ROYAL TREATMENT

Pet owners in China are splurging on luxury hotels, acupuncture treatments, and fancy funerals

Obsession
Life as Laboratory
Obsession
Life as Laboratory

Excessive pet pampering, nothing new in the West, is catching on with China’s rising middle class. Though still small by US standards, the nation’s growing market for pet-related offerings—including food, cat litter, dietary supplements, and health care—will reach $2.6 billion by year’s end, according to an estimate from research firm Euromonitor.

Luxury pet hotels are taking off in China’s first-tier cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. Vacation a Cat, a chain opened last summer, charges around 350 yuan ($53) per night. The rate includes grooming and feeding services, but the pedicures and massages are extra.

A five-star pets hotel in Chinese southeastern city Guangzhou.
A pool in a five-star pet hotel in Guangzhou. (Weibo/J Cason)

Many pets in China also receive acupuncture treatment, common in traditional Chinese medicine. The TCM Neurology and Acupuncture Animal Health Center in Shanghai has received over 2,000 cats and dogs (and even a marten) since opening four years ago, said Jin Rishan, a practitioner at the clinic, in an interview with The Paper (link in Chinese). A 45-minute treatment goes for 260 yuan ($39). One dog racked up charges of nearly 90,000 yuan ($13,618) over nine months.

Many are skeptical about the benefits of acupuncture for pets, and the clinic is still exploring where needles should go in the body of a dog or cat. About 80% of the pet patients saw improvements after the treatments, Jin told Reuters.

A cat receives treatment at Shanghai TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Neurology and Acupuncture Animal Health Center, which specialises in acupuncture and moxibustion treatment for animals, in Shanghai, China, August 9, 2017.
A cat receives treatment at the TCM center in Shanghai. (Reuters/Aly Song)

Cremation services for pets are also gaining popularity in China, especially among younger owners. People in their twenties are more likely than thirtysomethings to choose cremations for their pets, according to a recent survey (link in Chinese) by the Shanxi Evening Newspaper.

Beijing-based Q-Planet, meanwhile, offers products for pet funerals, including a silk-wrapped paper coffin (link in Chinese) for 1,520 yuan ($230).

The coffin for pets designed by Beijing-based Q Planet.
A coffin from Q-Planet. (WeChat/Q-Planet)

Sun Yan, co-founder of the Beijing pet hotel SmellMe, told SupChina that many people in China are now treating their pets as if they were their children. “It’s getting closer to Western countries,” he said.

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