In the new melancholy of strained Kashmir, pet ownership has emerged as a new therapy and has begun to spark a niche business in an otherwise hugely stressed market, reports Shakir Ashraf
Every In the evening, when Furqaan Ahmed, 22, a resident of Khanyar in Srinagar, goes home after attending college, he is warmly hugged. It’s not his parents, it’s his house cat that jumps onto his lap. Furqan strokes her fur with love and affection.
Furqan has loved the company of pets since childhood. His collection includes various aquatic and terrestrial animals. He owns a small aquarium with a variety of fish. He also raises chickens, quail, parakeets, cats, turtles and even monkeys.
“I engage with them in my free time, and it helps me combat the stress I experience from life’s daily hiccups,” Furqaan said. “It’s my passion and it makes me happy.”
Furqaan is not alone. There are countless boys and girls who are proud pet owners. “I spend 2,000 rupees a month on food, clothes and medicine,” said Ishfaq Ahmed, a 12th grade student who has a Persian cat. “I failed math in tenth grade and I was depressed. I started watching TV but it didn’t help me. Then I consulted doctors and colleagues, but to no avail. However, a friend suggested I try a rare pet. I then bought a pet from Delhi for Rs 5000.”
For the first week, Ahmed said, the dog was a bit more difficult to deal with and then I got used to it. “I started playing with it, and then my depression gradually went away.”
A new trend
Many people have adopted pets out of passion, some for protection and some to prevent depression and anxiety. Everyone has a story to tell. The trend has also dominated social media. In fact, people who feature their pets on social media receive a lot of comments compared to the news and knowledge that should have been a reader’s priority.
The pet adoption rate has increased quite rapidly. Initially, there were a few households with pets. Now every fifth household could own a pet.
Srinagar used to lack a shop selling the items needed for these animals. Now many shops sell pet clothes, food, medicines and other necessary items. All of them have enough sales to keep them afloat.
“Pets are likely to bring mental and physical health benefits to their owners,” believes Amir Ibn Rafi, a student pursuing his degree. “I can safely tell you that when I get home after a hectic day at work, I usually spend a lot of time playing with my pets. It relaxes my mind and brings calmness to my body. Peace of mind is fundamental.”
Momin Khan, 23, a resident of Chattabal in Srinagar, has been an animal lover since childhood. His passion for raising pets turned into a profession when it opened breeder huba pet shop in 2016. His family and friends opposed his radical idea, but he fought back and moved on.
“When I started a pet shop, I received a lot of criticism from my friends and relatives because it was new at the time,” Khan said. “Now we have pet shops all over Srinagar and pets are adopted in almost every old house.”
coping with the new market requirements, breeder hub sells all kinds of feeds and other accessories for pets. Now Khan is the proud owner of eight Persian cats in his shop, valued at more than 90,000 rupees.
“When I opened the store in 2016, I used to hardly ever get any orders for cats, but now I get two to three orders every day,” Khan said. “In the early days of the pet trend, people would feed their pets excess food from their own kitchens, but now special pet food items are being ordered as people become more conscious of their diet.”
At Saidakadal (Srinagar) A cluster of shops sells various breeds and species of birds, some also imported species. The trendiest are Australian budgies, which catch the eye of passers-by.
Muhammad Shaban, 55, sells a versatile bird basket. These include a noisy flock of parakeets, pigeons, budgerigars, ducks and parrots. His clientele is huge due to the best breeds in his stock.
“I have different types of birds, but buggies are special,” Subhan said. “Budgies are in demand because they are social birds. If tamed and trained well, they can speak and understand humans.”
People used to buy puppies after getting them from outside. However, these animals did not acclimate properly in Kashmir and would require a great deal of care and caution.
Rooh Yaseen Shah, who supports a pet shop, senses the deficit Myakat in Munawar Abad, has started raising purebred puppies in Khonmoh.
“At their legitimate age we breed them once a year, once they give pubs we give them to people who adopt them,” Shah said. His unit supplies a variety of dogs as pets including German Shepherds, Huskies, Broad Villard and Labradors.
“Our own Bakarwal Breed is dying out, so let’s take it in Bakarwal Dogs and Adoption. We kept them in our kennel so we could save our own native breed of dog,” Rooh said.
Myakat also does pet grooming, washing and hair cutting.
dr Khursheed is running pet world since 2006. It specializes in supplying the necessary veterinary medicines. He also treats dogs, cats, parrots, monkeys and all other pets. There was no good business and at some point he even decided to give up this business and change lines. “I was about to quit but my father supported me and insisted I continue,” said Khursheed. “Now I’m fine.”
In 2006 he ordered 20 vaccines from a dealer. 16 out of 20 remained unused. But now the trend has changed. He recently ordered more than 200 vials of the key vaccine and it’s still in demand.
“A person feels relaxed around these animals, especially when they’re sick,” the vet said. “In this competitive era, people send away their wards to study and feel lonely at home. Now they keep pets and get used to them and they become their companions. It helps them manage their tensions better.”
The clinical psychologist Dr. Waseem Kukroo also believes that loneliness is a major reason people adopt animals as a company. “When there are no people around you, especially your family members, these pets can become a comfort to you,” Kukroo said, emphasizing that the pets help people fight stress and overcome depression. “People with depression become bedridden, but if you have a pet, you need to walk it, and the process helps you engage in physical activity.”
Mulch animals fall
At the same time, however, breeding pets for commercial reasons is not that encouraging. The Kashmir animal husbandry department is seeing a decline in the number of visitors who used to bring their pets to the facility for treatment.
“In 2005, 3,000 cows were registered at our facility, but now there are barely 40 cows in the area,” said a doctor who works at a clinic in the department of animal husbandry. He wants to remain anonymous. “Up until 2015 we treated 15 cows and 50 sheep every day, but now hardly anyone comes here with a cow or sheep.”
In contrast, the doctor said he’s seeing an increase in the number of cats being admitted for treatment. “Before, hardly anyone came in with a cat for treatment, but lately we’re treating 30 cats a day,” the doctor said. “Similarly, 10 domesticated dogs from local residents and 10 dogs from the army come there for treatment.”
The decline in the number of cows and sheep in urban and semi-urban areas could be part of the trend of professional relocation, upward mobility or simply lack of space. As more animal farms — sheep and cows — emerge and all milk and mutton supplies become formalized, people have stopped owning the two key animals.
In certain areas, most of the paddy fields have been converted to orchards, creating the deficit for the straw and grazing land.