Cat Ordeal: Seeing a vet in rural China

Cat Ordeal: Seeing a vet in rural China

Having a pet is a big responsibility in any country. I grew up with cats and dogs, so when I finally moved to China for good, I knew one day I would like to adopt a little fluffy pet again.
When I found Happy, the street dog, back in 2013, I thought we would keep her forever. Unfortunately things turned out to be different. I thought with the recent boom in pet ownership, finding an animal to adopt won’t be that difficult. While in Shanghai and other major cities pets are more and more common, and you can find all kinds of dog parks, pet shops, and quiet good veterinarians, here in Bozhou, things are very different…

I told my husband at the beginning of 2014 that I hope to adopt a cat. Living in a 30 storey building I thought it would be inconvenient to have a dog, plus after loosing my Happy, I didn’t want to replace her with another one. At the same time I didn’t want to be alone.

It took literally over a year to find a cat here in Bozhou. There is one so-called “dog market”, where they sell mostly 宠物狗, pet dogs, like poodles and high class breeds (you would never find a street dog like Happy at such markets…). But there where no cats! Somehow most people here still didn’t view cats as being pet worthy. During my search I heard comments like “cats are only bigger rats”, and “cats are dangerous and poisonous”. Obviously I didn’t feel discouraged by those comments (mostly by uneducated people who just didn’t know any better).

In April 2015, we got lucky. Out of an unfortunate accident in which a cat mommy lost her life, we got to adopt a little kitten. I fell in love with this white ball of fur immediately. But while I was happy to finally found our new fluffy family member, I was also worried: What to do about health care?

I named him Luna. Yes, him. Back then he was tiny tiny and looked like a female. Only months later it turned out Luna was not a girl, but rather a strong headed male cat. But as he already was used to his name, we simply continue to call him Luna.

The failure of finding a vet and its consequences

In Luna’s early days I asked my husband if Bozhou had any veterinarian. I wanted to give him the same health care I knew would be given to a cat in Germany. Vaccinations, de-worming, check-ups… but my Mister simply said that Bozhou has no vets and I shouldn’t bother. In believed him like the good wife I am… And I would come to regret that decision…

In his life Luna has gotten sick three times now. The first time when he just arrived at our home, the second time when he was around six months old, and the last, most memorable, when he was one year old. The first two times I treated myself, still believing Bozhou had no help to offer.

Chinese vet outsideOnly when it was time to get Mr Luna spayed (because he kept on howling like a maniac for months and driving us and the neighbors nuts), I finally decided to take action.
In this case Baidu is your best friend. I should have done that search months ago. You can blame me for being naïve and even a bit stupid, but back then I really believed it. It’s not very far fetched to say Bozhou had no vet. After all, I have only seen a handful dogs around. On Baidu I found a list of “vets” in Bozhou and handed them to my husband with the task to call every one of them and ask if they can get a cat spayed. It turned out that out of those ten vets I found online, only two were actually “doctors”. The rest was called vet, 动物医院 dongwu yiyuan or 宠物医院 chongwu yiyuan, but were actually normal pet shops selling dog food and dog clothes.

One tip I can give if looking for vets in a Chinese city. If you find some online, and decided to go to one, before you do, find friends, or colleagues, anyone who might have been there before to ask if that vet is any good. Because out of the two vets we found here, one had a very bad reputation (going as far as having dogs getting sick and die after a visit).

From being pleased to being utterly despaired

We finally arranged for a date to get Luna spayed. I was very pleased to here that the doctor seemed to know what he was doing. At least he told us to not give Luna food before the operation and also explained about different kinds of anesthetics (which the other vet totally failed to mention…).

Chinese vet insideI was surprised to see the vet. In my mind I had prepared for the worst. Even though the vet was far far away from hygienic standards I was used to, I couldn’t complain to much. The vet himself seemed nice at that time and Luna didn’t fight back. In some bigger cities you can get a more expensive anesthetic, which is inhalable and much better on the cat. But here we only had the choice of injection anesthetic (which also divides into Chinese 国产 guochan or imported 进口 jinkou, we got the imported one).

The entire procedure took only 30 minutes. Getting a male cat spayed isn’t that difficult (it would be way more complicated with a female cat). Getting your cat spayed or neutered is called 做绝育手术 zuo jueyu shoushu, and the price varies significantly from city to city. We paid 300 RMB for the entire procedure.

After the procedure Luna went back to normal within two days and I was very satisfied with the service and whole experience…
A week later everything changed. Out of no where Luna got sick. He didn’t want to eat, only sleep… I observed him for three days always hoping he only had a stomach bug. But when one afternoon he didn’t even had the strength to walk anymore, I decided it was time to take him straight to the vet, with whom I had such a good experience a week before.

Unfortunately, that same vet turned out to be a heartless person only looking to make money. That’s how first impressions can change.

