Every dog has its day for dinner

Updated: 2013-01-02 07:31

By Yu Ran (China Daily)

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 Every dog has its day for dinner

It has been an annual ritual for Guo Lili, a pet nutritionist from Fujian province, to celebrate the birthday of her 7-year-old dog Rocky with a specially made cake. Provided to China Daily

 Every dog has its day for dinner

More pet owners are willing to treat their pets with food like cakes and cookies. Provided to China Daily

Every dog has its day for dinner 

A series of cookies made by Guo Lili, a pet nutritionist in Fujian, are selling well in her online store. More personalized pet foods (as shown in the pictures on the below right) are available to mark special occasions. Provided to China Daily

Serving their pets with specially made food is an increasingly popular trend among young owners, Yu Ran reports from Shanghai.

Humans no longer have the exclusive right to dress up in fancy clothes and share birthday cakes with their nearest and dearest.

Now dogs are getting their share of festive fun, with an array of cakes, cookies and other personalized products available to mark special occasions.

Treating dogs like humans by holding parties to celebrate their birthdays and festivals with specially made food is becoming an increasingly popular trend among growing numbers of young owners, while birthdays and other themed parties for their four-legged family members are equally extravagant affairs.

The sales volume of pet-related products and services in China was around 4 billion yuan ($640 million) at the end of last year.

It comes as no surprise, then, that bakery services for pets are in high demand.

Song Yu, the owner of Paopao Pet Bakery in Beijing, reportedly the first pet cake maker in China, said: "I was inspired by making food for my two dogs, who enjoy eating all the meals I prepare for them."

She added that homemade cakes and cookies without sugar, salt or preservatives are much healthier treats for canine friends.

The cookies cost 4.8 yuan (77 cents) per 50 grams, while cakes are priced from 100 to 200 yuan. Song added that she and her team have to constantly innovate and come up with new products.

Owners are always eager to try something new and unique, while dogs quickly lose their appetite if they are always fed the same old flavors.

Healthy food

Every dog has its day for dinner

In Song's online store, dog food containing purple sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, sesame seeds and spinach have become bestsellers, as they are regarded as good for dogs' health.

"Owners are willing to pay more for the sake of their dogs' health," said Song, sounding very optimistic about her business, given that one in 10 Chinese in urban areas raise a dog.

Guo Lili, 28, from Fujian province, decided to quit her job last year and train to become a pet nutritionist.

"I was keen to provide nutritious and tasty food for all pets so I spent a long time studying how to make cakes, cookies and other dry pet food to keep them healthy and happy," said Guo, who runs an online store selling dog food.

She added that it was essential to obtain certain knowledge to produce healthy food at reasonable prices.

In order to let her dogs enjoy their lives, Guo celebrates their birthdays by making delicious and healthy cakes.

In addition, she makes mooncakes, glutinous dumplings and rice dumplings during Chinese festivals such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Lantern Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival.

The rice dumplings she makes for dogs contain duck meat, rice, red carrots and Mozzarella cheese.

Birthday cake is the hottest item in Guo's shop, with dozens sold daily, helping her to realize a monthly sales volume of 40,000 yuan.

"Pets are our family members, and their birthdays are celebrated annually to let them feel like they are living in a warm family," said Guo.

Song, who is the mother of a 3-month-old boy, and the owner of a 9-year-old Labrador and a 6-year-old poodle, treats her son and two dogs like equals.

"I celebrated my dogs' birthdays and other festivals before giving birth to my son," said Song.

Huge pet market

The pet-related market in China is expanding rapidly as many owners such as Guo treat pets more like members of the family.

Beijing and Shanghai are the two major cities in China with relatively mature pet-related consumption markets. There are around 3,500 pet stores in Beijing and more than 2,000 in Shanghai.

"Since 2008, the annual growth of the domestic market for pet supplies has doubled every year due to improved living standards," said Zhang Songting, sales manager of DoggyMan Trading (Shanghai) Co Ltd, a Japanese pet supplies company

"Our main office in Japan has a series of new pet products to suit the China market every year."

The pet market is flourishing as more people raise pets and buy pet products. Indeed, pet healthcare products and accessories have become big business.

Liang Yu, 28, from Shanghai, said that she spends around 2,000 yuan each month on her pet dog, a 3-year-old Yorkshire Terrier.

Liang, who takes her dog to a pet spa every week, and also buys clothes and accessories for the animal, said she wanted to do all she can to make the life of her canine "daughter" as pleasant as possible.

Cashing in on the deep affection many owners display toward their pets, Xu Jiaping, the owner of an online store selling pets' clothes and accessories, sends out hundreds of parcels to her mostly female customers all over the country.

Xu said that more high-income owners are willing to spend large amounts of money to beautify their pets although it is not essential to dress up pets with clothes and accessories to keep them warm.

Apart from dressing their pets in beautiful clothes and feeding them fancy food to cheer them up, there are more humanlike services available to brighten up the pets' lives.

"We offer regular grooming services for all sizes of pets including bathing, spas, trimming, pedicures and hairstyle design priced from 150 yuan per time, which has been extremely popular in the past three years," said the manager of the pet grooming department of Naughty Family, a Taiwan-founded company offering specialized clinic and grooming services for pets in Shanghai.

She added that dyeing pets' hair with bright colors and getting their hair styled are the company's top two services.

However, animal experts suggest owners shouldn't treat their pets too much like human beings.

"With the total value of the pet market in China being expected to exceed 20 billion yuan in 2012, more middle-class families and individuals chose to release their pressure from work and life by raising pets," said Zhang Yi, an expert on small animals, and the former deputy director of Shanghai Small Animal Protection Association.

"However, spending too much time and money on pets by dressing them or giving them frequent haircuts may harm the health of the animals," said Zhang.

Zhang added that it's good to see more people loving pets, but it's essential for them to remember that they should never make pets do what people enjoy.

Contact the writer at yuran@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 01/02/2013 page9)