An increasing number of young Chinese are investing their time and money in raising cats

By Li Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/18 15:48:39

Zhang Ce hanging out with his three cats at home Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Ce

Zhang Ce is a 27-year-old internet product manager and his most valuable possessions are his three cats. He spent 3,000 yuan ($466) on a folded ear cat, 12,000 yuan on an exotic shorthair cat and 32,000 yuan on another exotic shorthair cat. Not only did he spend a large amount of money purchasing his cats, but he also has high monthly expenses. He spends about 3,000 yuan on his fur babies per month, which takes a toll on his overall living expenses.

In January, many pet hospitals, media and organizations jointly released the 2017 White Book of China's Pet Industry. The data showed that there are about 40 million pet cats in China, and the number will increase by 40 percent in three years. Most pet owners were born in the post-80s and 90s, and the report concluded that there are two cat owners among every 10 young people in their 20s and 30s in China.

Also, Taobao recently released a year-end summary on the most popular goods sold on their website.

According to the data, Chinese people spent 8.4 billion yuan on cat-related products in 2017, and every owner's average expenses for their pet reached 7,094 yuan.

"Raising a cat has become a new expensive hobby, and it is even becoming more costly than photography equipment," said Wang Yong, a seller of precious breed cats who owns an online pet product shop.

He told Metropolitan that Chinese young people are spending an increasing sum of money on cats and that there is an increasingly thriving cat product and service market.

Song Yuxi and her cat Photo: Courtesy of Song Yuxi
 

The nutrition products and cat food Zhang Ce buys for his cats Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Ce

The nutrition products and cat food Zhang Ce buys for his cats Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Ce

Expensive daily care

Zhang said he invested more than regular cat owners because he chose to raise exotic shorthair cats. These kinds of cats are more delicate and require very careful attention and daily care.

"Every morning I get up early and prepare their meal; they eat canned food every day, and I have to blend more than 10 kinds of nutrition powders and refined fish oil into the food," he said.

"After I get home from work, I prepare their dinner. I have frozen rabbit meat, beef, chicken breast, turkey leg and venison in my fridge, and I unfreeze the meat and use a high-speed blender to make meat paste for them."

He only buys imported high-quality canned food from France for his cats, which is 210 yuan for one box of 12 cans. In 2017, he bought about 15 boxes. Also, the dry cat food he buys is 760 yuan per bag and lasts less than two months.

Nutrition products make up the bulk of his expenditure.

"I buy whey protein, casein, Vitamin H, probiotics, WONGs polysaccharide, mineral powders and so on," he said. "Since exotic shorthair cats' eyes are vulnerable and are prone to excessive secretion, I have to buy eye oil, eye drops and eye powder for them and apply it when necessary."

He said since the folded ear cat is prone to having bone sclerosis due to genetic problems, he is careful with its nutrition supplements and feeds it chondroitin to prevent possible bone problems.

Song Yuxi, a Chinese university student studying in Milan, Italy said she understands Zhang. She is also a cat owner who spends a lot on her four-legged creature. Her cat, a hairless Sphinx, also needs meticulous care, which can only be done by spending a large sum of money.

She bought the cat for about 1,000 euros ($1,227) last winter. The cat was in a remote small town in a suburban area of Milan, and it was too cold for the hairless cat to be transported by public transportation, so she hired a driver and drove four hours to pick it up. The fee for the journey was 400 euros.

"I have to create a consistent temperature indoors for Kaki (her cat) because she has no hair and needs my help to keep warm in the winter and stay away from heat in the summer," she said.

She needs to keep the temperature in her home at 22 C in the winter and 27 C in the summer, and she said it makes her electricity fee rather high. In the summer, she pays 100 euros per month for electricity and in the winter 150 euros.

Song has bought a lot of clothes for her cat. Like a human, the cat wears thin clothes on warm days and sweaters on cold days. She usually buys them on Taobao because in Italy the price for pet products is about 10 times higher than in China. But sometimes when the cat needs something urgently, she spends the money without any hesitation.

Last March when Song took her cat out, she found the weather hotter than she imagined and the cat was wearing a thick sweater and began to feel uncomfortable.

"I immediately took her to a pet store and bought a new set of thin clothes and a new leash for her, and it cost me 178 euros, 10 times more expensive than the same products on Taobao," said Song.

One of Zhang Ce's exotic shorthair cats Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Ce

Love through all breeds

It is not only the owners of precious breeds of cats who spend large amounts of money. Elissa Wang, who adopted a street cat in her hometown in Wuhan, Hubei Province, has spent more than 10,000 yuan on her feline friend. She found the very common black and white cat near a trash dump and took it home during the Spring Festival holiday in 2016.

"I took the cat to the largest pet hospital in Wuhan and spent more than 5,000 yuan on the health check and other medical measures such as expelling parasites and nutrition supplies," she said, adding that the cat was about to die due to dehydration and exposure. It took about one month for the little creature to recover in the hospital.

"Although he is not a pure breed cat, he is smart and cute; I think meeting him was my destiny and it is my responsibility to take care of him," she said. "Even it means making my wallet empty."

She now works in Beijing, and her cat lives with her parents in Wuhan.

"I am living in a rental house in Beijing with other two roommates, and it is not a perfect environment for a cat to live in," she said.

Although she does not live with her cat, she pays for all of its needs. During the 2017 Double Eleven shopping festival, she spent more than 1,000 yuan on cat food, toys, nutrition supplements and clothes.

"I think it is like virtually raising a cat; my parents video chat with me every day and send me cute photos and videos of my cat. I am not like the owner, but a VIP customer of the cat," she said.

Zhang also said although he has three expensive cats, he loves all cats and usually feeds the stray cats in his community.

Cats and empty-nest youths

According to the 2017 White Book of China's Pet Industry, post-80s and 90s cat owners are 70 percent female. Most of them live in first-tier cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Guangdong Province.

The white book also pointed out this is unique to China. In other countries, like Japan, people who raise cats are mostly older people who live alone.

According to a recent Xinhua News Agency report, there are about 20 million Chinese people between the ages of 20 to 39 who live alone. And a China Youth Daily report in September 2017 also pointed out that 64.3 percent of the 2,000 interviewed young people thought themselves lonely and helpless empty-nest youths.

Wang said the reason young people love cats and spend so much on them is to find emotional sustenance. After she adopted the cat, she felt far less lonely than before.

"I begin to realize that I am not all alone after I met with my cat, and the relationship between my parents and I improved a lot due to the increased communication related to the cat," she said. "Felines are not that dependent on interaction with humans compared with canines, which is similar to people who live alone for a long time."

Zhang said cats are relatively not clingy, which is suitable to his own characteristics.

"Every morning when I wake up they are asleep beside me, and sometimes they rub their heads on my hand softly, which makes me feel a sense of achievement and that my life is so complete," he said.

Song also thinks that the most important part of having a cat is an emotional link.

She is now back in her hometown in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province and is preparing for graduation. Her cat was air transported to Hangzhou as well. She is considering furthering her study in Canada and said it is very possible that she will take the cat with her.

"During my university days in a foreign country, the company and comfort offered by my cat is priceless and the pay and harvest is totally equal," she said.


Newspaper headline: Feline frenzy


Posted in: METRO BEIJING

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