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Paw-ternity leave? Time off to care for pets gains traction

It's a cute name, and it's gaining popularity across the pond.
/ Source: TODAY

First there was maternity leave. Then came paternity leave. Most recently, "meternity" leave. So why not a little leave to care for our fuzziest family members?

That's right, "paw-ternity" leave is a real thing over in the U.K., and it's a howling success. Companies across the pond now are giving their employees time off to take care of their pets, with benefits that can reach from a few hours to a few months, according to Public Radio International.

man with pet dog
Your dog will be so happy if you hang out at home!Shutterstock

"We got a puppy from a rescue home and we realized it needed to be looked after properly, so I took a week off to ensure it was welcomed into the home and to set boundaries for the dogs," owner Greg Buchanan, who runs a tech company, told PRI. "And it went from there, and my dog is now better for it."

MORE: 'Meternity' leave? Author faces backlash over proposed child-free work break

In addition to being a fetching concept, this may be an idea whose time has come: Americans now spend over $60 billion each year on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association, up from $17 billion in 1994.

The APPA estimates that there are around 80 million dogs and 96 million cats in households in the U.S.; by contrast, there are 73.6 million children in U.S. households under age 18.

"It's time for the U.S. to hop aboard the 'paw-ternity' train," pet owner and features editor Lindsay Putnam wrote in the New York Post. "It's not just because I want to stay home and cuddle on the couch with my new feline (which I do)."

Woman and dog
Benefits go both ways for dog and owner.Dean Sanderson / Getty Images

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She added, "I couldn’t help but think that, just as Jameson was getting used to me, he feared I, too, was abandoning him. The guilt continues today. While my co-workers with kids walk out the door at 6 p.m., no one seems to care that I also have a child at home waiting for dinner."

Consider this paw-pertunity knocking!

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