Did you know that Chinese pet owners spend US$2 billion a year on their animals?
That’s a lot of money on animals. But China has over 100 million animals as pets, and they need to feed them and look after them.
And, according to Statista, the most popular pets in China, as of 2016, are dogs (with 74% of pet owners), followed by fish (36% of pet owners) and cat (33% of pet owners).
However, in the past, the People’s Republic of China viewed animals as a source of food rather than pets. Only the rich and the powerful could afford the luxury of having an animal for the pure pleasure of owning a pet.
Only recently, it has become more common to own pets.
In some cities in China, most people often live alone, and they find it comforting to have a pet to keep them company.
But sadly, this trend has also led to the increase in the number of pets living on the streets. Many pet owners had to abandon them, either because they quickly got tired of the luxury of owning a pet, or they moved to an apartment where their pets were not allowed.
So if you’re visiting China (for study abroad program, or to learn Mandarin, or about their people, culture, and animals), I’m sure you’ll find our today’s topic “most popular pets in China” highly intriguing.
Here are the most popular pets in China:
- Dog (74%)
Did you know that Chinese people eat dogs? Didn’t you? You heard that right. They still do eat dog meats, although most people today are against it.
But, even if they eat dogs meat for dinner, dogs are still their favorite pets.
Today, Chinese households own 27.4 million pet dogs (third in the world), followed by American (55.3 million) and Brazil (35.7 million).
In ancient times, dogs were used as helpers. Chinese emperors used them for hunting.
But, after the rise of ‘middle class’ in China, people started to change their attitude towards these little creatures and began to own them as pets.
But, dog ownership is complicated in China. For example, many Chinese cities require dog lovers to register their dogs – medium to large dogs are not allowed.
Plus, there’s no law regarding animal cruelty in China. If someone kills a dog for whatsoever reason, there’s nothing you anyone can do about it.
- Fish (36%)
Many Chinese consider their pet fish brings them good luck. There’s a reason for it: in the Mandarin characters, fish and water is associated with wealth and prosperity.
And, two fish species (dragonfish and arowana) are most popular China, which is considered by many to bring power and prosperity to their lives.
- Cat (33%)
Chinese households own 58.1 million cats (second in the world) as pets, after the US (80.6 million). And, as of 2014, about 2 percent of the nationwide (or 30 million households) own cats.
Cats easy to take care and are less regulated than dogs. Perhaps, that’s why more middle-class families own cats as pets in China today.
Did you know that Confucius had a pet cat? And, once a 70-year-old man in Beijing owned 160 cats (most of them stray cats) and shared his 160-square meter home with them.
And, unlike dogs, cats are not licensed in China. There’s no official account of how many cats there are in China. But, according to an estimate, there might be 500k to 600k cats in Beijing only.
- Bird and Singing Birds (14%)
Visit any of the parks in China, and you’ll see some Chinese people carrying a cloth-covered cage to take their birds for a “bird-walk.”
After noticing this tradition, travel writer Paul Money remarked, “China must be the only place in the world where people walk their birds and eat their dogs.”
Younger birds were kept near older birds to give them train.
In addition to bird-walking, Chinese people also enjoy birds singing competition. Some people pay a hefty amount (up to $2,000) for rare singing birds and keep them inside an ornate cage.
Likewise, keeping songbirds have been one of the favorite hobbies of the rich and powerful people in China. In fact, the most widely read book “The Nightingale” is nothing but about an Emperor getting obsessed with the song of a nightingale.
During the Mao period, keeping songbirds as pets were frowned upon and even viewed as a crime.
Besides these four favorite pets in China, pet owners also love owning amphibian (10%), rabbit (8%), rodent (6%) as pets.
Over to you: Which pets have you seen in Chinese home? Did we miss any cute animals in this list? Please feel free to share your ideas below…