TOKYO -- Feline fever is spreading across Asia, with more condominium dwellers taking cats into their homes. Companies marketing pet products and services are cashing in.
A 29-year-old woman in Hangzhou, about 180km southwest of Shanghai, typifies the trend. She says just looking at a photo of her two cats on her smartphone helps her relax when she feels stress from her work. She started keeping cats a year and a half ago at the condominium where she lives with her family.
The woman chose cats because they are easy to take care of, requiring only food, water and toys. She spends about 300 yuan ($46.83) a month on cat toys. Many of her colleagues and friends are also cat lovers.
U.K. market research company Euromonitor International forecasts that sales of cat food in China will reach $1.8 billion by 2022, overtaking Japan, where the cat craze took off first.
Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba Group Holding said feline-related sales came to 8.4 billion yuan at its online shopping site Taobao in 2017. The top selling product was a grooming glove. Cat fans in China are mostly young people who were born in the 1980s and '90s, and live in urban areas, a company spokesman said.
Lee Chi-woong, senior economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, said wealthy Chinese urbanites are keeping pets for companionship.
Cats are becoming more popular as people in Asia move into cities and grow wealthier. According to United Nations estimates, some 2.1 billion people lived in Asia's cities in 2015, double the figure in 1990. The urbanization rate in Asia has reached 48%.
A representative of Murni Ekspo, which organized a "cat expo" last autumn in Malaysia, said cats make ideal pets in Southeast Asia's hot, humid climate because they can stay in air-conditioned homes.
Companies marketing feline-related products and services set up booths at the three-day event, attracting 20,000 visitors. A Murni Ekspo representative said it was the first event of its kind in Malaysia and that the company will hold others this year and beyond.
Japanese pet product companies see growth opportunities in Asia as well. Inaba Petfood now does business in China and Thailand, where the company has been manufacturing for the Japanese market. The company also plans to expand in other Southeast Asian countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
Noafamily, based in the western Japanese city of Matsuyama, designs and sells cat products. In 2017, it opened franchise stores in Taiwan and it plans to increase the number of shops on the island to 10 by the end of this year.