Part of the Fam­ily

As more peo­ple be­come emo­tion­ally at­tached pet own­ers, a multi­bil­lion dol­lar in­dus­try emerges By Xia Yuanyuan

Beijing Review - - Culture -

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.

Emo­tional com­fort

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-

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