When we arrived that evening and showed him Luna and told him about the symptoms his emotionless answer was simple “oh yeah he will die, you can go home”. I was shocked, and struggling to keep tears away asking if there isn’t any treatment. He laughed at me (laughed straight in my face) saying, it would be a waste of money, but it’s my money so my decision. Like every pet owner I didn’t want to loose my cat, so I agreed to leave him there for a night to get treatment. What the treatment exactly included, I am still not sure of until today. He put him on an IV and locked him in a cold cage. I was so heartbroken to see my fluffy baby so sick and alone in that cold cage with a drip in his arm…

The next day we called and the vet had changed his attitude from “he will die” to “I can treat him if you leave him here for a week and pay that enormous amount of money”. So what do you do if you are put in front of such a decision? The vet told us Luna had somehow gotten the virus infection called panleukopenia or distemper, which is most common in baby kittens and ends deadly. I did my fair research and knew that if it was that virus, there isn’t much treatment you can give a cat. Some medication exists in Germany, but not here! And after asking several times what exactly he is giving Luna in the IVs, and his inability (or unwillingness) to answer I decided to take Luna home. Always, always ask exactly what they are giving and why! Best do your research, find out the Chinese terms and be prepared to have a discussion.

A happy ending

We were lucky. Luna’s so called virus infection turned out to be a simply stomach infection. After two more days at home under my treatment he got better, and today we have all forgotten about that ordeal.

However, it has taught me a lesson. Having pets in China is very different from back home. And having pets in a tiny rural tiny is even worse. You have to rely on your own common sense and do your research, ask around. My first step is always to consult websites from my home country. I got in contact with a German vet. They can’t prescribe you medication or do a blood test for your pet, but they can at least hear you out and give suggestions. With those you can do more research and include Chinese websites. If there is no real good veterinarian in your city, that’s the best you can do. And if nothing works, you can still grab your cat and drive to the next bigger city to find help.
Last but not least, I would like to share some vocabulary I have learned in the process about vaccinations for cats. It might be useful to some.

Vaccinations for your cat in China (plus Chinese vocabulary)

Vaccinations are called 疫苗 yimiao in Chinese (the word is the same for animals and humans). You can get a vaccination 打疫苗 da yimiao at most vets in China, but there are a few things to pay attention to:

1. There are 5 different units for cat vaccinations in China

1、猫二联 Two units
2、猫三联 Three units
3、猫四联 Four units
4、猫五联 Five units
5、猫七联 Seven units
As in most countries vaccinations are given to the cat in the first year of life. To strengthen immunity the different vaccinations are given twice (except the one for rabies 狂犬病 kuangquanbing which is only given once).
Here are the five different units in detail:

Two units【猫二联】(Chinese vaccinations 国产疫苗 guochan yimiao, not recommended)
1.猫瘟 maowen (Feline Panleukopenia)
2.猫鼻支 maobizhi or 猫鼻气管炎 maobi qiguanyan (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis FVR or cat flu)

Three units【猫三联】 (American Import 美国富道 or Netherlands 荷兰英特威)
1. 猫瘟 maowen (Feline Panleukopenia)
2. 猫鼻气管炎 maobi qiguanyan (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis FVR or cat flu)
3. 猫卡里西病 mao kalixibing (Feline Calicivirus FCV)

Four units【猫四联】 (American Import 美国辉瑞)
1. 猫鼻气管炎 maobi qiguanyan (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis FVR or cat flu)
2. 猫卡里西病 mao kalixibing (Feline Calicivirus FCV)
3. 猫瘟 maowen (Feline Panleukopenia)
4. 鹦鹉热衣原体 yingwu reyi yuanti (Feline Chlamydiose or Feline Pneumonitis)

Five units【猫五联】 (French Import 法国维克)
1. 猫瘟 maowen (Feline Panleukopenia)
2. 猫鼻气管炎 maobi qiguanyan (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis FVR or cat flu)
3. 猫卡里西病 mao kalixibing (Feline Calicivirus FCV)
4. 猫白血病 mao baixuebing (Feline Leukemia)
5. 鹦鹉热衣原体 yingwu reyi yuanti (Feline Chlamydiose or Feline Pneumonitis)

Seven units【猫七联】 (French Import 法国维克)
1. 猫瘟 maowen (Feline Panleukopenia)
2. 猫鼻气管炎 maobi qiguanyan (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis FVR or cat flu)
3. 猫卡里西病 mao kalixibing (Feline Calicivirus FCV)
4. 猫狂犬病 mao kuangquanbing (Rabies)
5. 猫白血病 mao baixuebing (Feline Leukemia)
6. 鹦鹉热衣原体 yingwu reyi yuanti (Feline Chlamydiose or Feline Pneumonitis)
7. 猫传染性腹膜炎 mao chuanranxing fumoyan (Feline Infectious Peritonitis FIP)

As there are no regulations in China which vaccinations to get your cat, it’s an individual decision. But it is recommended to at least get them immune to Feline Panleukopenia, the cat flu, Feline Leukemia and rabies. Also don’t forget to get your cat de-wormed. That de-working meds 驱虫药 quchongyao aren’t too expensive and should be given regularly (at least every year), because these little things are easily transferred to humans as well.


Last but not least, here are a few photos of Mr Luna.

Do you have a pet in China? What are your experiences? I would love to hear some of your stories.

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

3 thoughts on “Cat Ordeal: Seeing a vet in rural China

  1. Great that it turned out well for Luna. Doctors in China are often…well a bit out for money. A friend of my twisted his ankle and at the hopsital they wanted him to take several x rays, MRT and and and because they wanted to make sure where the ankle was “broken”, they put a cast for the leg and guess what, the ankle was just fine :p
    Timo recently posted…City Tour Extreme: Day One, NanjingMy Profile

  2. i love cats too. they are so smart. i used to have a uninvited guest cat. it just had a lunch at my house and went away.
    your luna is so lovely :D

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