China’s feline craze boosts the national cat economy

By Huang Yiran Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/12 18:21:52

More and more Chinese are fascinated by cats and are willing to fork out a lot of cash for all things cat-related. Photo: VCG

There is no doubt that the most populous country in the world is in love with cats.

Recent sales data shows that Chinese are definitely "cat people," and the number of "cat slaves" is still increasing.

According to a report released in December by Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao, during the 2018 "Double 12" online shopping festival, the consumption of cat food and snacks increased by 50 percent, which surpassed the growth rate of dog food and other pet foods. Meanwhile, the average transaction value of cat food and snacks was higher than that of dog food and snacks.

Robbie Wang, a pet owner from Cangzhou, North China's Hebei Province, has spent about 10,000 yuan ($1,489) on his cats over three years, including medical treatment, food, toys, and other expenses. With three cats at home, he is a real chanshiguan, meaning "pet poop cleaning official" - a humorous way Chinese netizens call pet owners.

"When comparing with the happiness they bring us, money is nothing," said Wang. "In the beginning, my father was very against me keeping a cat, but as the days pass by, he has gradually changed his attitude. Now he's totally a 'cat slave' who pets them all the time and calls them 'babies.'"

Wang is not an exception. According to a 2018 survey done by Tencent Research Institute, a social science research organization established by China's internet giant Tencent, about 50 million Chinese people are fascinated by cats and cat-related stuff. Among them, young people born after the 1980s and 1990s make up the majority.

During Pet Fair Asia 2018 held in Shanghai, which is held every year in August, China's online pet service provider published The White Paper on China's Pet Industry. It shows that 22.58 million people living in cities and towns keep cats, while the total number of cats in China is 40.64 million.

'Cloud cat keeping'

Even though some of the cat lovers don't have the ability or time to keep a real kitten, they have a long lasting enthusiasm for cat things. They subscribe to as many cat channels as they can on video platforms and stay up to date with cat bloggers they follow on Weibo. They also collect hundreds of cat pictures and memes in their smartphones and like to show them off while chatting with others. Netizens term this phenomenon as yunyangmao, which means "cloud cat keeping."

Liu Qiuji, a 26-year-old woman living in Beijing, is one of them. Due to the limited space of her apartment and her tight work schedule, it's impossible for her to keep a real cat at home. But she finds pleasure in browsing other cat owners' posts and watching cat bloggers' videos.

"When one of the blogger's cats I followed died, I felt so sad and even cried at night," said Liu. "It was like the cat was one of my friends and family members," she said. 

The blogger Liu mentioned is "6daodao," a popular pet blogger who has 4.3 million followers on China's Twitter like social media platform Sina Weibo. The blogger now keeps two cats and two dogs. Besides posting video stories and pet photos, he also gets advertising from various pet service companies.

With the prosperity of the cat market, cat bloggers welcome their "golden time." They not only gain clicks and fame on the internet, but also a lot of money from advertisers. The content of these advertisements ranges from cat food, snacks, toys, hygiene products, furniture and intelligent devices. 

"Even when the product has nothing to do with cats, they just need to take several photos with the cat around, and it will sell out in a minute," said Liu, who told the Global Times that she doesn't like this way of marketing. "Making money through your beloved family members is something I can't accept."

No matter whether you like it or not, the fact is that people tend to spend more money on cat things, and their craze for this little furry creature can go beyond your imagination.

Coffee brand Starbucks released a limited edition cat paw mug on February 26, 2019 in China. Priced at 199 yuan, a thousand pieces of the double glass-walled vessel with interiors made to look like a cat's paw, sold out in 0.07 seconds online on February 28. People who didn't get the cup online rushed into nearby shops to take their chances, which even led to fights between the eager customers. 

The hunger marketing of Starbucks proves that if you can catch the hearts of cat people, there's money to be made. 

Other voices

With people increasingly becoming "cat slaves," various business models have emerged. Today, cat lovers can enjoy the fun of petting without keeping a cat at home. There are cat cafes, restaurants and bars where you can play with different cats for the price of a drink or a meal. Also, cat spas and cat beauty salons also want to have a finger in the pie.

Recently a pet owner from Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province got her cat a double eyelid operation, which aroused a controversy on Chinese social media. Some people criticized the cat owner as being "so selfish" and "ignorant of the cat's feelings." Others doubt the qualifications of the cat beauty salons.

"I can't accept that," said Maxine Sun, a pet owner who has been keeping a cat for one and a half years and has never got her cat vaccinated or sterilized. "I think people should not decide what is good for a cat. The best way is to raise them naturally."

"I would spend more time playing with my cat rather than buying it expensive food or toys. A cat is meant to bring us happiness. It's not something to show off or for satisfying your selfish desires," said Sun.
Newspaper headline: Embracing ‘meowments’


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