“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 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.