Part of the Family
As more people become emotionally attached pet owners, a multibillion dollar industry emerges By Xia Yuanyuan
Zheng Yu is in love with cats. Her childhood dream to own one was finally realized last year when she started working and got her own apartment. However, over the course of several months, Zheng’s assumptions on keeping a cat have completely changed. She never knew that domesticated cats had spawned an entire industry with a range of products and services that beggars belief. Toys, nail clippers, fur care powder, pooper scoopers, hygiene products and furniture are but a few. “It’s totally beyond my imagination,” she told Beijing Review.
Zheng is part of a growing legion of pet owners across China fueling an unprecedented boom in this industry. According to a white paper jointly published in 2017 by the Chinese Pet Products Association and other organizations, 134 billion yuan ($21.3 billion) was spent on China’s pet industry in 2017, up 30.9 percent year on year. The figure is expected to rise to 200 billion yuan ($31.8 billion) by 2020.
Chen Xufeng owns the Xiaowo Pet Shop in Beijing, which sells a variety of pets including cats, dogs, rabbits, goldfish, turtles and even snakes and lizards, along with pet supplies. He told Beijing Review that his customers range from children to seniors. “In big cities, owners always treat their pets as family members. Pets bring companionship,” he noted.
Wang Zhiyu, a 29-year-old editor, agrees with Chen. “My cat Jiumi makes me feel less lonely since I am living in Beijing alone. She is like part of the family,” she said. For seniors, pets make up for the gap left by children who work far from home. They can channel their affection into caring for their four-legged friends, while also generously spending money on their food, health and daily necessities.
Although people have different reasons for keeping pets, most are seeking emotional comfort. China has one of the world’s lowest birth rates, and a growing number of middleclass couples are choosing to lavish their time and emotion on pets rather than children. In addition, China is home to the world’s fastestgrowing aging population. A total of 480 million people aged 60 and above will account for about 25 percent of the population by 2050, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Their furry friends can offer alternative companionship to the absence of distant children.
A lucrative market
The growing number of pet owners in China is also more willing to splash out on their pets than ever before. And the focus has been wid-