Raising virtual cats has become a trend among young Chinese people, especially single men and women living by themselves in major Chinese cities. The phenomenon, known as “raising cloud cats,” began with cat owners sharing photos and videos of their pets on social media to amass a huge following.
“People of different age groups are into raising cats now. Most of them are in their thirties or forties, but now people born after the 90s are also catching up,” said Cai Jie, a cat owner.
The number of pet cats and dogs in China has hit 87.5 million as of the end of 2017, and this figure is likely to increase by 40 percent in the next three years, according to the White Paper on Pet Industry in China 2017. This means that among every ten people, one would be a pet owner.
Owning cats is an absolute dream for cat lovers, but how about those who cannot afford to have cats, either because they work 24/7, or their living conditions do not allow them to have cats themselves? For those people, the next best choice would be raising cats on the Internet. Chen Xiaodan is one of those cat lovers, and in her life, cats are everywhere, but none of them is actually real.
“I’m not a local, and I move a lot. Sometimes I change jobs, so I don’t think I have the time to take care of a cat,” said Chen.
Chen spends much of her time reading books, and one of her favorites is “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe. She also spends time, as she puts it, “raising” her cats online.
“To put it simply, raising ‘cloud cats’ is about watching videos and looking at pictures of cats on the Internet. And you can also feed cats on some apps every day. It feels good to look at those adorable fur balls. I’m happy to see those cats even though I don’t have a cat of my own,” said Chen.
“The very reason why people want pets is so they can get close to their pets. You feel a lot better by patting them if you are unhappy. However, simply looking at those cats on your mobile phone isn’t the same as having a real cat,” refuted Cai.