Anecdotal evidence indicates that Iranians are having smaller families and keeping more pets because of the uncertain future in their country. They are keeping cats and dogs despite a bizarre fatwa in 2010 by Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi which declared that dogs are unclean. His edict prohibited advertisements for pets, pet shops and pet food.
Sales of Pet Food
In stark contrast to this outmoded fatwa a shopkeeper in Tehran’s central Geisha neighborhood says that he is selling far more pet food never before. He can’t stock his shelves fast enough.
The international sanctions against Iran which hurt the economy have turned people away from having children. In their place they adopt a cat or dog. The Islamic faith is ambivalent and confused about dogs. Sometimes Islamic preachers declare that dogs are unclean and that Muslims can’t own dogs. However, Prophet Muhammad loved animals. He made his love of cats very clear.
There is nothing as far as I know in the Koran which says that Muslims can’t own a dog. We see complications with the interpretation of the Koran. This doesn’t help either Muslims or outside observers trying to understand the Muslim faith.
However, despite the disapproval from theologians on the keeping of pets, they are becoming more popular. Iranians are quite Western in their attitude. When an Iranian owns a cat she will be inclined, like people in the West, to treat their cat as a member of the family. A cat can be a child substitute. This attitude is criticized by Iranian theologians.
Pets Not Equal To Humans
Hasan Rashidizadeh, the director of the Jafarieh seminary in Tehran says that it is incorrect for people to regard pets as equal to their children: people need to be taught “not to fulfil a true need with a false solution, like having a pet in the home”. People should respect animals but not treat them as equals. This is unnatural to many Iranians and to anybody who loves animals. Arguably, Iranian theologians are out of step with modern life. Iranians appear to be ignoring the outdated attitudes of traditional theologians.
It appears to me that life can be quite stressed in Iran. It’s getting worse with the declaration of President Trump backing away from the agreement concerning nuclear armaments and reinstating heavy sanctions. We know that the domestic cat can be a wonderful therapy animal. They bring calm and happiness to a lot of people. And they bring happiness to isolated Iranian families. They take refuge in their pets as friends who are trustworthy and reliable.
Feeding Community Cats
An unemployed lady of 33 years of age, Sanaz Pourdavoud, feeds the community cats in the Dialogue of Civilizations Park in north-western Tehran every day. Sanaz has a limited budget but spends about $90 per month on cat food and medicine. She says that people can be savage and on one occasion she saved a cat from being kicked around by boys. Sanaz likes to name the cats. She is joined by a friend, Fariba Hajdaei, who can’t afford to keep a cat in her apartment but who also buys foods for the cats.
She says that the beautiful faces of the cats help to forget her anxieties and social problems and the bad news on television. There are real anxieties about the future in Iran. They want a dialogue between the government and the American government. They want progress in the future. In the meantime they seek solace in the cats in the park.