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Cats and creative products with images of the animals have become increasingly popular with single people in China.
They include a limited-edition cat"s paw mug released this spring by coffee giant Starbucks, which has been hard-to-find for Chinese customers.
Priced at 199 yuan ($30), the double-glass mug contains an inner pink cup, which is shaped like a cat"s paw and can be seen when liquid is poured in.
Since it was launched in Starbucks stores on Feb 26, the cup has sold out quickly. The company then placed thousands of the cups for sale online, and they were snapped up in just a few seconds each time they were released.
Yang Jianhua, director of the Zhejiang Sociology Association, said raising cats is a lifestyle for Chinese, especially for singles who live away from their hometowns to work in big cities.
"The cats are mind-healers and can satisfy singles" psychological demands," he said. "After a day of tension and intensive work, communicating with cats can effectively help reduce their stress."
There were 73.55 million pet owners in urban areas of the country last year, raising a total of 91.49 million cats and dogs. The market for these animals exceeded 170 billion yuan, up by 27 percent year-on-year, according to a report on the country"s pet industry by goumin.com, a social platform for pet owners.
The cat economy has risen quickly to become one of the pet industry"s main growth drivers. Some 22.6 million cat owners in China spent 4,311 yuan on average on their pets last year. About 75 percent of these owners were born in the 1980s and the "90s, and are mostly single white-collar workers and students, the report said.
Huang Mengjing, 26, from Wenzhou city, Zhejiang province, said she fell in love with cats several years ago when she was studying in Europe, where many people kept them. She was able to visit museums and collect posters related to the animals.
She now owns an 8-month-old Dragon-Li, a Chinese breed of domestic cat, which she has had for six months.
"Cats are silent and clever, and are the perfect companions for singles. I enjoy bonding with her and the pleasure she brings me. Every day when I come home after work, she jumps into my arms, which makes me feel warm and less stressed."
Huang said she usually spends about 200 to 300 yuan on her cat every month for food, daily necessities, toys and grooming. Last month, she took her pet to be spayed, which cost her 1,000 yuan.
Tang Chuan, a researcher with Sinolink Securities, said pets have become important for singles. Many young people like taking pictures and videos of their cats and sharing them online. Some cats even become celebrities, and their social media accounts have a large number of followers.
A report by the Tencent Research Institute said that about 50 million people in China are "addicted" to cats, of which a large number do not own one, but watch pictures and videos of the animals that others share online.
The cat industry has a wide range of products related to the animals, including food, clothes, cosmetics and insurance. Images of cats also appear in various kinds of creative works. Restaurants featuring cats, where people can dine with them at their side, have become popular.
George Ren, a senior partner with global consultancy Roland Berger, said that as the number of singles is rising, driven by economic development and a trend toward later marriage in China, the pet industry will benefit the most from the demographic shift.
Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show there were about 215 million single people in the country by the end of 2017.
"Singles, who don"t have a family or children, will seek companionship from raising pets, which is a trend that developed countries have experienced and one that China is seeing now," he said.supreme bracelet siliconerubber wristbands customwhat are those rubber band bracelets calledwhite rubber wristbandsmake your own wristband