Is it true that Indian families rarely have domestic cats? The question was asked by a man living in Canada who travels a lot to India. His question was based upon his observations. I asked a similar question several years ago about black people so there may be a cross reference between black people and Indians but I don’t know whether the same reasons apply if indeed it is true.
My initial feeling is that, in general, there is some truth in the statement and if so it is due to a lack of understand and knowledge of the domestic cat which lets superstition control emotions. Superstition about cats is rooted in history. Also is it fair to say that women have less of a chance to have a say about domestic cat welfare in India than in the West? If so this could be a factor as women are more likely to like cats.
Firstly, I am told (but this needs confirmation) that in north-eastern India cats are considered to be an emanation of the goddess of fertility and motherhood. When a person kills a cat it is believed that his children will suffer throughout their lives. This is a superstition and it supports the idea that superstition is behind the dislike of the domestic cat by Indian people (if they do dislike cats). In respect of black people, superstition is certainly the major reason why they look less favourably upon the domestic cat than in other cultures. That is not to say that a lot of black people don’t like domestic cats and I’m sure there are many Indian people who like domestic cats (see below).
Rudolph A Furtado, an experienced India cat caretaker living in Mumbai who contributes regularly to PoC, says:
“Most Hindu Indians are vegetarians and this is one of the main reasons that cats are less popular as pets compared to dogs.In India its not mainly superstition but simple vegetarian eating habits that makes the cat not as popular as a pet compared to dogs.A dog can be fed a vegetarian diet but definitely not a cat.”
Bad luck superstitions surround domestic, stray and feral cats; particularly black cats. This is well-known. Apparently, an Indian gentleman says that cats, in generally, are considered to be unfaithful and sly. There are also considered to be a bad omen if they cross your path. A person will not finish the task that he has started if a cat crosses his path. Black cats are considered to be sinister and associated with witches and witchcraft. This is certainly the case in Africa or significant part of Africa. The same Indian gentleman says that you should never charge at a cat in a closed room as it will go straight from your throat; another superstition but there is some truth in it because a cat might well defend himself.
In addition, the same gentleman says that cats are considered to be a danger to infants. They believe that cat faeces and cat hair can be fatal to infants or children with weak immune systems. This appears to be an extension of the toxoplasmosis argument in respect of faeces but as for a cat’s hair being fatal to infants, I find it hard to work out where that belief comes from. It would appear to be an an extension and modification of being allergic to cats because of the feline allergen in cat dander.
In India there is certainly quite a large number of people who like purebred cat, especially the Persian and the pointed Persian (Himalayan). In fact this is a growing trend. They even have a cat show and a cat association in India these days so things are changing. Indians like the flat-faced, modern version of this cat breed but both modern and traditional are available. Rudolph, in Mumbai, has two fine traditional Persians.
Is it the case that people prefer to adopt a purebred cat over a random bred cat in India? If so what is the reasoning behind this?
One man living in India said that his neighbour became annoyed about his cat because they felt that it brought them bad luck. One day his neighbour kicked his cat after he crossed his path. The cat was obviously injured because he lost his appetite for 4 days. When confronted and asked why he had kicked his cat his answer was that his 3-year-old son was afraid of the cat. This, apparently, was a lie because he knew that the boy liked his cat. Sometime later his cat was poisoned and he knew who did it. He reported the matter to the police but they ignored his complaint. The man no longer looks after a domestic cat but feeds stray cats.
The same person says that “India is not a good place for owning a cat.” What do you think?