Across China: Pets get better care as Chinese embrace wealthier New Year
WUHAN, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- When millions of Chinese returned to hometowns for family reunions during the Spring Festival, Hu Xuemeng had to part briefly from her furry family member -- Wangcai the corgi.
When the 34-year-old programmer departed from central China's Hubei Province to her home in the eastern province of Shandong on Jan. 17, she had to leave behind her pet dog, as one of her relatives is allergic.
"The Spring Festival used to be the saddest time for me. In the past, I could only leave Wangcai at home with enough food and water," said Hu, adding that when she came come home after the week-long holiday, she would find excrement on the floor and the furniture chewed.
But this year, to Hu's relief, a newly-opened pet store in her neighborhood took care of Wangcai.
At the "Cute Pet Helper," the 8-year-old dog enjoyed the treatment of a retiree, with nutrient-supplemented meals and daily video calls from Hu, as well as a bath with rose essential oil, during the holiday.
The one-week stay cost 1,220 yuan (about 176 U.S. dollars), while Hu paid over 2,000 yuan, about one-sixth of her monthly income, to enrich Wangcai's holiday with extra snacks, health care products and toys.
Niu Shasha, manager of the pet store, said the number of dogs and cats put under their care during the holiday doubled due to the inconvenience of bringing pets into the world's largest human migration known as the Spring Festival travel rush.
Apart from the huge pet foster demands during festivals and holidays, Niu also testifies to the trend of wealthier Chinese families forking out more money on their pets.
"More and more people are treating their pets like family members, and catering to their demands, pet stores have started to introduce more products such as pet snacks, insect repellents and pet toys," said Niu.
According to a report released by a Chinese pet service portal goumin.com, the consumption of pet snacks and medicines in Chinese cities and towns increased by 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively, in 2019. The consumption of pet foster care, diagnosis, treatment and other services also saw rapid growth.
Long Jiayu, a professional Labrador breeder, said when she entered the career of pet breeding six years ago, few pet stores were seen on the streets of China and only a few pet health products that are common abroad were available in the domestic market.
"There has been an increasing number of services and products for pets in recent years. It has become easier for my clients to safeguard their fur friends both physically and mentally," Long said.
According to the report, China's market for dogs and cats reached 202.4 billion yuan in 2019, up 17.8 percent year on year.
The expanding middle class, rapid urbanization and other demographic changes, including the aging society and the trend of people getting married and having children at a later age, have all boosted pet consumption, said the report.
"When I first started working, high-quality dog food and nutrients were not easily available, and I would balk at the prices as I only earned 5,000 yuan monthly back then," Hu said.
"I have earned and saved more in recent years. And giving Wangcai better food and care is like making up for the past," Hu added.