Animal Pals


WHAT entails responsible pet ownership is being redefined all over the world, because of our increased recognition that animals are integral members of modern society and should be respected as such. Dogs and cats remain the most popular of household pets. Historically, it is unclear whether human beings adopted cats or cats adopted human beings. On the contrary, in the case of dogs, it is said that some canids have sought the company of humans since the beginning of civilization. The human need for companionship is also primitive and there is no doubt that affection, too, is a basic requirement of our species. Our own experiences can teach us how much we need the affection of others, but so far nobody has been able to find out the psychology of affection and to understand the reason for this need. Thus, human beings have sought company and affection since the remotest of times.


Man’s Best Friend?

“A dog is a man’s best friend” is a well-known phrase. However, anyone who has ever been bitten or felt threatened by a dog will perhaps realize that dogs are, in fact, their owner’s best friends. This demonstrates how strong the relationship with our animal friends really is; one can easily lose count of the many viral videos on the Internet that show heroic acts carried out by dogs, cats and other animals. Those awe-inspiring videos call into question some theories about whether animals can feel affection. We definitely think that they can. We’ve heard countless stories about dogs that guard their owners’ graves, or the joy of dogs reunited with their masters after a long absence, or cats that defend children facing danger from rogue animals. The Internet is full of these stories, which have been shared with the whole world.


The Patter of Paws

The huge increase in pet owners around the world has attracted the attention of the retail industry and encouraged the opening of pet clothing stores. Beijing is a pet-friendly city where the sight of people walking proudly down the street with their four-legged friends sporting the latest in doggy fashion is common. This highlights the responsibility, commitment and affection Chinese pet owners have for their furry companions. There are plenty of pet clothes on sale in specialist stores and boutiques, as well as markets and department stores. As a matter of fact, I have still never seen two identical pet outfits. Casual, vintage, popular, elegant… you can find whatever style you are looking for. Winter and autumn are the seasons in which you can notice the greatest variety of pet clothes and accessories available, whether they are practical items like shoes to protect pooches’ paws, or adornments that just look good. The high professionalism of pet stylists in Beijing is reflected in their original grooming styles. 


Coffee and Cake… and Cats

Cat lovers have an interesting way of killing time: going to cat cafés in Beijing. I’ve been to three of them, all located in the vicinity of the Lama Temple. They are welcoming and well-decorated places, really suitable for cats. The biggest one is called Mao De Ting Yuan (The Courtyard of Cats), a large three-floor coffee shop. A picture gallery on the ground floor displays the photos and names of its residents – numbering close to 40, they are the real hosts of the café – as well as fact sheets about our feline friends. Visitors can choose which cats they want as their drinking companions but, inevitably, more and more flock to their tables as soon as they sit down. Mao De Ting Yuan has an indoor play area where patrons can interact with more than one kitty at a time. The cats are friendly and polite, and they won’t make a mess of your dishes. They are even willing to join in with selfies. In fact, Mao De Ting Yuan’s cats are very professional and they do their job very well without losing their charm. Moreover, the place offers a wide menu and is reasonably priced.


Health and Wellness

It’s easy to make a rough guess at the large number of pets in Beijing – one only needs to look at the significant number of veterinary clinics that can be found in the city. It’s no exaggeration to say that there’s one every four to five blocks. Clinics are designed with the usual Chinese professionalism – pleasant decoration, comfortable waiting rooms and staff who speak more than one language. All the areas are clearly defined – reception, polyclinics, surgery, grooming, boutique, and toy shop. Laboratory analyses can be done on site. Furthermore, most of them have a 24-hour emergency service. Medical consultation is paid in accordance with each treatment or diagnosis, but pet medical services are, generally, not expensive in China. Other pet services abound on the Net: food, medicines, accessories – a huge variety and next-day delivery, of course.


Always by Our Side

I’ve seen great passion for pets in this city. Obviously, I have to mention the bird lovers of Beijing, who take their birds in cages for walks in parks and squares where everybody can enjoy their birdsong.

When we knew we would be moving to Beijing, my wife and I decided to bring Rita, our 5-year-old Siamese cat. You can guess at the amount of red tape involved in this process. We were very patient, but the hardest part was knowing that Rita would have to endure a two-day trip. I remember making our connection at Ezeiza International Airport, Buenos Aires, where we had to deal with some Department of Animal Health procedures. After receiving our documentation and inspecting our two full baggage carts (with Rita on top), the official automatically asked my wife, “Are you traveling with two animals?” I was obliged to clarify the misunderstanding and said, “No, no. I am her husband. We’re traveling with just one animal.” I’ve often asked myself why we went to such lengths to bring our cat to China from far away. Only affection can explain it, and Chinese people will understand this well. I usually say that those who say they don’t like cats have never owned one.