HANGZHOU, Jan. 17 (Hangzhou) -- Zhou Shuaibo loves sniffing his orange Tabby cat and spends hours playing with his pet every day.
Burying his face in the fluffy cat body and inhaling deeply while stroking its tummy, Zhou is one of China's many "cat sniffers," who obsessively smell and cuddle their cats, often multiple times a day.
"As a veteran cat sniffer, if I don't get my fix I feel absolutely terrible. I have a serious cat addiction," says one cat-lover on Zhihu, China's version of Quora.
From clothes to cellphone covers designed with cat pictures, Zhou's life is all about cats. If it is related to cats, Zhou will buy it.
"My wife and I are not ready to have a child, so we give all our love to our cat," says Zhou, 30, who works for a film company in east China's Zhejiang Province.
"My cat has supreme status at home," Zhou says. Zhou even refers to himself a "shovel feces officer," an unusual title taken on by many cat lovers in China.
In addition to raising a real cat at home, Zhou also watches cat photographs and videos shared by cat owners on the Internet.
The online phenomenon is known as "cloud cats," and cat fans will check social media constantly throughout the day. Sometimes their passion is so strong that they even come to see other people's cats as their own.
On Zhihu, there are 180,000 followers of posts on cats, double the number of people who follow posts about dogs.
Raising cats is big news in China, a lifestyle heavily focused on China's "empty nest youth," the unmarried who live alone in major cities.
According to a report released by Alibaba, its e-commerce platform Taobao sold nearly 10 billion yuan (over 1.5 billion U.S. dollars) of cat-related products in 2017, including cat food, clothes and accessories.
More than 250,000 cat hair removal gloves were sold on Taobao last year. There were 17,000 cat-related products on the website.
Du Fang, who works in a financial firm in Shanghai, spends about 10,000 yuan on his American shorthair cat every month, about one-fifth of his monthly salary.
"My cat eats salmon and vitamins every day," Du says. "A bag of cat food imported from Canada is 760 yuan, and the cat litter is made of Tofu."
The report said China's youth were more willing to spend on novel products for their cats, such as automatic cat toilets and intelligent water dispensers.
"I do not care how much I spend. I want my cat to be happy," Du says.
The popularity of cats has even spilled over into cat-themed coffee shops.
"The coffee may taste bad in these shops where many cats are raised, but they are popular among Chinese youth and have become good places to make friends," says Zhang Xuechen, who recently spent 15,000 yuan buying a cat.
China's empty nest youth make up a large portion of cat obsessives. Working in China's big cities far from families, many find companionship in pets, both virtual and real. For the time being at least, many youth have gone cat crazy.