I've grown up with pets my whole life. I got my first cat when I was 4 years old and it was game over after that. Moving to China, I left my two cats and dog with my mom, and for the first time in my life, I was without pets. But that didn't last long. Certain circumstances arose and I was suddenly the owner of a 3-month old tabby cat, named Carrot. While I am overjoyed to have him in my life, there are lots of thing to consider when choosing a pet in China: what kind of pet do I get? Where do I find a pet? What do I need to buy? Owning a pet in a different country is an entirely new experience and while I'm no expert, I would like to share some of my experience with you.
A: My biggest advice to those looking for a new furry companion is do NOT buy from a pet market or pet shop. I cannot emphasize this enough! While taking a stroll through a pet market, it's hard not to be tempted by those cute furry faces looking up at you. However, you should avoid the pet markets at all costs. These animals are poorly bred and often have health problems that will, at best, result in heavy vet bills and, at worst, you losing your new friend in the following weeks. Similarly, that pet store with the beautiful purebred puppies playing around in cages is just as bad. The animal group I'm apart of on WeChat has horror story after horror story about puppies being thrown away from breeders because they're sickly. Purchasing animals from these places continues to support these practices. In my opinion, the best frame of action is to adopt or foster your new family member from an independent animal rescue such as Humane Shanghai (Wechat: HumaneShanghai) and Furry Friends (Wechat:RoseXuQi). There are hundreds of animals in Shanghai that need homes and I promise, you can find an animal that will fit right in with your lifestyle.
A: You've decided you can't live without a pet, now you need to narrow down what kind of animal you're bringing into your home, and, honestly, the sky's the limit. In Shanghai, I've seen cats, dogs, turtles, fish, guinea pigs, and snakes all looking to find a new home. Similarly, Shanghai has special restrictions on dogs such as size and breed. Much of these restrictions don't seem to be regularly enforced but legally these dogs can be seized, so make sure to do your research before choosing your four-legged friend.
First thing you should do is check with your landlord to make sure you're actually allowed to have a pet as some apartments have special requirements or forbid them completely. Similarly, when the end of your year-long contract rolls around (if you're not staying) you need to decide what you're going to do with your pet. If you're fostering a pet be prepared to find it a home when you leave or if you can't live without them, you need to figure out the logistics of flying your pet back home.
A: It's no surprise that owning a pet can be expensive. Make sure you purchase what you need before you get your animal. My personal tip, TaoBao is your best friend. I purchased a bag of litter in a pet store for 50 RMB (7.50 USD) and then got a bag twice its size for 20 RMB (3 USD) online. Going to the vet here is as expensive if not more when it comes to going in for a checkup, however I have heard of some places offering discounts. You can avoid some of these expenses also through TaoBao. For example, you can purchase things such as heartworm meds, defleaing meds and more. I personally purchased ear cleaning solution as my kitten still had ear mites from his days as a street kitty. Owning any animal is expensive, however through outlets such as TaoBao, it can be manageable.
While most of what I've written sounds like I'm trying to deter you away from animal care I hope, instead, that I'm helping you make an informed decision. I am extremely happy with my kitten Carrot and while I didn't set out to find him it is nice having his cute little face greeting me with a meow every day when I come back from work, and a world class snuggler to share my bed with.