India is not a very pet-friendly country. Discuss

James Dean Cat

James Dean Cat. Photo published here under fair use or this photo is in the public domain

“India itself is not a very pet-friendly country”, so says Pet Travel Consultant Anupama Vinayak (living in India)

Is this true? The remark was made in response to the death of a much loved tabby cat on the tarmac of Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, while being shipped by air to Singapore.

James Dean

James Dean was the name of the cat. While being loaded onto the aircraft, he escaped from his carrier, jumped onto the tarmac and was hit by a trolley. Preeti Varma was James Dean’s owner. Jet Airways, the carrier involved say the cat forced his way out of the carrier. Preeti says the carrier was either opened by airline staff or the carrier was handled too roughly causing it to open sufficiently for the cat escape.

The airline staff appear to have done a rather poor job of customer care when informing Ms Varma of the accident. Initially they said the cat had disappeared. Then airline staff showed Ms Preeti the cat carrier with James’s body in it.

She had to insist on seeing CCTV footage, which shows exactly what happened. The whole affair was traumatic for Ms Preeti and fatal for her cat.

If the James Dean’s carrier was indeed slung onto the trolley taking luggage to the hold of the aircraft causing it to break open, it would fair comment to say that the staff were not pet friendly. But is this attitude typical of Indian people generally?

Although I will rely on Rudolph Furtado a regular contributor to PoC living in Mumbai to comment, I have my own thoughts. Rudolph has two Persian cats as companions and his attitude is very European in respect of companion animals.

Is India Pet Unfriendly?

Perhaps the first point to make is that India is in Asia and you could ask the same question in respect of all countries east of a certain point.

My gut feeling is that the difference between East and West with respect to keeping companion animals is not so much to do with the inherent friendliness of the people towards animals but more to do with the type of relationship. However, the type of relationship affects the connection between human and cat.

I think you will find that in Asia the cat is less often regarded as a close, family member. Large numbers of cats are friendly, community cats socialised to humans. They are “time share cats” on a grand scale. I know this happens in Morocco, for example. Certainly in the these warmer climates cats and people spend more time outside and they mingle and share.

This sort of open, community cat relationship is less developed and more reminiscent of the role of the domestic cat in the early years of domestication.

In the West a domestic cat is legally owned by a person. They are a possession. The looser Asian relationship goes against this. In that respect it is better because I don’t believe you can own a cat; you care for a cat.

The downside with a generally loose relationship is that the person does not have as strong a connection with the cat. This results in a less friendly attitude. However, with some exceptions, I don’t think Indians are inherently less pet friendly. It is more a developmental thing.

I can think of at least two exceptions which are also partly a result of a less well developed and enlightened attitude towards pets: Vietnam and China. I don’t want to stereotype all Vietnamese and Chinese as cat and dog haters but some terribly cruel things take place in these countries. There are some horrendous abuses of companion animals which indicates to me an attitude that can sometimes be much worse than pet unfriendly; more to do with pure callousness and ignorance.

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India is not a very pet-friendly country. Discuss — 14 Comments

  1. It’s very sad about James Dean. I would be horrified and unable to cope with something like that happening to my cat. I will never put my cats on a plane.

  2. Michael, nice to be known as your “Cat Source information” in India and glad to note that my written contributions does have readers.. I had personally highlighted this tragic accident that happened at Delhi airport and suggested that the airline pay compensation to the owner and the same be donated to a pet welfare organization in India.

    Just a few days back it was in the news that 1/3rd of the World’s poor population lives in India and also the bizarre fact that India is home to one of the largest Billionaire population in Asia.No wonder most foreigners, especially Westerners find India a baffling Country of extreme contradictions.

    This simple fact also portrays the manner in which we Indians treat our pets, a favoritism towards a particular pet while neglecting the other common pet. Dogs are a status symbol and the most popular pets amongst the urban middle-class population and hence a “Dog Club” flourishes in every Indian city.

    Cats are not very common as pets in India and hence till date there is not a single cat club. “Exotic Pets” are becoming a trend and its common to find African Greys, Macaws, Cockatto’s and other large parrots as pets as also rare dog breeds and the “ultra-Faced Persian Cats”.

    The ultra-rich own most of the expensive pets that are well cared, akin to owning race-horses.The streets have their own stray dogs and cats which thrive and are never killed by the law enforcement as in the West and other Country’s.

