As the approaching Chinese New Year holiday heralds China's biggest annual human migration, the country's expanding pet population presents both opportunities and challenges for pet owners. Finding trustworthy care for their furry family members has become a holiday crunch, which has given rise to a trendy business.
In-home pet-sitting services have taken off as boarding facilities fill up quickly and many pet parents choose to spare their animals from needless travel stress. This growing home service is establishing itself as the solution of choice for the country's estimated 87 million pet-owning households over the Spring Festival and beyond.
In East China's Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province, a local resident, who preferred to be known only by her surname Gu, has offered pet-sitting services for over four years now.
Unlike four years ago when the service started to emerge, more and more people have joined the trade, according to Gu.
"We have an exchange group for in-home pet service in Hangzhou, more than 200 members," Gu said. "Some are locals in Hangzhou, and some choose to stay in Hangzhou for the New Year after failing to secure a ticket home."
"Spring Festival is our busiest time," Gu said. Last Spring Festival, she had 23 appointments a day during its peak. The workload was too much, she said. This year, she decided to accept fewer appointments. With a booked schedule of six to seven in-home appointments per day by far, she still expects to earn over 3,000 yuan ($417) over the eight-day break.
With a stressful memory of a 12-hour drive back to her hometown for the last Spring Festival, Chen, who has migrated to Hangzhou for work and keeps a cat, had considered boarding the cat at local pet stores but felt in-home visits a better solution. For just 90 yuan, Chen found a trustworthy neighborhood sitter, who would also help take care of other pets in the neighborhood.
While the service has become a booming business, many customers and service providers have cautioned against potential pitfalls such as unqualified or dishonest pet-sitters that might result in improper care of the furry pets or harm to the pet-sitters.
Communication beforehand on the pet's information and the pet-sitter's qualification is well recommended.