• January 16, 2023

People’s attitudes towards Korean cats have changed

A residential area in the Gehuadong area of Jiangcheng District in the west of Seoul looks like an ordinary community. There are low brick houses everywhere, but an alley is full of people queuing to visit a two-story house, which has a cafe called Cat Garden.
This spacious caf é claims to be the country’s first open-air cat caf é, with 111 cats. Cats are scattered everywhere in the two-story building and the spacious front yard. Some cats approach visitors and rub with them, which is a gesture of love.
Han Yeon-ji, in her twenties, was one of the visitors. There are two cats in her family, but she went to the coffee shop to meet other cats.
“Cats are strange, which makes them very attractive and cute. I can forget all my worries as long as I look at them,” Han said.
From top to bottom: a photo from the photo book “Cat, the magic of my life”; A still photo of Muji from YouTube Cat Channel; Stills from the local film Hello My Cat (2019); Stills from the local film “Journey of the Twelve Cats” (2019); Cat Cafe Cat Garden is located in Jiangcheng District, west of Seoul. [KRISTINA MAKEEVA, screenshot, three photos, coconut 9, park SEO-YOUNG]
Park Seo-young, the owner of the cafe, is busy serving more than 100 customers. Two years ago, she transformed her father’s holiday house into a paradise for cats, hoping to “create a place where humans and cats can coexist”
She added: “In the peak season, I have nearly 500 customers (every day). They feel very comfortable as long as they touch the cat.”.
Until ten years ago, cats were mostly despised in South Korea. Stray cats are even called “stealing cats” because they tear open plastic bags to get food scraps in and run around the street. Many stray cats were killed because of crying in the middle of the night.
But in recent years, the cat has become a popular animal, bringing peace to many people.
Social media is full of cute pictures of cats. There are hundreds of accounts on Twitter and Instagram dedicated to sharing pictures and videos of cats, with millions of fans.
A hybrid cat nicknamed “grumpy cat” enjoys superstar status online and has more than 10 million fans on social media.
Before the cat died of complications of urinary tract infection last year, it had worked as a model for its owner’s company and even participated in various commercial projects.
The popularity of cats online is likely to lead to the rise of pet cats in South Korea.
According to a report released by the Korea Rural Economy Research Institute in 2017, the number of pet cats in South Korea is about 2.43 million. Although there are more and more families with dogs, the number of families with cats is growing at a faster rate.
Another report released by the Seoul Municipal Government in 2018 said that compared with the 2014 report, the number of households with dogs decreased by 4%, while the number of households with cats increased by 3.6% in the same period.
The report also asked people about their satisfaction with pets. People who have cats show higher satisfaction than people who have dogs.

spend money like water
With the increasing demand for cats, some breeds have proved to be more popular than others.
The most popular variety in Korea is rag doll. This cat appeared in several popular dramas, including TVN’s “Because This Is My First Life” (2017) and SBS’s “Don’t Dream” (2016).
The cat’s fur is thick and luxuriant, and the price is as high as 7 million won (6000 dollars). The other two varieties, Scottish pleat and Munchkin, may cost between 1 million and 2 million won.
“If a variety becomes particularly popular, the price will rise because people ask it to obtain more qualifications,” said Zhang Hwang-yong, the owner of Cherry Cat Pet Shop near Nong Hyun Dong, Jiangnan District, South Seoul.
He added: “Two or three years ago, the price of rag dolls once exceeded 10 million won, but then the price fell.”.
The market of cat products is also expanding. According to the data of Auction, the local online retailer, the total sales of dog products in 2018 increased by 11% over the previous year, while the sales of cat products increased by 24% over the same period.
The growth of the market can also be seen in some cat owners’ markets that began to appear in 2017. These markets have hand-made snacks, cat furniture and automatic cat litter boxes that monitor the health of cats through their excreta. Cat owners who visit these large fairs think that their pets are part of their families, and they are willing to spend a lot of money on the products they buy.

