KING, N.C., Dec. 18 /PRNewswire/ — Virtual pets — They’re at the top of everyone’s Wish List this year. From AIBO to Pikachu, Poo-Chi and Wee-Bots, they are the hottest new toys on the market.

But Patti Moran, president of Pet Sitters International’s 3,700 members, has a few questions about these robotic replacements for more traditional pets. “Will this dog hunt?” she asks. “More to the point, will he put his paw on your knee, look up at you with big puppy dog eyes, then jump up and give you a big ol’ slurpy dog kiss? Will he curl up next to you to keep you warm on a cold December night and keep the bad guys-real or imagined-away? Is he truly part of your family? No? Then he can’t be Man’s Best Friend!”

What’s behind our love affair with our furry four-footed friends? Here’s what pet lovers say about their pets*:

— 94% have a photo of their pet on display.
— 84% refer to themselves as their pet’s “Mom” or “Dad.”
— 87% include their pet in holiday celebrations (98% celebrate Christmas with their pet).
— 63% celebrate their pet’s birthday.
— 65% have sung or danced with their pet.
— 52% have cooked for their pet.
— 44% have taken their pet to work.

* American Animal Hospital Association’s 2000 Pet Owner Survey,

“Pet owners are taking better care of their pets than ever before – and that includes hiring pet sitters to care for their pets when ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ can’t be there,” Moran affirmed. “Pet sitters provide in-home care, feeding and exercise for pets, including individual attention, love and TLC, while pet owners are on vacation, working or just making the holiday rounds.

“Based upon the average pet-loving clients of PSI members, nothing will replace the human-animal bond these people have with their ‘fur children,'”Moran continued. “The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is the busiest time of the year for PSI’s 3,700 members nationwide. So if you’ll be looking for a pet sitter this holiday season, make your plans early. To locate a pet sitter in your area, (call 1 800 268-7487 or) visit”

“Those of you who actually want a robotic dog, or receive one as a holiday gift, will be looking for a virtual pet sitter to keep his batteries charged and his chrome clean and shiny,” Moran concluded. “Visit the PSI Web site at to find out more about The Virtual Pet Sitter.”

CONTACT: Ellen Price of Pet Sitters International, 336-983-9222, or e-mail, site:



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