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    Cats Clinch the Title of Urban China’s Favorite Pet, Report Says

    From memes to online groups, felines have clawed their way into people’s hearts.

    It’s official: Felines have overtaken their canine counterpart to become urban China’s favorite pet.

    A new report released Tuesday by Pethadoop, a platform specializing in China’s pet industry, said cats accounted for 59.5% of all the pets among the 30,000 respondents surveyed for the research. As of last year, there were some 58 million pet cats in China’s urban households, compared with some 54 million pet dogs.

    China has seen an increase in pet ownership over the years, with people increasingly choosing cats. Globally, though dogs were still more common pets, including the United States and the United Kingdom, cats have emerged as the most popular pet in the European Union lately.

    Cats have also turned into a social phenomenon in China and elsewhere, with the felines becoming the subject of viral memes and videos. Many cat lovers online also identify themselves as “cat slaves” and “cat sniffers,” publicly professing their pet preference.

    On social platform Douban, the “Love Cat Life” group has become one of the most popular online cat-lover collectives, with some 558,000 members who often share their experiences of raising cats. Meanwhile, the equivalent dog-friendly group on the platform, “Love Dog Life,” only has 10% as many members.

    Researchers attribute the fast growth of cat pets to the lifestyle in Chinese cities, with some experts also suggesting the feline’s popularity with the young generation’s pursuit of individuality.

    Liu Yi, the report’s chief editor, told Sixth Tone that many city dwellers have busy lives and relatively smaller accommodations, thus making cats their ideal companions — it’s easy to raise cats, unlike dogs that require more attention and outdoor activities.

    “Our research shows that the majority of the pet owners are people born after 1990 and 1995,” he said. “Young people are looking for freedom and spontaneity in their lives, and the habits of cats are more suited to their needs.”

    Cai, a 27-year-old who works in Beijing, said she recently adopted a cat named Nanako. She added that cats were the perfect pet for dagong ren, which means “laborer” or “working people.”

    “I wanted a dog at first, but since I’m quite busy, I wouldn’t have given them enough time,” she told Sixth Tone. “Cats are more independent compared with dogs. Nanako has kept me company through my loneliness, which someone like me who works in a big city faces.”

    However, many cities have also been confronting a growing number of stray cats, with Shanghai alone home to some 3 million. Some experts have described how stray cats destroy ecosystems, resulting in swift backlash and even personal attacks from cat lovers.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Liau Chung Ren/IC)