Don't Pet Stray Cats and Other Things NOT To Do in Shanghai

Micol Striuli
September 2, 2019
The cat

It’s almost time to go back to Shanghai! In today’s post I wanted to talk about things NOT to do while you’re there – consider this a list of everything you wanted to know about Shanghai that probably no one has told you….

…..or they have told you, but you ignored them a million times like I did. Perhaps this is more of a reminder list for myself.


On East China Normal University's campus, there were many stray cats: some were adorable and friendly, others were mangled and pitiful. The cat that lived outside my dorm, however, was the cute and affectionate type. It often slept outside the door and the guards would often even leave some food for it to eat. On the rare occasion, the small cat would run indoors and find shelter in the warmth of the lobby. Even though I had heard over and over again not to pet stray animals in China, I thought, but what could this little fellow ever do to me? That’s when I decided one day to give the cat a rub on its tiny belly. For the first half a second, the cat seemed delighted…that was until half a second later it decided it wasn’t.

This cute, little cat had bitten me.

So now here I am outside my dorm freaking out that I’m going to die of rabies. My friend 艺纯 was trying to reassure me that I’d be fine and that since the bite had not broken skin that I didn’t need to go to the hospital. Basically every other person told me the opposite. That’s when the next day my friend 乐传 and I found ourselves in the school infirmary trying to get me a rabies vaccination. Since the infirmary didn’t have it, they told me that I immediately needed to go to Shanghai Putuo General Hospital. I go with another friend and she navigates me through the different chaotic buildings of the hospital to get me my shot.

If you think the saga ends there, you’re greatly mistaken. I cannot emphasize how important it is NOT to touch and risk getting bitten by a potentially diseased animal. I too thought my rabies saga would end in China, but it continued far into my summer vacation back home in the States. To spare some details, I idiotically thought it wasn’t important to finish my rabies vaccination sequence while in China. So I return to the U.S. hoping I could finish the sequence in Rhode Island, unbeknownst to me how serious, difficult, and expensive it is to get the vaccination.

To make a long story short:

  • Protocol for rabies vaccinations in China and the United States differ slightly. In China, the series consists of only 3 shots over the course of 3 weeks while in the U.S. it consists of 4 separate occasions of 1-4 shots.
  • There have been big controversies over the production of rabies vaccines in China, and they are likely not the same as the treatment received in the U.S.
  • If you want to get a rabies shot in the U.S., you’ll have to be reported to the CDC and you have to go through your local Department of Health to get the shot, unlike in China you can walk into any hospital to ask for a shot.
  • Rabies vaccines in the U.S. cost about 700x as much as they do in China. My treatment in China cost about 240 RMB which is equivalent to about 33 USD. The completion of the rabies sequence in the U.S., without insurance, costs $24,000.

On that note, I would like to share my advice on other things not to in Shanghai:

  • Don’t do drugs – China has a severe anti-drug policy that will get you imprisoned or deported. As my professor on my first day of class in Shanghai told all of us: If you have a drug problem, go home.
  • Don’t take black taxis – Also known as unmetered taxis, make sure your taxi driver has a visible license and a meter to ensure you don’t get ripped off.
  • Don’t get ripped off – If you paid 100 RMB for a fake Supreme shirt at the fake market, congrats you played yourself.
  • Don’t drink free drinks at bars – You will probably be allured by the prospect of receiving free drinks at the club since you’re a foreigner. If you really think the club is serving you up free Grey Goose, you’re wrong. That alcohol is likely illegally produced, so save yourself the ethanol poisoning and buy drinks at the bar and watch the bartender pour it.
  • Don’t ask for cold water at restaurants – Many Americans are used to drink a nice, ice-cold glass of water with a meal. In China, they serve hot tea for a reason. The tap water is unsafe to drink, so save yourself the Shanghai sh*ts and get used to drinking water hot.
  • Don’t eat street food – So long are the days of street food as a cultural phenomenon in Shanghai. If you’re looking for authentic food, stick to small restaurants and brick and mortar food stalls. China has a booming “gutter oil” industry, which means oil from sewers is repurposed into cooking oil. Avoid the stomachache and just eat at a restaurant.
  • Don’t take the subway at rush hour – If you want to avoid getting stepped on, getting elbowed by a Chinese grandma, or getting squished by the closing doors, don’t get on the subway at the most crowded times of the day (7-9 am and 5-7 pm).
  • Don’t be afraid to slurp your noodles – While considered rude in the West, it’s a totally normal thing to do while enjoying your food in China.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes when speaking Chinese or going out and getting lost in the city. Shanghai is an amazing and safe place full of friendly people; so go out, be smart, and have fun!

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Micol Striuli

<p>I'm Micol and I'm a fourth year student at Providence College studying Political Science and East Asian Studies. I am fascinated with Chinese culture and politics, which has led me to come back for a second semester in Shanghai. My favorite things to do in Shanghai are going to art galleries, eating at one of the million cute dessert shops, going to karaoke, reading about Chinese Marxism, and waking up to a day with blue sky.</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
Providence College
Barrington, RI
Political Science
Explore Blogs