Are Cats Popular in China? The Best Information

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Humans, as a species, are social creatures. We need to give and receive affection as a basic psychological need. Humans have not just used animals to provide valuable services throughout history; they have also kept, cared for, and adore animals as companions and friends. The pet industry and particularly cat ownership is a relatively new but rapidly growing sector in China.

Cats have been domesticated in China for thousands of years. Recently cats as pets have seen increased growth in popularity in China. Cats represent 20% of all pets kept in China. Chinese youth have become captivated by cats in games, movies, and online blogs and posts.

Most Western societies know that cats have been considered acceptable meat animals in China, horrifying Western pet lovers. How can a nation that thought of cats as a food source change its attitude so radically that cats are now adored and cherished as family members? What was the evolution of the first cats in China? Why did the cultural attitude towards cats change? What is the popularity of cats as pets in China, and what are the current cat-based trends?


First Cats in China

Initially, historians thought cats had only been kept as domestic pets in China for the last 2000 years. Recent evidence from archaeological excavations in Yangshao suggests it is closer to 5300 years ago.

Leopard Cat

The wild leopard cat was the first type of cat domesticated in China. They are the same size as domesticated cats with longer legs. Leopard cats have spotted tabby patterns on their coats. Leopard cats still exist in the wild in China, but their numbers are unknown.

Cats in Chinese Mythology

In ancient China, cats were revered as mystical, spiritual beings capable of bringing either good or bad fortune. At some stages in Chinese history, gave cats a place of honor and protection.

Poems about cats and paintings, including cats, were commonly produced. Various myths and legends regarding cats became entrenched in a Chinese belief system. One of these was that if a cat jumped over a coffin, the deceased would rise and live again.

Cat Meat Trade in China

Somehow cats changed from being revered in China to being eaten. As recently as 2019, China killed approximately 4 million cats each year for meat. Many of them undergoing horrible torture.

Fortunately, the tide has been changing in recent years, and cat meat is becoming less popular in China. Since the Covid-19 virus’s emergence, many Chinese cities are banning eating dogs, cats, bats, etc.

China’s Changing View on Cats

Until the late 1980s, there was no word for ‘pet’ in the Chinese language. Since the 1990s, Chinese people have become more interested in keeping pets, including cats. There has been a revolution throughout the younger generation.

More people are becoming aware of animal rights and the benefits of keeping pets. Pet-ownership has become a status symbol. Initially, only the rich could afford to keep an animal as a pet. Cats now represent 20% of all pets in China.

Dragon Li Cat

Cats Are Part of The Family

There has been a radical transformation in the way the Chinese view cats. The cats are considered part of the family. The result of this is that there has been an increase in expenditure on cat food and accessories. Some cat lovers even import food from European countries.

For many years there was a deficit in accessible veterinary care. A cat-owner needed to take her cat to the vet. The only available veterinary services were those of the Beijing University, a poorly funded and ill-equipped facility. The concerned cat-owner began a public education and fund-raising drive to implement change, enabling all pet owners to access veterinary care.

This lady, driven by her love for her cat, has managed to establish numerous veterinary facilities throughout China. The past five years have witnessed a rapid expansion in pet care clinics in China. There remains a deficit between supply and demand for high-quality veterinary care. Still, the gap is gradually diminishing as more facilities are set-up.

Chinese Youth And Cats

The popularity of cats has risen meteorically among urban youth in China. They follow cat stories and characters online. Cat owners share pictures online; cat celebrities have thousands of followers, and Chinese youth use cat-themed stickers on messaging systems. Social media has changed the nation’s outlook on cats.

Brother Cream

Brother Cream is an orange and white cat from Hong Kong. A local convenience store adopted him as their mascot. His story went viral, and now Brother Cream has his own Facebook account with over two hundred thousand followers.

Brother Cream also has a dedicated public relations team and a cat food brand. Brother Cream’s family expanded to include a friend named Miu Miu. This phenomenon is not uncommon in China, and cat blogs are wildly popular.

Fortune Cats

Fortune Cat

Fortune cats are statues of cats that adorn restaurant counters and shops and supposedly bring wealth to the proprietors. The concept has been appropriated from the Japanese culture, but it is now evident in all corners of China.

Burgeoning Pet Trade

The pet food and accessories trade in China has grown wings, and with that, it is influencing more and more Chinese to desire to own pets. The pet trade accentuates the elitism of owning pets. The pet industry offers elaborate costumes, collars, beds, bowls, etc., for pet cats in China.

Cat lovers are encouraged to post pictures and blogs about their cats giving rise to a phenomenon known as “cloud cats.” China’s rising GDP has allowed consumers to have more cash to spend on cats, which they do extravagantly.

Cat Cafes in China

A growing trend is for coffee shops and restaurants to adopt several cats. Patrons can enjoy the company of the cats while eating a meal or having a drink. Many of these establishments develop a loyal following based on the patron’s love of those particular cats.

The benefit of these cats is that they become exceptionally well cared for. Patrons choose to hold birthday parties and celebrations at these cafes, especially to include the cats.

Cats and Loneliness

Many Chinese urban youths live alone, away from their families, in apartments in large cities. Their work pace is usually intense, and many of them suffer feelings of isolation and loneliness. As a result, they have chosen to keep cats in their apartments.  70% of cat owners are female.

Owning a cat is also a way for the youth to socialize with peers by interacting with other cat lovers. Chinese celebrities have popularized cat-owning among the youth. The Stars post pictures of their cats on their blogs, talking about their cats’ habits and quirks.  

Cats and The Older Generation

Many of the traditional shops owned by older, more conservative Chinese also own cats. These cats are used and valued primarily for rodent control. Some, like Brother Cream, have reached iconic status. Generally, though, the cats are well treated and have become a unique phenomenon in the Hong Kong landscape.

Cat Breeds in China

There are many different cat breeds represented in China. Many may be the usual and garden variety domestic cat. Still, some cat-fanciers search for specific breeds. Unusual purebreds are especially sought after by the urban youth. Here are a few popular cat breeds in China:

Dragon Li

The engaging Dragon Li cat is also known as the ‘fox, flower cat”, Li Hua Mao. Many believe the first domesticated cats in China were ancestors of the Dragon Li. This unique cat breed is considered to be the unofficial national cat of China. The Dragon Li is seldom seen outside of China. It is usually a small-sized, compact tabby cat with a black, tipped tail.

Siamese Cats

Siamese cats are famous worldwide. Their striking coloring and penchant for crazy antics make them a popular choice with Chinese people. Siamese cats are of Asian origin, although their original home in Asia is Thailand – previously known as Siam.

To see how the Siamese cat stacks up against the Burmese cat, check out our article:  Click Here.

Oriental Shorthair

The Oriental Shorthair arose out of mixed breeding with Siamese, Russian Blue, and Abyssinians. It has a sharp, pointed face like a Siamese with a coat with unusual tri-colored points.

To read more about the Oriental Shorthair and other cats that do not shed very much check out our article:  Click Here.


Video: Dragon Li Information

Cats have had a checkered history in China. They have been venerated as wise, mystical beings, capable of changing someone’s fortune. There have also been dark times when cats have been farmed and kept for meat.

Fortunately, this has changed, and eating cat meat has become frowned upon. Keeping cats as pets has become popular with young Chinese people, and an entire industry has sprung up around cats. Shop cats are highly prized for their rodent catching abilities. Cats are increasing in popularity in China.

If you enjoyed this article, check out a couple of our similar articles for other world regions:

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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