They make great pets.
Remember back in the day--"the day" in this case being any time before people could sell half-breed dogs like "labradoodles" for hundreds of dollars--when there always seemed to be someone hanging out in front of the local grocery store on weekends with a big box full of free (or at least very cheap) puppies? You don't see that in the States anymore, but you do see it all over in Shanghai.
(Side note: I'm sure parents loved that free puppy thing. "Mom, can I have a dog?" "No, they're too expensive." "But this one is free!" "Shut-up and get in the car." "But ..." "I said shut-up and get the car!" And so on and so forth.)
Every time I go to the subway station in the evening, there's always someone with a boxful of puppies, priced to sell. (Usually they are chows, although there's the occasional Pekinese as well.) (On that note, I saw tons of Pekinese in Peking, but I've hardly seen any in Shanghai. Go figure.) However, China being what it is, there are, naturally, all manner of other creatures being sold outside the subways and on the streets. You know, things like bunnies, teeny little turtles, and even crickets, which come in their own cute little wicker cages. The later are used in fighting--yes, that's right, cricket fighting, which is something I didn't even knew crickets did, let alone did for peoples' amusement; while the two former ... well, the optimistic side of me says they will end up as pets, the pessimistic side insists they will end up as dinner, or possibly a nice appetizer. I'll leave you to decide which you think is most likely, but I'll just say that turtle soup is very popular over here ...
Anyway, the other day I saw something new: a guy who appeared to be selling chipmunks or something very similar off the back of his bicycle. (For the record, crickets are also sold from the backs of bikes--someday I'll have to get a picture, although I haven't seen anyone selling them for a while. Maybe cricket season is over?) The girl in the picture was, at the very moment this photo was taken, begging her mom to buy one. Why, I'm not sure, since I doubt chipmunks make good pets, and they don't seem to have enough meat on them to make a good meal, although I'm sure that doesn't stop Cantonese restaurants from serving them. (That's a Chinese joke. If you don't get it, just laugh and pretend you do. Or go look at the menu in an authentic Cantonese restaurant and then laugh, although be aware if you do this you will be "the crazy person laughing at the menu" everyone else at the restaurant tells their friends about later.)
Here's a closer shot of the chipmunks, or chipmunk-like creatures. With that black-and-white stripe, I keep expecting Pepe Le Pew to bounce into the picture, grab one of the chipmunks, and start muttering ma cherie! or something. You know, if he was real instead of a confused cartoon skunk.
Then again, maybe I just watched too much TV as a kid. Probably because my parents never let me get a free puppy ...