    “James Dean” the cat was definitely a wealthy Indian’s pet and hence Preeti Varma decided to take him with her to Singapore. Sadly, seems the staff at airports and other public places are unaccustomed to handling cats unlike in the West which resulted in the tragic mishap at the Delhi airport.

    The average Indian is very tolerant towards pets and animals and its common to see the poor Indian sharing their food with their roadside pets.

    • Thanks Rudolph for a very clear insight into what it is like in India for the common domestic cat. It seems that I was correct to a certain extent in that there are plenty of cats but they are street cats (community cats) and people care for them.

      Dogs are probably seen as more useful than cats, which is why dogs are far more popular. This will change in time as India becomes more Westernized.

      India is a land of contrasts. The wealthy are extremely wealthy and highly Westernised, while the poor are still living in a past age it seems to me, especially farmers.

      How many veterinarians are there in Mumbai? Is the veterinary profession well developed and of a high standard? I would expect it to be.

  3. I love reading your contributions, Rudolph. I like the picture I get in my mind of a poor person in India sharing his food with a stray cat.

    My experience with people from India here in the states has been very positive. Every person from India whom I have met has been very polite, considerate, hard working almost to a fault and very, very intelligent. My anatomy professor was from India. Also, some of my students were from India back when I was teaching. Not once, ever, did I have to discipline, correct or speak to a child from India. In every instance he or she was the best behaved student in my class and would regard the disrespect and antics of the American kids with disdain. I had one adult piano student from India who would come to my home. Monty LOVED him, and he pretty much hates everyone except my husband, my sister and I. Monty kept coming up behind my student and putting his little cold nose against the back of his leg. It would make the poor guy jump every time. He did not seem very comfortable around cats but Monty wanted to stick to him like glue. He quit taking lessons from me. Maybe I should have put Monty in his room, but I thought maybe my student would warm up to him. He might have actually been more comfortable around a dog, from what you said, Rudolph.

    • You’ve opened up a whole new discussion on “what is wrong with American kids!” 😉 Maybe nothing but there are a lot of people in England that think that the modern youth here are less industrious and less disciplined than we were and our parents and grandparents. They have become too soft.

      To bring this thread back to cats, Martin Stucki who with his wife Kathrin owns A1 Savannahs in OK, USA, breeding Savannah cats, says that he has difficulty getting good quality young American workers. Have I opened up something I shouldn’t have?

      • I’m not surprised at, Michael. The American kids are raised so puffed up with pride that they think every job is beneath them, any type of work is beneath them– including their school work. In America we became very concerned about self esteem, but I think that we were wrong to ever worry about that. When a person works hard and accomplishes things he gains self esteem. It’s something you have to earn. We teach kids that “you are perfect just the way you are” and then wonder why they don’t want to work hard at anything. Why should they? They are perfect just the way they are whether they learn anything or accomplish anything or not. Other cultures that did not jump on the self esteem band wagon do not have these problems among their youth. And yet, having worked with Hmong, Mexican and Indian children I would say that none of these children had self esteem issues. The kids born on American soil definitely had pride issues. Some of them scared me. A few were like little psychopaths. This is how we raise animal abusers and serial killers. We puff them up with pride and shelter them from every disappointment so that they end up believing they are entitled to only good things while at the same time they have no coping skills to deal with any bad things. The school shootings are consistently in suburban schools. I worked in the inner city for years and never worried about getting shot at school. I loved working with the children of immigrants, because those kids were so respectful. They were being raised the way I was raised years ago. They were very loving, caring children– the kind of people you want in this world, the kind of people who will treat animals and other people well. We worry in the US about illegal immigration but don’t realize that the people coming in, legally and illegally, are doing a better job raising their children than we are.

        • I can totally relate to what you are saying. Schools in England have become too soft. Students can never fail. Failure isn’t in the vocabulary. But they are not fit for work. They have lousy grammar and spelling and are poor at mental arithmetic.

          However, self-esteem is extremely important, I agree, but children must learn to deal with failure and difficulties because that is the real world. There should be a course on respecting the cat at infant school 😉 LOL. Start them young.

  4. I have to tell this little story about a boy from India who was in kindergarten at a school where I taught music. We were singing a silly song about a pussy cat who goes to London to visit the Queen. My student from India pipes up: “I’ve been to London!” I’m thinking that this is a great teachable moment. I can’t wait to hear him describe London. “What was London like?” I asked him. “It smells,” he said. “It smells real bad.” I think an adult would tell about Buckingham Palace or some other attraction in London to impress people with all the great things he saw in his extensive travels. Not this little boy, who had seen more of the world than any of us there in his short life. But all I could get out of him was that London was smelly. Nothing else would he say about it. Sorry, Michael, but I still laugh when I think of that. So be honest as that little boy was honest. Is London smelly? I’m sorry. I’m bad. Wouldn’t matter to me. I have no sense of smell anyway.

