if that sometimes means a swift kick in the face at 5 a.m.
"Rabbits run the length of five football fields a day, so being cooped up in a cage simply isn't an option. They sleep in my bed ever since I adopted them," Emily Hurley said.
What's the harm?
So is all this doting a problem? Is there any harm in treating our pets like children?
Andrew Zbeeb, who owns the pet-training and sitting company Frogs to Dogs in Atlanta, said pet pampering is usually harmless. But it can turn potty training and overfeeding into big problems, Zbeeb said.
"I'll put my training hat on and tell you there could be negative effects if you're treating animals like a human being. It's OK to love your pet and pamper your pet and put dresses on your pet, but it's still a domesticated animal. It's not a human being," Zbeeb said. "It can lead to disappointment for human beings, and the (animals) may have false perceptions of the world."
At the same time, while "people may get carried away with (doting on their pets), it's sweet," he said. "And (those connections) extend a human's life."
Consider Brittany Anderson of Minnesota, who grew up sharing her cereal with hamsters. Now a recent college graduate, she has three guinea pigs she spoils. They eat fruits and vegetables, get plenty of exercise outside their cages and orange slices in their water. On holidays, they get presents. They're playful, social animals, Anderson said, and she can tell when they're upset.
"If I'm going to have a pet, I want to treat them the best I can," she said.
That includes dressing them in clothes, some of which she designed.
"When any kind of animal wears clothes, it's hilarious and cute," Anderson said. "It's less common to find guinea pig clothes. Right now I'm (making them) for fun, as a hobby, but it's a dream of mine to design (and sell) animal clothes."
Harold A. Herzog Jr., a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, has made the relationship between animals and humans a primary focus of his research and career. He isn't terribly concerned about animal doting.
"I don't think there's any harm in excessive pet pampering unless they're sacrificing clothing for their children, or vet bills are $20,000. Things can go south ... but it's a harmless pleasure if people want to dress their guinea pig up for the most part," he said.
From rescue to regal
Herzog does see a trend among pet owners: Rescuing animals has become fashionable. Owners might treat animals especially well as a way to make up for their pets' earlier difficult lives, he said.
"One of the things we've seen is a dramatic decrease in purebreds," Herzog said. "I talk to a lot of people about their animals and the first thing out of their mouths is, 'They are a rescue animal.' It's a fad, a good moral fad. There is a certain borderline fanaticism to it."
Just a few years ago, a sick puppy named Lucas came into Michelle Soares' life. She was an unemployed student, and the treatment for parvo, a potentially deadly virus, would cost $3,000 -- with no guarantee of recovery. It was a risk, but she took out a credit card loan and paid for it.
"He was just a puppy," Soares said. "So I started looking for a job because I had to pay that huge bill. When I first brought him back home, I had been at my current job for a week and I just went to school part-time."