Cat tracker
Some people have found a niche market in the booming cat industry. They call themselves cat detectives. They try to track down and find the escaped cat.
This job was recently introduced as a promising job in the JTBC2 TV program “Hogu’s Chart”
Detectives use high-tech equipment such as thermal imaging and endoscope to find the missing cat.
In South Korea, there are about 20 cat detectives working, while in Japan, cat detectives are more organized. They work in the form of enterprise-scale groups.
Some local communities have also joined this trend, trying to position themselves as cat friendly communities to attract more traffic to the area.
Last April, the first cat festival was held in Seonyu Village near Seonyudo Station, Yongdengpu District, western Seoul.
A cat shop named Seonyudo cat is one of the few organizers of the festival, and there are some young artists who have settled near Seonyu village. All expenses of the film festival are paid through crowdfunding.
Artists and business owners know that this area has long been known as “Cat Mountain”, which led to the idea of holding a cat festival in their community.
A walkway called Cat Road was created in the Greater Hanye area of Chung Road District in Seoul. This course was opened after Mural village in Ihwa Cave in the same area.
Walking along Cat Road, tourists can find a high-end bookstore full of cat books, a cat shop operated by an illustrator who only paints cats, and a painting cafe where people can draw their own cats.
Many young artists also seek inspiration from cats.
In the artistic world of illustrator Yi Seum Seum, cats have become all kinds of people, from young women wearing traditional Korean clothing to medieval princesses wearing large and elastic dresses.
“I spent a lot of time with cats, so I tried to integrate my experience into my paintings,” Yi said. The illustrator has kept cats for 17 years.
Another illustrator, nicknamed Nang Nang, runs her own cat shop in Hanye. She has no cats in her family because her parents are allergic to cats. Nevertheless, she introduced herself as an “online cat butler” because she likes to watch videos and collect pictures of cats online.
Some local cat owners call themselves housekeepers because they believe they serve cats.
“When I was feeding stray cats, I joined a charity project (through painting cats) and got good feedback. That’s why I started painting cats,” she added.
Cats in books, movies and networks
According to Kyodo Bookstore, the largest chain bookstore in Japan, 578 books about cats have been published in the past three years. These books include Bernard Werber’s “Main les Chats” and Haruki Murakami’s “The Secret of the Old Cat”
Books about cats cover all types, from novels to essays to art history.
The first local cat film festival was held in 2018. Last year, two feature films featuring cats were released in local cinemas.
Cats used to be supporting role on the screen, but now they occupy the center of the stage.
EBS TV program “Take care of my cat” was launched in 2018 and has entered the fourth quarter. In the program, a cat expert gave advice on how to train and take care of pet cats.
The cable TV channel tvN began to broadcast a cat-themed documentary “Decoding Meow” this month.

Cat Boom, explained
The popularity of cats is usually attributed to the fact that they need less attention and care than dogs, but many others said that social media and other Internet platforms play a key role in promoting the positive image of cats to people who may not have considered keeping their own pets.
YouTube said that from January to July 2018, the viewing volume of cat video increased by 77% over the previous year.
According to a study published by the professor of the School of Media at Indiana University in 2015, in 2014 alone, 2 million cat videos were uploaded to YouTube. In that year alone, cat videos attracted 26 trillion views.
Jessica Myrick, a professor at Indiana University, published a 2015 study and found that watching a cat video helps people overcome negative emotions such as anxiety, depression and sadness.
Cho Ji-seon, from the Institute of Human Behavior at Yonsei University, said: “Cats used to be considered unfriendly animals, but their lovely videos highlight the other side of their personalities.
She added: “Humans cannot resist cute little images such as babies. Cats have the same attraction.”.
The social changes from extended families to single families are also related to the sharp increase in the number of cats in the country.
A survey conducted by the Seoul Municipal Government in 2019 found that people living in one-person or monthly rental families preferred cats. On the contrary, all families have dogs.
“Single women tend to adopt cats, probably because they need less care than dogs,” said Jang of Cherry Cat, a pet shop.
The transformation of social values is also attributed to the current enthusiasm for cats.
The author of “The Secret of Cat Ecology” and Japanese professor Akihiro Yamauchi wrote in the book that compared with the past, people are more personalized. Compared with dogs loyal to their owners, they are attracted to cats because of their independence and freedom.