Chinese pet owners gear up their dogs and cats for summer swelter

By Reuters   August 3, 2023 | 06:38 pm PT
Chinese pet owners gear up their dogs and cats for summer swelter
Pet owner Mi Jiayi holds her dog Mary in a cooling vest as she crosses a road on a summer day in Shanghai, China July 19, 2023. Photo by Reuters/Nicoco Chan
As temperatures in China soar, pet owners are looking for novel ways to protect their four-legged friends from the heat, buying up cooling mats, clothes and miniature sun hats for dogs and cats.

Mi Jiayi, a public relations professional in Shanghai, spent more than 500 yuan ($70.04) on a cooling vest for Mary, a small mixed-breed dog that she adopted. To use it, she first dips it in water before wringing it out.

"When we go out, if the temperature is over 30 degrees (86 Fahrenheit), I will put on such cooling attire on my dog," the 31-year-old woman said. "The water will evaporate and take away the heat, then it will not be so hot for my dog."

"There are cheaper options but ... I want to get her the best product that I can afford."

Searches on online marketplaces and Alibaba's Taobao show hundreds of similar sun and heat protection products for dogs and cats costing as much as $100.

The market for pet products in China - from health care and toys to litter and clothing - was worth $5.16 billion in 2022, according to data from Euromonitor International.

It is expected to grow to nearly $6 billion this year, the market research provider has projected.

Jacqueline Cha, another Shanghai resident who has three small dogs and owns a pet care business, said this was the first summer she felt the need to use sun protection shirts on her pooches. She also had to adjust their daily walking schedule to avoid peak daily temperatures.

China has registered several rounds of record-breaking hot days in June and July, with temperatures in humid Shanghai topping 37 Celsius (99F) and capital Beijing reaching more than 41C (106F).

"This summer is exceptionally hot and I have been changing my pooches' sun protection shirts every two to three days," Cha said.

Dr. Grace Lin, founder and vet director at the Advanced Vet Care animal hospital in Shanghai, said those concerns were well-founded because of the 50% to 56% mortality rate for dogs diagnosed with severe heatstroke.

However, she added the best treatment was not any product but simple prevention: keeping pets indoors on super-hot days.

Such concern for pet well-being has become common among many Chinese households, where many people have opted to adopt pets rather than have children and consider their furry friends as family members accordingly.

Last year, a report by Euromonitor and Asia Pet Alliance Institute forecast China's population of dogs and cats would reach 190 million in 2023, up from about 170 million in 2018.

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