It’s A Dogs Life. Inside The World Of China’s Pampered Pets.
With the rising prosperity in China, both Foo Foo and Moo Moo, a pair of six - year old terriers are now enjoying the high life – literally. Every couple of months these pampered pooches travel by private jet via Hong Kong to an exclusive ‘pet spa’ in Osaka.
While on board the little darlings will dine on a menu of grilled salmon and specially prepared chicken all prepared by an onboard chef. The owner of the two mutts, a textile tycoon from Shanghai when asked why he does it answered, “I really don’t know why I do it, I think they enjoy it but sometimes I wonder whether they really know or appreciate the difference”
At over $US33,000 for the round trip, one would certainly hope they do bloody well appreciate it!
This ostentatious trend is growing at a phenomenal rate amongst the affluent class in China who seem to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure their pets have the best of everything money can buy.
Naturally, there are companies which have sprung up to cater to these obscenely rich clients and one of these is Life Travel, based out of Hong Kong. For the appropriate fee, the pooches and their owners will hop aboard a chartered jet, be flown to Okinawa in Japan where on arrival a limousine will ferry the precious guests to a pet-friendly 5- star spa for a week of attentive pampering.
The company has recently introduced a system whereby the canines can acquire ‘pet miles’ to offset the costs of future trips!
Pets in China it would appear are no longer seen as merely a tasty snack but rather, they have become an important member of the ever-increasing affluent households. Consumer spending on pets is growing at a whopping twenty per cent a year which is phenomenal when compared to say the American market which is growing at a rather modest two per cent per annum.
Putting this statistic into dollar terms, in 2012 the pet-care market in China was valued at $ US1.2 Billion and today, just seven years later, that sector is estimated to be worth in the region of between $US 4 -5 Billion.
Stroll the streets of China’s largest cities and seemingly on every third or fourth block, one cannot fail to see a veterinary clinic. This sector of the pet market too is thriving as more and more pet owners are opting for expensive veterinary surgical procedures for ageing pets instead of euthanasia which would have been the case ten years ago.
If, God forbid, a budget squeeze happens and poor little Foo Foo and Moo Moo are forced to be groomed at home, there are scores of high-end pet emporiums to cater to their every need.
Now, these bespoke pet grooming services certainly don’t come cheap! Salons are not backward in coming forward in charging eye-watering amounts for some of the more complex procedures specified by their owners.
According to one owner of a Beijing grooming salon (or Spa, as he likes to refer to his business,) which is located in a prosperous neighbourhood near the East Third Ring Road, his customers now spend upwards of $US 10,000 - $US15,000 on pet grooming every year.
They regularly shell out for pedicures and expensive grooming procedures to reveal Foo foo’s inner princess. Added accessories on sale include pet toothbrushes and specially formulated shampoos and conditioners to complement specific fur colours.
If you have a desire to have your canine look like a panda, a custom designed perm can be arranged…at a price of course. The owner of a 'teddy bear' dog asked if they could trim his pet's hair to match his own. This is apparently very much in keeping with the more sophisticated requests the salon gets these days. They used to provide standard services, but now many clients have their own ideas about the styles they want."
Adjoining the ‘spa’ is a pet boutique that almost resembles a Gucci or Prada store where racks of outfits and accessories for both cats and dogs are on offer. Twee jackets and matching booties are apparently a ‘hot’ item. Customers it would seem are after outlandish and extremely expensive tailored looks for their pets that match their own.
The business he tells me is booming!
So, why the increased emphasis on pampered, massaged, and permed puppies? Reports suggest that many Chinese couples who go to the most extreme lengths to lavish their charges with the best that money can buy are those who have no desire to have children. It would appear that they have oodles of disposable income to lavish on their 'fur babies.'
China’s pet-care industry is now dominated by several chain store operations, notably Kudi Pets, Petdog and Favor Pets. These warehouse-sized stores specialize in selling customised pet food and often offer eight or ten varieties of cat food, each designed to meet specific feline or canine needs, including weight management, digestive health or nutrition suitable for mature sections of the species.
Typically, a two- kilogram pack of prescription diet pet food is priced at about $US50 some 30 to 50 per cent higher than standard pet food. Imported pet food currently accounts for about half of dinners that the pets devour each day. Specialist supplements are must-have items for the mid-to-high-end markets and are typically imported from the United States, Japan and Thailand. ( Trump's tariffs may put a bit of a dent in future sales)
Latest statistics show that, by the end of 2018 there were more than 300 million pets on the Chinese mainland where more than 20 million households own one or more pets, with the number growing by about 20 per cent per annum.
Sometimes I wish I was a dog and living in China!
Paul v Walters is the best selling author of several novels and when he is not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali he scribbles for several international travel and vox pop journals.