In July, a satirical article titled 'Shared Cats: Scan QR Code to Use a Cat' went viral on WeChat, racking up over 100,000 views and 5,300 likes. While explaining the details of a fictional cat-sharing app, the author poked fun at China's booming share economy, which has already seen shared stools, beds, gyms, umbrellas and basketballs.
A few highlights from the article:
"First you open the shared cats app...Then click ‘start using a cat’ to see which kitties are closest to you."
"Of course, kitties won’t come to you, you have to walk over yourself. You need to walk quickly, very quickly, otherwise the cat will leave and you’ll need to start the search all over again…"
"....if you get a normal kitty, it’s 5 mao an hour but if you get an orange cat, it’s RMB1 an hour. There’s no way around it, that’s how market demand is, orange cats are trending."
"A question that many people care about: how do you get your deposit back? What’s regrettable is, the app doesn’t have this function."
According to Information Times, someone took the joke seriously: the newspaper recently reported that an actual 'cat-sharing' app is in the works.
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If realized, it would allow pet owners to earn cash by essentially lending out their cats. Similar to dating apps, animal lovers could peruse photos and descriptions to find favored felines in the area, then reach out to the owners to arrange playdates. Those with a high enough credit rating inside the app would be able to take requests to cat-sit for pay, or even adopt animals.
However, it may be too soon for cat lovers to rejoice. A screenshot from the 'real' app shows it looking suspiciously similar to the mock version.
From the fake app
A screenshot of the 'real' app
More reason for doubt: while the screenshot shows the user's location to be set to Shenzhen, the map displays Beijing's Xicheng district.
Then again, the app is said to still be in its beta version, which presumably means there are still some kinks.
If the 'shared cats' scheme does work out, though, it might just be the most outrageous gimmick to hit China's share economy. Yet.