    • “It smells real bad.”

      This is intriguing. I think I have gotten used to the smell 😉 It may have been the case that he had lived in the country and the traffic fumes of London produced an overpowering smell. I can only guess that it was the smell of traffic, or he lived near a brewery or an industrial incinerator the entire time he was in London!

      People from places like Tibet and Afghanistan are always impressed with the green look of London – all the parks, trees and foliage. Afghanistan is basically desert and rocks. That is it. I have driven through Afghanistan, so I should know.

      I never saw a cat in Afghanistan!

  5. I am traveling in Mexico right now, celebrating my 60th birthday. I am keeping my camera close at hand hoping to catch a glimpse of a Mexican cat, but so far I haven’t seen any. I am staying in a Colonial town in the middle of Mexico called San Miguel de Allende, and tomorrow going to the city of Guanajuato. I see more dogs on leashes here now than I had ever seen before, when I used to work and travel down here.

    I have yet to see a cat. I’ll ask some locals and report what I find.

    • Great reporting. I’d love to know if you meet and photograph a street cat or even a domestic cat. It looks like Mexico is like India. The dogs are useful and cats aren’t, mentality. There should be some street cats in a warm climate.

  6. Michael, you inquired about the Veterinary doctors in India and I can comment on Mumbai and a bit on Bangalore since i am familiar with these two cities.

    In Mumbai, about 2 decades ago when I owned dogs, there were few private veterinary doctors, the most prominent being the “S.P.C.A” hospital at Parel in Mumbai. Today, every locality has a veterinary doctor which proves the increase in pet ownership amongst city dwellers.

    My veterinarian whose dispensary “Phoenix Veterinary Specialty” is just 200 meters from my house is a lady doctor named Miss Shivani.Tandel. Dr Shivani.Tandel is an “Avian and Exotic animal ” specialist, having started her practice only a decade ago. She is the only avian specialist in Mumbai and people from all over the city and even other towns come to her to treat their exotic parrots and pets.

    During the occasional visits to her dispensary regarding my cats I got to view exotic macaws and African greys as also turtles and the odd Iguana lizard. These pets were never ever seen in a Veterinarian dispensary in Mumbai about a decade ago, very rare and the privilege of the super rich. Today, importing exotic pets into India is allowed and local breeders breed them and hence the cost factor has also reduced making them affordable to even the average middle-class Mumbaikar who has a passion for animals and birds.

    I had purchased feline matahari for Rs 14,000 (approx 350$) in 2007, an astronomical price for a “Non-certified pedigree” traditional Persian cat considering the cost of living in India. Today the prices will be cheaper for the same breed and the same applies to other exotic pets.The pet industry in India is booming, but mostly in dogs and exotic birds, very less in the “Cat world”.

    Thanks Ruth for the high opinion that you have of Indian emigrants to the U.S.A. Many of my classmates and a few of my relatives are American and Canadian emigrant citizens, their children being first generation Western citizens of Indian origin.First and foremost, the best minds and the best qualified Indians are allowed to emigrate to U.S.A and hence they benefit their adopted Country in various ways, least of all in enriching themselves in the process.

    Indians are the richest ethnic community in the U.S.A and the most highly qualified. Remember, in India there is fierce competition for anything due to the high population and wealth disparities and hence the average Indian is very competitive. Besides, thanks to the British colonization, fluency over the “English Language” has benefited Indians tremendously in the Western world.

    Hope i have managed to give a fair picture of the average Indians association with pets as well as reasons for success in the western world.Please, this is my point of view and might not be the view of every Indian. India is a sub-continent having various cultures, religions and languages and every Indian is opinionated on any subject, most common being politics.

    • Thanks Rudolph. I found your comment very interesting. I have learned a lot about India from you 😉 You may remember that I have been to India. In fact I drove a bus all the way through the middle of the country to Hyderabad in 1971. I had driven the same bus from London 😉 I was a full-sized single deck commercial bus.

      I find the different attitudes to companion animals interesting and it is good for everyone in the West to understand more about how people relate to companion animals in other countries. The other cat websites almost exclusively write about North American and European cats. I don’t think this is good enough.

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