Cat-sharing service in China raises concerns about animal welfare

The service provides temporary companionship for people who love cats but do not have the time or money to keep one. PHOTO: AFP

SHENZHEN (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A cat shop in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, recently sparked public criticism after launching a cat-sharing service.

According to the shop's rental agreement, which was circulated online, customers can rent a cat for 39.90 yuan (S$8.40) a day after paying a deposit of 2,500 yuan. The rent is paid on a monthly basis.

The cats will undergo health tests before and after the rental period to ensure that they are healthy, the shop said. The deposit will not be refunded if the cats are unhealthy or dead when they are returned, it said.

According to the agreement, customers who are found to have abused the cats will not have their deposit returned and will be held accountable.

The service provides temporary companionship for people who love cats but do not have the time or money to keep one, according to the shop named Jixiang, which means "auspicious omen".

It is believed to be the first time in China, where the sharing economy has grown rapidly in recent years, particularly for bikes and cars, that sharing has involved animals.

However, the service has sparked public condemnation, with many people considering it a neglect of animal well-being.

"The move by the shop is a misuse of the shared-economy model," said 31-year-old Xiong Mei, who has two cats in her apartment in Shenzhen.

"The essence of the sharing economy lies in making use of excessive social resources to improve efficiency and reduce waste. But cats are not excessive social resources. They are not items that can be transferred from one person to another. They are living and have emotions. They should be given more respect."

An Jun, another Shenzhen resident, said: "Although the service offers an opportunity for pet lovers, we should not build our happiness on animals' misery."

The pet shop could not be reached for comment.

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