Urban consumer spending on cats and dogs could surge 18.5% to 202.4 billion yuan (US$28.8 billion) this year, according to a white paper from Pet Fair Asia and pet-themed social networking site Goumin, Yicai Global reported.

The number of domestic dogs and cats is set to reach about 99.2 million this year, up 7.7 million from 2018, the pair predict.

There will be about 55 million dogs making up 124.4 billion yuan of the total spending, increases of 8.2% and 17.8% from last year, they added. The number of cats is on track to rise 8.6% to over 44 million, with consumers spending 78 billion yuan on them, an annual rise of 19.6%.

Annual expenditure on a single pet will tally 5,561 yuan (US$790) on average, up 10.9% from last year. Owners will spend more on dogs, about 6,082 yuan throughout the year on average, compared with 4,755 yuan on cats. Most of the spending will come from Shanghai — about 19.7 billion yuan.

According to China Daily, the high degree of urbanization and people’s rising incomes are the main reasons why pet raising has become so popular.

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Chengdu are the top cities where pet raising is most popular. The fact that the residents of these first-and second-tier cities have comparatively high dispensable incomes has played a critical role in popularizing pets.

National Bureau of Statistics data show the compound growth rate of China’s pet industry was 49.1% from 2010 to 2016, the highest among all industries.

The rising popularity of pet raising has also promoted other forms of businesses, China Daily reported. For years, pets, especially dogs and cats, have been used as IP characters in many countries, fuelling the growth of a new kind of “new media economy” in China in recent years.

A study on “cat economy” by Tencent Research Institute shows the image of a “cute” cat draws increasingly high online attention and helps cultivate new commercial models.

Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, has become an important platform of “cloud cat-raising,” which refers to the phenomenon of netizens watching photographs or videos of cats for entertainment.

Also, according to recent stats, more than 85% of the dog and cat owners are women, and half of them have a bachelor’s or higher degree. And the majority of the pet owners belong to the post-1980 or post-1990 generations, which shows their strong consumption capacity.