Urban life

Tribes of Hong Kong:
The pet fanatics

Exploring the city’s subcultures. By ANSHEL MA

Our interview gets a bit chaotic: Crystal Tang repeatedly calls out her dog’s name to get it to stay still, while Kenny Wong’s scared macaw flies around the spacious room before hitting a window. But all the hubbub doesn’t seem to bother Olga Shek’s cat, which just couldn’t care less about anything. It is a mess, yes, but there is joy in this scene – and a mutual understanding about animals as a passion.

In fact, everyone here has numerous pets. Wong and his wife own 25 parrots of all stripes. It’s a social hobby: the couple often join meet-ups with other parrot owners, along with their birds, of course, to share their experiences. Some groups are snobby about their pets though. ‘They accept only members whose parrots are purchased from a specific source or are in perfect health,’ says Wong.

Tang’s pet proclivities are more mainstream, yet still extreme: the finance professional has 12 cats and 12 dogs in her home. She’s been devoted to animals since childhood. ‘It all began when I saved an injured puppy in the bush while walking my dogs,’ she says. ‘It took me quite a while to care for him. I realised there were many animals that needed help, which prompted me to volunteer helping stray animals. There was no going back.’

The plight of homeless animals is a motivator bringing pet lovers together. Social media has helped to raise awareness, but Shek, a veterinary assistant, says the cases people hear about are just the tip of the iceberg. An owner of 15 cats, Shek also talks about the issue in Viu TV’s programme Pets. ‘Breeding farms are a problem, and people still fail to understand the importance of desexing,’ she says. ‘The government isn’t doing enough. Fortunately, volunteers are keen on making a difference. Even if we don’t belong to a specific group, we’re always willing to pull together for the welfare of even one animal.’  

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