Hello, my name is Munchkin. I am looking for the purr-fect partner
On Chinese Valentine's Day this week, more than the lovelorn are hoping for matchmaking magic. Pet owners, too, are out looking for breeding mates.
China's version of Valentine's Day, the Qixi Festival, falls on August 22 this year, and the place to go in Shanghai for pet matchmaking is People's Park. Long known for its matchmaking corner for humans, the park has become a gathering point for pet owners.
Like parents desperate about the marriage prospects of children, pet owner are appearing at the park with handwritten boards or ground posters bearing basic information about pets they want to mate.
A news video of the event on Jiuzhi News has been viewed a million times on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
The partners for pets effort has evoked its own humorous moments.
"My mother said that either my cat or I must find a partner," one pet owner joked in the video.
People's Park in city center is an icon in Shanghai's history. It opened in October 1952 at the former site of the city's famous racecourse.
In the 1970s-80s, amid a lack of entertainment facilities, the park became a popular rendezvous for young lovers to date. In the early 2000s, it evolved into a matchmaking site, where parents gathered on weekends seeking partners for their children.
Finding partners for pets is a trend among the younger generation. There are more than 20,000 posts with tags related to "pet matchmaking" on lifestyle-sharing platform Xiaohongshu.
Harley Gu, 26, posted on Xiaohongshu that she is looking for a female cat to bear a litter for her male pet Munchkin.
"I won't buy him a 'wife' and I won't sell their 'children' if they mate," the post reads. "I'll just share them."
She told Shanghai Daily previous efforts to find a mate for her cat on WeChat Moments have failed, citing among other reasons, that most of her friends have had their female cats spayed.
A white paper on China's pet industry in 2019 estimated there were nearly 100 million pet cats and dogs in the country.
According to the report, issued by Beijing-based Pet'em Data Research Institute, more than 70 percent of pet owners are interested in breeding their pets, but only about 8 percent have succeeded.
In October 2019, the online second-hand market Xianyu reported that mating partners for more than 160,000 pets had been found on the platform, with more than 88,000 pets still lovelorn. The ratio of cats to dogs on the site is 9-to-1.
Beijing ranked first in numbers of pet matchmaking cases, followed by the cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu.
The Pet'em report said breed, fur color, body shape, personality and the locations of owners are the biggest factors in pet dating.
Many breed their pets before having them neutered, according to the report.
Pet mating can be a form of socializing for owners.
"I have social phobia, but I can talk a lot when it comes to my cat," said a Weibo user.
Another netizen said she is looking for a man for herself who is also a cat lover.
According to Weng Zhitian, director of Pethouse Animal Hospital, keeping pets is a way for young people to relieve stress.
"It can enable people to meet others who share their interests," he said.
However, Shi Er, the owner of five cats, warned that owners should carefully check the health of mates chosen for breeding.
Gu said she thinks matchmaking might work better for dogs than for cats.
"Dogs can play together when they meet. Cats may fight," she said. "So, I think one-to-one dating is okay, but if several cats are involved, it could turn into a mess."