Hundreds of millions of people are traveling across China to reunite with their families during the Spring Festival. It's also the busiest time of the year for businesses looking after pets left behind.
For many, securing suitable temporary homes for their pets, which are now often considered family members, is just as difficult as getting a train ticket during the year's biggest festival.
"It's not easy to find a space big enough in the city that provides the right amount of space for my dog. So here in the suburbs might be better,” said a pet owner who did not give his name in Beijing.
But being in the suburbs can be even more costly than in the city. Zhou Tianxiao works at a foster home for dogs.
“Foster services are 200 yuan per day for a 5 to 6-square-meter room during the Spring Festival. The price doubles if the room size is doubled. Bookings are almost full.”
But the price is not the first concern of pet owners. They care more about whether the pets will stay comfortable and healthy.
Chen Jia is the owner of a dog and two cats. “The main expense is on food and snacks. On average it costs me about 2,000 yuan per month.”
She says it can even cost up to tens of thousands yuan for others. Consumers like Chen and her peers are creating huge business opportunities in China's pet care market.
China Pet Industry White Paper found that the market reached 170 billion yuan in 2018, an increase of 27 percent from a year earlier.
Owners are now prepared to spend lavishly on their pets. In 2018, pet owners spent an estimated 5,000 yuan per pet. That's up 15 percent from the previous year.
China's pet care market has rocketed in recent years, in line with the surging number of households that have pets.
Besides fostering, the industry has also seen the rise of more customized products and services for pets, like portrait studios, and medical and recreational services.
But new businesses also point out that government subsidies, high operational expenses and relatively low salaries are challenges in the industry.
However, as pets are more commonly seen as furry family members and the amount of money pet owners spend on them grows, it's believed the pet market will continue to boom.