BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - While hundreds of millions of people are travelling across China to reunite with their families for Spring Festival, Wang Mengfan, 27, is staying at her pet shop in Shanghai and preparing for the peak season during the holidays.
The shop, named Pet Dream Mansion, is in Lujiazui,－one of the most prosperous areas in downtown Shanghai. It has 50 pet houses for foster service－- 30 for cats and 20 for dogs.
Foster care for a cat is 200 yuan (S$42) per night, while the price for a dog ranges from 120 yuan to 200 yuan, depending on the dog's size. Wang expects her shop to earn at least 8,400 yuan a day during the festival.
"The price is about three times higher than usual, due to the surge of service demand and also the higher wages we need to pay our workers," Wang said.
Even so, all of the houses were fully booked a week before the festival, as most pet owners will return to their hometown or travel out of the city, and the country's public transportation does not allow pets, except aboard airplanes.
"Those early bookings were made two months before the festival. And price is not the first concern of pet owners. They care more about whether the pets will stay comfortable and healthy," she said.
The booming need for pet foster service is also seen in other places, such as Beijing and southern Guangdong province.
Doggyhome in a southern suburb of Beijing covers an area of about 0.66 hectare. It has some 200 rooms for the temporary care of pets, mostly dogs.
Each room is 15 sq m and has an additional small yard in front. Open field towards the front gate is provided for pets to play outdoor.
"Foster service is about 110 yuan per night during Spring Festival, double the usual because of the growing need and a lack of dog trainers," said Yuan Ruizhen, a receptionist atDoggyhome.
In Guangzhou, a worker in RingPai National Chain Veterinary Hospital said many pet owners require caregivers to send pictures or video of their pets every day, and some owners even prepare canned food for their pets as celebration of the Chinese New Year.
China is on its way to becoming the third-largest pet market in the world, after the United States and Japan, according to the National Statistics Bureau. From 2010 to 2016, the local market grew by almost 50 per cent annually on average.
A report on China's pet market, released by Epet.com, says China has more than 87 million pet cats and dogs by the end of last year, with dogs accounting for around 60 per cent of the total.
The business of pet-related goods and services is soaring in China and was expected to have reached 134 billion yuan last year.
Instead of sending their pets to a large pet hotel, some younger owners are turning to trendy platforms on apps or WeChat accounts to find a foster family for their pets.
Tang Ziyun, a 24-year-old college student in Beijing, found a foster family for her cat on Xiaogouzaijia ("puppy at home"), which provides home-stay services for pets.
Each day of care for the cat costs her 50 yuan, which is acceptable to young pet owners like Tang who earns no more than 5,000 yuan a month in Beijing.
"Most of the foster families are not doing the service to make money. For example, the girl who takes care of my cat says she just wants to find a playmate for her own cat in case it feels lonely," Tang said.
Chen Weirong, a veterinarian in Shanghai, cautioned, however, that some pets might become ill after foster care. Skin diseases, coughing, vomiting and intestinal obstructions are the top three problems.