In 2021, pets make Indian families picture perfect

Pet-craze takes over urban Indians

Culture

August 19, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

In 2021, pets make Indian families picture perfect

Due to popularity of pets, new pet cafes and businesses are thriving (Photo: Pawfect)

As pets increasingly become members of urban Indian families, both middle class and the rich, it has created demand for better infrastructure and services needed for pets.

For long, animals have enjoyed a special place in Indian society. From being prayed to as Gods, to playing cupid in Bollywood movies, they have always had a special place in people’s heart. But even though audiences seemed to love the pets on the silver screen, they hardly ever thought of getting one for themselves. Fast forward to 2021, children in all well-to-do families, or even the middle classes, seem to be clamouring for pets, and getting them, too.

According to numerous studies, the number of households with pets has grown dramatically over the last decade. In 2014, almost 13 million Indian homes had either cats or dogs. This has jumped to 18 million in 2018 according to data site Statista. Unlike a few nations, Indians seem to be overwhelmingly dog-lovers rather than going for the felines. Statista points out that the number of dogs taken in as pets in 2014 stood at 11.84 million, while at the same time the number for cats were 1.1 million. The gap has not significantly altered in 2018, only growing to 1.38 million.

Most of families with animals say they take in pets as their ultimate stress busters. In fact, many people dealing with mental health issues like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression can get themselves assigned a ‘emotional support animal’.

“I think the main reason for people’s interest in getting a pet is, directly related to the broadening urban class,” says Mansi Tomar, owner of Perro Casa, a pet boarding house in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. “More and more people are getting into corporate jobs, and though it might be a good thing financially speaking, it cannot be denied just how gloomy your life can be at times because of stress at the job. So, when you get back home, I feel like everyone wants to have someone who is very happy to see them. Someone you can be around. Pets make you happy, they become your source of comfort,” Tomar tells Media India Group.

Some say that the boom in social media in India, too, has played an important role in the pet craze. It has become extremely common for people to post pictures or videos of their pets across the entire gamut of social media platforms.

“Social media shows the lovely side of having pets and this is probably the first reason people have been keen to adopt a pet,” says Priyamvada, owner of ‘Pawfect’, the first pet café in Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur.

Almost all families with pets consider their furry companions to be another family member. Treating them like a child, sibling and friend, so much so that celebrating pet’s birthday has become a huge trend. Several people believe that children who grow up with pets around them, develop a deep sense of empathy, self-esteem and the pets also help with cognitive development of the children.

“People who have owned pets in their formative time period i.e., between 5-15 years, their empathy levels are higher than those who have not owned pets,” says a study Empathy as a result of Pet ownership, published in 2012 by the Bahira Journal of professional psychology. “It is because keeping pets is a mutual relationship of love and affection. People who own pets treat them as their family members and they miss their pets when they are not around. They feed their pets and bathe them and take care of them in every possible manner. This is how this relationship develops which teaches the pet owners to feel for them and also feel their distress and happiness. Later, the same ability to feel another’s pain and distress is transferred on to other human beings present in the environment,” the study goes on to say.

Pawfect, Jaipur’s first pet café (Photo: Pawfect)

Pawfect, Jaipur’s first pet café (Photo: Pawfect)

In the third decade of the new millennium, the picture of a perfect Indian family seems to be incomplete without the mandatory pet in there. And thanks to a significantly higher disposable income, many households with pets are also going the extra mile in taking good care of the pets and their needs, with some going to the extent of showering their pets with extravagant luxuries as well. But most pet owners are more careful of the brand of food they buy for their pets, the quality or rating of the vets and the treatments like shampoos or other. Many also celebrate their pets’ birthdays in specialised cafés.

“We are loving the positive feedback that people have been giving us,” says Priyamvada, “Youth, families, people with pets, people without pets, groups of friends, couples, we cater to all, and we’ve been getting quite a great response from people.”

The owner of Pawfect says the reason why her and her partner Parth came up with the idea of a pet café was because they couldn’t take their own ‘Fur babies’ anywhere, and they wanted a space where pets could run around freely without much restrain. “We also wanted a space where people who weren’t allowed to have pets at home for various reasons could come and play with them, where kids could run around with puppies without having to have the responsibility of keeping pets,” Priyamvada tells Media India Group.

A survey done by Lana Paws, a lifestyle store for pets, in Delhi, India, found out that pet owners are ready to spend extensively, in order to create a ‘meaningful’ experience with their pets. The fact that people are ready to spend a considerable amount of their income on their pets has created a lot of interesting business ventures. “It is for sure that the number of people buying or adopting pets is only growing, and will not come down for the foreseeable future,” says Tomar. “So, it has created a near permanent space for businesses that can provide luxuries to people’s pets, considering the fact the pet owners don’t always have a lot of time, but they do have a lot of money to offer for you to figure a way out to provide their pets all these services.”

The 21-year-old pet boarding owner tells Media India Group, that she believes during the Covid-19, a lot of people started adopting pets to keep themselves from being lonely and bored behind their almost 24/7 closed doors in 2020, but as Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted, many of them are ready to go out into the world, which mean less time for them to look after their pets. “People want to go out after being locked in for almost two years. That is when I had realised that a pet boarding house is a good business opportunity,” she says.

However, Priyamvada warns against impulsively getting pets. “This sudden inclination towards having a pet is amazing, but we would also request people to research thoroughly about it beforehand as having a pet and taking care of one is a huge responsibility, and most of the time when people aren’t able to take care of their pets anymore, they turn them out on the streets,” complains Priyamvada.

Tomar explains that while there is still a lot that needs to be done in India, to make it a more pet-friendly country, there have been many advancements in the pet caring sector of the country. “If we even go back five years from now, there weren’t many good or conveniently reachable vet clinics around us or a pet boarding facility wasn’t even a thing in India. I think pet owners are now realising that pets aren’t something you keep in the corner of your house, that you’ll speak to once or twice a day. Pets are something that you take care of as your own child, which means that there are certain luxuries that you provide them too,” says Tomar.

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