Taiwan is experiencing a pet boom as more people are adopting furry companions and fewer are having children. According to official estimates, there are now close to 3 million pets in Taiwan, surpassing the number of children aged 14 or younger. This trend reflects the changing demographics and lifestyles of Taiwan’s population, which faces a low birth rate, an aging society, and a growing demand for pet-friendly services.
Why are there more pets than children in Taiwan?
One of the main reasons for the pet boom is the low birth rate in Taiwan, which has been declining for years. In 2020, Taiwan recorded its lowest ever number of births, with only 165,249 babies born. This was a 6% drop from 2019 and a 15% drop from 2016. The total fertility rate, which measures the average number of children a woman would have in her lifetime, was only 1.06 in 2020, far below the replacement level of 2.1.
There are many factors that contribute to the low birth rate, such as social pressure against having children out of wedlock, short maternity leave periods, low wages, high living costs, and lack of affordable childcare. Many young people also prefer to focus on their careers or personal interests rather than starting a family.
On the other hand, more people are choosing to adopt pets as companions or substitutes for children. Pets offer emotional support, stress relief, and entertainment for their owners. They also require less commitment and responsibility than raising a child. According to a survey by the Council of Agriculture in 2019, 42% of pet owners in Taiwan said they treated their pets like family members.
How is Taiwan becoming more pet-friendly?
The growing number of pets in Taiwan has also led to an increase in pet-related businesses and services. Taipei, the capital city with a population of about 2.7 million people, had more than 120 pet-oriented hospitality businesses as of 2019. These include restaurants that offer “gourmet” pet menus with human-grade ingredients, hotels that provide pet beds and toys, and cafes that allow customers to interact with cats or dogs.
Taipei also introduced several “pet-friendly” bus lines in 2019, where animals just need to be on a leash, not in a carrier. The metro system also allows pets to be carried in carriers or strollers. In addition, there are many parks, trails, and beaches where pets can enjoy nature and exercise.
Some accessories traditionally associated with humans have also become more popular for pets in Taiwan. For instance, it is not uncommon to see a dog sporting a raincoat, sunglasses, or socks. Some owners even dress up their pets in costumes or outfits that match their own.
What are the challenges and benefits of having more pets than children?
The pet boom in Taiwan has both positive and negative implications for the society and the environment. On one hand, having more pets can improve the mental and physical health of their owners and create new opportunities for economic growth and innovation. On the other hand, having more pets can also pose challenges such as animal welfare issues, waste management problems, and potential conflicts with wildlife or other people.
According to some studies, owning a pet can have various benefits for human health and well-being. For example, pet owners may have lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and risk of heart disease than non-pet owners. Pet owners may also experience less loneliness, depression, and anxiety than non-pet owners. Pets can also provide social support and companionship for elderly people or people who live alone.
Moreover, having more pets can stimulate the development of new industries and markets related to pet products and services. According to a report by Euromonitor International in 2019, Taiwan’s pet care market was worth US$1.3 billion in 2018 and was expected to grow by 4% annually until 2023. The report also noted that Taiwan had one of the highest per capita spending on pet food in Asia-Pacific.
However, having more pets also comes with some challenges and responsibilities. One of them is ensuring the welfare and rights of animals. According to the Animal Protection Act of Taiwan, pet owners have to provide adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care for their pets, as well as prevent them from harming themselves or others. Pet owners also have to register their dogs and cats with the authorities and have them vaccinated and neutered.
Another challenge is managing the environmental impact of having more pets. According to a study by the University of California, Los Angeles in 2017, pets in the US produce about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which is equivalent to the emissions of 13.6 million cars. The study also estimated that pets consume about 25% of the total animal-derived calories in the US. Therefore, pet owners have to consider the ecological footprint of their pets and adopt more sustainable practices such as choosing low-impact pet food, disposing of pet waste properly, and reducing pet overpopulation.
A third challenge is balancing the needs and interests of pet owners and non-pet owners. Having more pets can sometimes lead to conflicts or complaints among neighbors, landlords, or public service providers. For example, some people may be allergic to or afraid of certain animals, or may be annoyed by their noise or smell. Some places may also have restrictions or regulations on keeping or bringing pets. Therefore, pet owners have to respect the rights and preferences of others and follow the rules and etiquette of pet ownership.
Taiwan is a country where pets outnumber children, reflecting the changing demographics and lifestyles of its population. Having more pets can bring joy and comfort to many people, but it also requires more care and awareness of the impact and implications of pet ownership. Taiwan is becoming more pet-friendly by offering more facilities and services for pets and their owners, but it also faces some challenges such as animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and social harmony. Taiwan’s pet boom is a phenomenon that deserves attention and discussion from various perspectives.