Moving to China will be exotic enough for the humans in your family. Just think how different it might be for your four-legged family. All new signs, sounds, and smells, places to go, and things to do. Every pet’s first concern, however, is what’s on the menu? Finding appropriate, trustworthy pet food is very easy in some countries, but in China? Not so much. You’ll want to be prepared.
“Buy Local” is not a great option
If you’re relocating to China from the US, Canada, or Europe, you’re used to government-mandated food safety regulations that are well-enforced. Those rules apply to pet foods much as they do to what you eat. In China, unfortunately, consumer product safety controls are less reliable. Chinese pet owners hesitate to purchase in-country-made dog and cat foods because of past quality control scares regarding baby formula and vaccines that affected vast numbers of people.
Local pet owners that do buy Chinese-made pet foods say they always smell and actually taste the product before serving it to their dog or cat. They worry that the food may be rancid.
Go with what you know
Major US pet food manufacturers operate globally, so it’s possible to buy many of the brands your dog or cat is used to at home in China as well. It costs more, of course, but devoted Chinese pet parents rely on these brands as much as expats to ensure their dear pup or kitty can enjoy safe, nutritious meals.
That doesn’t mean you can just go online and order from Amazon or Chewy.com, as you might at home. Most US-based e-tailers ship products only within the United States – all 50 states or, for some products, only within the lower 48. Even if you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you will not receive free shipping to your new home in China. Some companies are willing to ship internationally, and certainly the major American shippers such as UPS and FedEx deliver to foreign countries. But the cost is exorbitant.
Instead, when in China you can use a Chinese ecommerce site such as Alibaba or EPet.com. Or you can purchase in person from a higher-end pet supply store. Unfortunately, though, these options are becoming more difficult and more expensive.
New trade war tariffs exacerbate the problem
Yes, pet food has become fodder for the escalating trade war between the US and China. As of the beginning of July, China has tacked on a 25% tariff for imported US-made brands. Back in the US, new tariffs on products imported from China are up as well. That includes some food ingredients as well as steel tinplate used to make cans. So tariffs in both directions are both affecting the cost of pet food.
Pet parents in China say they’re worried about shortages as well as higher prices. Some are even hoarding pet food. That’s because the Beijing government, again as part of the trade war, has been holding up incoming shipments of American pet food at the point of entry, sometimes for months.
What can you do?
Expect to pay considerably more for dog or cat food in China than you’re spending now. Stock up when you can, to be prepared if supplies continue to be erratic. And keep a close eye on the trade situation. You can also make your own pet food from scratch, the best way to know exactly what you’re feeding your furry friend.
Meanwhile . . .
Take your dog out for a snack and a swim
Does your dog love to swim? There are surprisingly few beaches designated for either human or pet play in China, but both Shanghai and Beijing boast pet-friendly swimming pools. You can go, too, to join in the sunny fun. Many of these places offer tasty treats for pups as well as humans.
What’s NOT on the menu?
Random plants. One of the most important things pet parents must do when moving with their furry family to a foreign country is to learn about indigenous flora and fauna that could be dangerous. Lots of cats and dogs love to nibble on things as well as sniff or roll on them, and the last thing you want is for your precious companion to ingest a poisonous plant.
So hang in there. With luck, the trade dispute between the US and China will get resolved – at least where pet food is concerned.