But I have tried!!
Since Sean and I have been married (not even 2 years) we have fostered, fed, and cared for at least 4 different cats. I seem to be a magnet for them and I am not at all mad. I grew up with tons of pets and I never feel quite right if I don’t have an animal of some sort in the house.
When we moved to Shenyang and entrusted our sweet ratty girls, Jane and Bronte, to our friend Emily, I thought we would probably spend the next 15 months pet-less. But after being here for 2 months I began to realize a pet was exactly what I needed. (I think the first clue was when I stopped to have a conversation with a street cat outside a store and all the Chinese people stared at me with wonder/maybe fear.)
I did some research on buying pets in China and found that it is very different compared to how we do it in America, at least here in Shenyang anyway. There are no PetsMarts or Shelters that I could find. Private breeders had plenty of kittens, but they were all far above our cat budget. Some information from friends and an older Shenyang expat blog told me of the existence of a Pet Market somewhere on the outskirts of town. I had read that this was a sad place to go for foreigners and that there would be lots of cages full of animals in less than ideal conditions, but I decided to go anyway.
I was mostly using it as a bravery exercise. Seeng if I could handle finding a new location alone and unaided. Although if I happened to find a cat, that would be an added bonus.
I began my day with a stop at 中山公园 or Zhong Shan Gong Yuan (Middle Mountain Park). It is currently my favorite spot in Shenyang and is also close to the Fish and Flower Market. I took the metro to Taiyuan Station and walked through the park to the market. The smell and sight of the flowers is amazing, but sadly there were no kitties to be had. (However, if you’re in the market for a bunny, hamster, turtle, fish, or gecko – that’s the place!)
After a quick nai cha (奶茶/Milk Tea) break, I was back on the hunt and feeling fairly confident. I got back on the metro and went out the farthest I have gone so far to Zhonggong Jie Station (重工街/Basically “heavy industry street”) . I had the address of the Pet Market and tried getting a taxi, but was turned down twice. I still have no idea what they said to me, but it was a no. Undaunted, I knew that the market was just a little ways to the north and since I had come so far I thought I might try walking. I walked north for quite awhile. Some women walking their dogs (pet people obi) told me to just keep walking. Eventually, another taxi came along and this time was more than willing to oblige. We sped up Zhonggong Jie and I counted the money I had with me. A little over ¥500 ($75). I hoped that would be enough if I ended up finding a kitten!
My taxi driver dropped me off and I immediately knew I was in the right place. Besides the giant dog statues guarding the entrance, I could hear plenty of barking. I had arrived at Chongwu ShiChang! (宠物市场/Pet Market)
It was late in the day when I arrived and I started to worry that everything was closed down. However, I noticed some people in a shop filled with cats and decided to take the plunge. Inside there were large cages and the inhabitants were not your typical house cat. Hairless, squishy faced, and other odd varieties all peeked out at me from their (thankfully) well-kept cages. I managed to communicate that I was there to buy a kitten and started asking how much. A woman took me to the shop next door and showed me some adorable kittens that were still nursing. It seemed too early to take them from their mommy, but I asked how much anyway. ¥2,500! Yikes. I made my first attempt at haggling by offering her the ¥500 I had with me, but I was met with a laugh and had the kitten snatched from me before I knew what was what. Embarrassed, I wandered out and into the next shop. This shop was more fancy (think hipster coffee shop covered in succulents) and again filled with strange breeds of cats. I was beginning to feel panic well up at my lack of funds and language abilities and almost turned to run out when I saw a man crouched by one of the cages. I couldn’t tell for sure, but he looked to be European/N. American and for some unknown reason I bolted in his direction. (Read in a mouse sized voice) “Excuse me, sir. Do you speak English?”
Luckily for me, he was German but happens to speak German, Mandarin, and English! (Yay for Europe and their excellent bilingual education systems!) He and his girlfriend were there buying a cat as well and after I explained my goal they immediately took me under their wings. Thus, our cat guild was formed and we began our quest (this time on the less expensive side of the street).
I followed my new friends around and listened as they haggled and asked questions about various kittens. I made my first market mistake by showing a keen interest in a Garfield look-alike at one shop. Note to buyers: Nose booping and snuggles increase the price by 90%!!!
At the next shop there was a cage of three moppy looking grey kittens. I immediately zeroed in on one particularly fuzzy face. However, remembering my mistake from last time I merely glanced his way with a “meh” kind of expression. (Easily one of the hardest things I have ever done. He was so cute!)
My guild mates did their best job haggling over said floofball. The sacred rules of kitten buying are as follows:
- Girls are more expensive
- Short haired cats are more expensive
- Lighter colored cats are more expensive
I guess it was financial fate that I fell in love with a male, long-haired, dark grey kitten. His price was right and with a face like this it was an easy yes.
The owner brought out some food, litter, and a tiny box. It was smaller than a shoebox but the baby kitty fit right inside. I held it close to my chest as we stepped out into the snow. After a generous ride to the metro from my new friends and fellow cat questers, I managed to sneak the kitty past metro security. (Disclaimer: there is a sign that says no dogs soo it was probably ok, but I felt super sneaky anyways.) On the metro, I sat down next to an old woman and her granddaughter. Though the kitty was quiet, they eventually got curious about why I kept peeking inside the box. Their whole little family gathered around and ohh and ahh’ed over the tiny kitty riding the metro.
We made it home and I introduced our new friend to Sean. It was instant love for him too and we spent the whole night fawning over his fluffy face. It took a couple days and about 200 people from the Harry Potter fan page The Room of Requirement to settle on a name. Eventually, we chose Hagrid. The lovable, hairy, half-giant from our favorite book series seemed a perfect fit for this lion-headed fluff beast.
And so a new Lovellette joined the clan. Though he has yet met his ratty sisters, we can only assume from this evidence that they will be very close. (Click for adorable video!)
Stay tuned for more adventures featuring Hagrid in China as we work on potty training, leash walking, and backpack adventuring! I mean come on, he NEEDS this.
Instagram: @cheycheylovelove #HagridinShenyang