Shanghai restaurant caters to pampered pets with gourmet dog's dinners

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Hengheng's friends could tell he was enjoying his birthday party in the pricey, health-conscious restaurant in downtown Shanghai by the way he licked his food off the plate.

A one-year-old Border Collie sitting in a buggy and wearing a cupcake hat, Hengheng was the only one at the table enjoying the carefully prepared, elaborately plated food which at the Cat and Dog Club is for pets only.

"If my dog is happy then I am happy. My dog is just like my child," said Tiffany Wang, Hengheng's owner, one of six people celebrating the birthday by clapping and taking pictures of the dog and his paw-shaped cake.

"I can see from his reaction and the way he was eating everything so fast that he was actually really happy."

China's pet economy was worth 493.6 billion yuan ($69 billion) last year, a 25 per cent increase on the previous year, according to data from research firm iiMedia Research. It is expected to reach 811.4 billion yuan by 2025.

Part of this growth is attributed to smaller family sizes in China - the country recorded its lowest birth rate on record last year.

A growing number of people are also living alone, with state media publishing data last year showing China has 125 million one-person households, increasing the importance of animal companions.

The Cat and Dog Club, which opened in 2021 to cater to a growing army of pet lovers, serves an extensive menu to its animal customers with an average meal costing around 90 yuan ($12.52).

"We don't put any sugar, oil, or additives and it's very fresh to meet our standards," said manager Ma Tao. "It's also fine for people to eat, but it doesn't have a lot of flavour."

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