"Naiyou, mommy is going to work. Stay at home and be good," Li Wangwei said to her 4-year-old longhair cat. "I know you are lonely at home, but if mommy doesn't have a job, you won't have any fresh salmon and cat snacks." Li kissed Naiyou's forehead. The cat looked at his "mommy," wagging his mop-like tail.
Naiyou dines regularly on Fromm, an American brand of cat food made of duck and sweet potato that costs 410 yuan ($65.80) for 6.8 kilograms, but the cat also enjoys special dinners that Li cooks for him from time to time. "Felines are carnivorous animals, so I cook chicken breast and salmon. Both contain high protein and less fat for Naiyou," said Li, 28, an editor at a fashion magazine.
Her boyfriend Zhu Zheng wasn't entirely comfortable with Li's attitude when they adopted Naiyou three years ago. "He is a cat! A totally different species from us!" he recalled. "I remember feeling gooseflesh rise from the tips of my toes to the top of my head when I heard Li call herself the cat's 'mom.'"
But Zhu was the one who bought a fountain-like water dish last November for their pet. "The water is healthier for Naiyou to drink since the container has filters inside. Plus, the cat will have fun when drinking."
The cat sleeps in the same bed as the couple. In the summertime, they like to treat him to a combination of watermelon and ice cream. "But not chocolate-flavored ice cream," said Li. "That would be fatal because it contains a substance that would damage his red blood cells."
Daniu, a tiny 5-year-old toy poodle, is treated like a baby girl by her "mom" Chen Yizheng. Chen adores the dog's mild temper and the affection she so readily offers.
Chen admits that Daniu is spoiled. "She has several outfits: down coats, skirts, T-shirts, a cloak and so on," Chen said. "She doesn't sleep with me in my bed; she has her own costly pink princess-style bed decorated with chiffon ribbons."
And now that Daniu is pregnant, she gets even more special treatment. Chen bought her "daughter" a stroller one month ago to keep her off her feet. "My boyfriend and I took her to have an ultrasound. There will be three puppies, which means that we will soon have three more 'kids.'"
The stroller cost Chen 850 yuan. After Daniu gives birth to the puppies next week, Chen plans to continue using it to transport Daniu. "It is convenient. We can enter hotels and restaurants without worrying about disturbing other people," she said. "And her feet will stay clean."
Whenever she needs to travel, Chen is extremely particular about who can take care of Daniu. Instead of choosing a local veterinary hospital, she always boards her dog in an international kennel, which costs her 80 yuan per day. "I ask the nurses to take pictures of Daniu twice a day so that I can ensure she is happy."
Asked why she has invested so much in taking care of Daniu, Chen touched her chin and tilted her head as she thought for a while. "It may be maternal instinct. I have been away from home since I was 18. When I am alone, I think Daniu's innocence and friendliness are pretty comforting."
Xiao Yun, a veterinarian at Baiziwan Animal Hospital, said that the phenomenon of people treating pets as their kids is quite common, especially in China's metropolitan areas. "Everybody's feeling a lot of pressure. Although I personally consider some behaviors - such as putting pets in strollers - to be excessive, it's at least far better than pet abuse, which happens everywhere in China."