A Pet Market

In tense Kashmir’s new melancholy, pet raring has emerged as a new therapy and it has started triggering a niche business in an otherwise hugely stressed market, reports Shakir Ashraf

Every evening when Furqaan Ahmed, 22, a resident of Khanyar in Srinagar, goes home after attending college, he gets a warm hug. It is not his parents but his pet cat that jumps in his lap. Furqan caresses her fur with love and affection.

A Persian cat

Furqan, loves the company of pets since his childhood. To his collection are various aquatic and terrestrial animals. He owns a small aquarium with a variety of fish. Besides, he rears chickens, quails, parakeets, cats, turtles and even monkeys.

“I keep busy with them in my leisure time, and it helps me to fight the stress that I experience from the daily hiccups of life,” Furqaan said. “It is my passion and it gives me happiness.”

Furqaan is not alone. There are countless boys and girls who are proud pet owners. “I spend Rs 2000, a month on its food, clothes and medicines,” said Ishfaq Ahmed, a twelfth standard student who has a Persian cat. “I failed in mathematics in tenth class and I was depressed. I started watching television but it didn’t help me. Then I consulted doctors and peers but to no avail. However, a friend suggested that I try a rare pet. Subsequently, I bought a pet from Delhi for Rs 5000.”

In the first week, Ahmed said, it was a bit tougher to handle the dog and then I got used to it. “I started playing with it and then gradually my depression vanished.”

A New Trend

Many people have adopted pets for passion, some for protection and some have adopted them to avoid depression and anxiety. Everyone has a story to share. The trend has also dominated social media. In fact, people showcasing their pets on social media fetch them a lot of commentary in comparison to the news and knowledge that should have been a reader’s priority.

The rate of adopting pets has grown quite fast. Initially, there were quite a few homes having pets. Now, every fifth home might be owning a pet.

Earlier, Srinagar lacked a shop where the items required for these animals were sold. Now, many shops are selling pet clothing, food, medicines and other necessary items. All of them are having enough sales to keep them afloat.

“Pets probably bring mental and physical health benefits to their owners,” Amir Ibn Rafi, a student pursuing graduation believes. “I can surely tell you that after a hectic day at work when I come back home, I usually spend a good amount of time playing with my pets. It relaxes my mind and brings calm to my body. Peace of mind is fundamental.”

A Business

Momin Khan, 23, a resident of Chattabal in Srinagar has been a pet lover since his childhood. His passion to rear pets turned into a profession when he opened Breeders Hub, a pet shop in 2016. His family and friends resisted his radical idea but he fought back and went ahead.

“When I opened a pet shop, I faced a lot of criticism from my friends and relatives as it was a new thing then,” Khan said. “Now we have pet shops everywhere in Srinagar and pets are adopted almost in every house old.”

Tackling the new market demands, Breeders Hub sells all kinds of food items and other accessories for pets. Now Khan is the proud owner of eight Persian cats in his shop which value more than Rs 90,000.

“In 2016 when I opened the shop I hardly used to receive any order for cats but now I receive two to three orders every day,” said Khan. “At the beginning of the pet trend, people used to feed their pets with their surplus food from their own kitchens but now specific food items are being ordered for pets as people are getting diet-conscious about them.”

At Saidakadal (Srinagar), a cluster of shops is selling different breeds and varieties of birds, some imported species, as well. The most in-thing is Australian budgies that catch the eyes of passersby.

Muhammad Shaban, 55, sells a diverse bird basket. These include a noisy flock of parakeets, pigeons, budgies, ducks, and parrots. His clientele is huge because of the best breeds in his stock.

“I have different types of birds but buggies are special,” Subhan said. “Budgies are in demand as they are social birds.  If tamed and trained well they can talk and can understand humans.”

Dog Breeding

People used to buy puppies, after getting them from outside. These animals, however, were not properly acclimatizing in Kashmir and would require a lot of care and caution.

Sensing the deficit, Rooh Yaseen Shah, who promotes a pet Store Myakat at Munawar Abad, has started raising pedigreed puppies at Khonmoh.

“On their legitimate age we do their breeding once in a year, once they give pubs, we give them to people who adopt them,” said Shah.  His unit is supplying a diverse variety of dogs as pets including German Shepherds, Huskies, Broad Villard, and Labrador.

“Our own Bakarwal breed is about to go extinct so we are taking pure Bakarwal dogs and adopting. We have kept them in our kennel so that we can save our own native dog breed,” said Rooh.

“Myakat” also does the grooming, washing and hair cutting of pets.

Pet Doc

Dr Khursheed is running Pet World since 2006. It specialises in supplying the necessary pet medicines. He also treats dogs, cats, parrots, monkeys and all other pets. There was no good business and one point in time he even decided to quit this business and change the line. “I was about to quit but my dad supported me and insisted that I continue,” Khursheed said. “Now I am doing well.”

In 2006 he ordered 20 vaccines from a distributor. Out of 20, 16 remained unused. But now the trend has changed. Recently, he ordered more than 200 ampoules of the key vaccine and it is still in demand.

“A person feels relaxed with these animals, particularly a person who is sick,” the pet doctor said. “In this era of competition, people send their wards away for studies and feel lonely at home. Now they keep pets and get used to them and they become their companions. It helps them cope with their tensions better.”

Clinical psychologist, Dr Waseem Kukroo also believes loneliness is a key reason for human beings to adopt animals for companionship. “When there are no people around you, especially your family members, then these pets can become a comfort for you,” said Kukroo, insisting that the pets help people fight stress and overcome depression. “Person with depression become bedridden but if you have a pet you have to take it for a walk and the process helps you to get into physical activity.”

Mulch Animals Fall

At the same time, however, raring pet animals for commercial reasons, is not so encouraging. Department of Animal husbandry Kashmir is witnessing a fall in the visitors who used to bring their domestic animals in the husbandry for treatment.

“There were 3000 cows registered in our husbandry during 2005 but now hardly there are 40 cows around in the area,” said a doctor, serving a clinic at the Department of Animal Husbandry. He wishes to remain anonymous. ”Till 2015, we used to treat 15 cows and 50 sheep daily but now hardly anyone comes here with a cow or a sheep.”

In contrast, the doctor said he is witnessing a spike in the number of cats being admitted for treatment. “Earlier, hardly anyone would come with a cat to treat but lately we treat 30 cats per day,” the doctor said. “Similarly, 10 domesticated dogs of local residents and 10 dogs of the army come there for treatment.”

The fall in the number of cows and sheep in the urban and semi-urban sphere could be part of the trend of professional shift, upward mobility or simply lack of space. With more animal farms – sheep and cow, coming up and the entire milk and mutton supply getting formalised, people have stopped owning the two key animals.

In certain areas, most of the paddy land stands converted into orchards thus creating the deficit for the straw and the grazing fields.

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