CHINA - As cats and dogs in China start to be fed organic food, dressed in trendy vintage-style cotton T-shirts and receive medical care from internationally licensed vets, the status of pets has been elevated to a whole new level, becoming a "second child" in a family, or the only child in DINK partnership.
At the 16th Pet Fair Asia, which began on Thursday in Shanghai's World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center, thousands of pet owners from around the country crowded the 37,000-square-meter venue with rare and not-so-rare but equally cherished "animal babies", and snapped up pricey "daily life necessities".
"The focus is less and less on unusual species and more on gadgets that will help animals live longer and better," said Ji Li, the organizer of the fair, which in past years used to attract attention with the likes of pony-sized alpacas and Bengal cats.
More than 600 exhibitors from 32 countries are participating in the four-day fair with their products. A total of 15,000 people have pre-registered for the annual fair, which charges 100 yuan (S$20.60) per person for entry.
Organizers estimate that visitor numbers this year could exceed the record-breaking 50,000 people last year.
While Bengal cats, priced as high as 100,000 yuan each but not for sale by a Taiwan pet shop, Japanese carp and a horse were the primary focus of the crowds and photographers, pet food, special water, clothes, toys and even memorial service providers were also surrounded by pet owners and distributors.
"The bestsellers are our most expensive kinds of dog food," said Wang Lini, marketing manager of Nature Bridge, one of the top pet food companies in China.
The variety is sold for 180 yuan a 1.5 kg pack and claims to use a Norwegian recipe and ingredients free of additives and preservatives. As a cost comparison, local supermarkets sell Jasmine rice imported from Thailand, considered the best rice by many, for about 60 yuan a kilo.