Pets are bringing unexpected happiness to Kashmir—how?

Tahir and Snowbear. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi]

The journey of pet parenting is not always a fun task to do, but for distressed Kashmiris it’s proving to be a catharsis.

In Rainawari locality of Old Srinagar, Tahir lives with his white fluffy cat, Snowbear. Pets, believes this boy in a grey pheran, come in life as a blessing.

Tahir lifts his pet in his arms and strokes his white fur and scratches his cheeks. Snowbear enjoys the warmth of love and pheran altogether. The cat responds the love by lifting his front paw and places it on Tahir’s hand.

When Snowbear was just a kitten, his small activities would make Tahir happy. Just like parents remember the first steps of their children, Tahir has pictured every possible moment of his beloved pet.

Pet parenting started for Tahir when his friend kept his cat at his place for a month. This is when he developed a liking for cats and brought his first cat—Snowbear.

Tahir’s cat doesn’t compromise on his food and only prefers Royal Canin. This habit of him once compelled his owner to travel all the way to South Kashmir’s Anantnag district to buy it. Srinagar that day had run out of that brand food.

The cat is very much attached to Tahir. Be it shopping or family time at any restaurant, Snowbear accompanies Tahir everywhere.

When this pet owner once had an emotional breakdown, Snowbear started consoling him by licking his tears. He believes that the cat has come as a lucky charm in his family.

Snowbear might be a bundle of joy for Tahir’s family, but the cat is very shy and doesn’t like to show up before strangers.

When someone visits Tahir’s place, the cat runs away and hides in his house. Behind the lovely furrball, there’s another side to Snowbear’s story.

Sometimes, the cat shows signs of anger and likes to irritate Tahir. He goes all the way up to attic and throws all the dried vegetables placed there. Being the only pet, he gets jealous when Tahir feeds stray cats.

Suhair and Chinku Minku. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

Heavily curtained with warm blankets on floor, Suhair’s room accommodates a loving pair of Australian Budgies.

After a long cold night, the chilly silence is broken by their chirping. The avian members joined the family in September 2019 — when the communication blockade had catalyzed the pet culture of Kashmir.

Upon their arrival, the family developed a strong bond with them. However, skeptical of humans, these little birds—Chinku and Minku—don’t bond with anyone. Like other pet birds, they don’t like to be petted and stays away from human touch. Suhair has tried his best to get these birds used to human touch but nothing worked.

However, Chinku would sometimes fly from his perch and land on Suhair’s pheran. Touching depends upon their mood.

Suhair’s sister and mother are also the caretakers of these birds. In the morning, the first thing his mother does is to change the food bowls and clean their cage. After that Suhair’s sister wakes up and says hello to their winged members.

During this time of year, when valley is gripped under intense cold wave, Suhair’s family mostly spends evening in their kitchen, warm by the love and affection of Chinku Minku.

However, the birds have some other plans. They keep on fighting over little things like food and perch. Sometimes, they don’t even get close to one another.

If Chinku is in cage, Minku flies and sits on window and vice versa. The only place where these birds sit together is the top of their cage. But after few minutes, Chinku starts attacking her male partner, and forces Minku to fly away. When the fighting gets worse, Suhair keeps them in separate cages.

Despite having bonding issues, Suhair wants to keep on trying as he believes that one day or the other, Chinku Minku will learn to show the language of love .

Ayat, Dua and Children. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

In the congested alleys of Old Srinagar, Dua lives in a world where human interference is not appreciated. Being detached from human liking, she wants to live peacefully with her “own children”—her cats.

This pet journey starts when out of excitement she brought home a female Persian cat. In the initial stage, Dua wasn’t very close to her. Reluctant to even touch her, she was afraid of her little pet, Elle. But, little does anyone know that one day Dua will be a pet mother of more than a dozen cats.

Situated on the third floor of her house, Dua has a special room, only for her “children”. Hers is an old heritage house of Downtown whose windows are covered with thick blankets. In front of every window, red plastic chairs are placed, with the base covered with blankets.

These chairs are used by all her cats as their bed. On the left side of the door, there’s a wardrobe, with a big mirror fixed in the center. Next to the mirror, three chairs remain fixed. Elle, being the eldest member of this cat family, likes to sit on the corner chair.

After getting interrupted by the meowing of Dingee (female cat), sleepy Elle opens her eyes and after stretching a bit looks towards Dua. This is not just an eye contact but a message that only these two understand.

Dua looked towards Dingee and with a little hand gesture asked her to stay quiet. She also understood the signal and stopped meowing. After this, Elle closed her eyes again and tucked her head in her arms.

This telling scene was not liked by naughty Maddy, a black kitten. Being the youngest and energetic member, Maddy also wants to play. Grabbing her teasing stick, Dua started playing with him and other members joined the duo.

While playing with them, Dua recalled her pet journey.

When Elle was just a kitten, Dua would pamper her like her own daughter. Puzzled by the behaviour, her relatives raised many questions. She never visited her relatives again and spent time with Elle. In this journey, her sister, Insha, her cousin, Ayat, and her mother played an important role.

When Dua and Insha would go to tuition and office respectively, Ayat and Dua’s mother would take care of Elle. After some months passed, whole family got attached to her and she became a part of it.

Playing with the teasing stick, Maddy starts jumping in the air in order to catch the artificial mouse. Smiling at her spirited kitten, Dua recalls the time when she was about to miss her paper.

During her Class 11, Dua had to reach school at 9:30 in the morning. She set an alarm on her phone and slept, while Elle was having a night walk in the room.

At the daybreak, when alarm went off, she snoozed it. Elle, who was sleeping next to Dua, woke up after sometime suddenly, and started meowing loudly, which was very unusual.

When Dua woke up, she was surprised as she was getting late for her exam. She stroked Elle and after coming back from exam thanked her by giving her a treat. It was not the only moment when Elle had done something memorable.

The other day, when only Dua’s mother was at home, Elle started meowing in the kitchen. Against her schedule, she pointed towards the door as she wanted to go in her room. When Dua’s mother took her upstairs, she was stunned after inhaling smoke coming from that room.

She rushed in and found the entire carpet with blankets on it burning because of the heater that had melted due to intense heat. This incident was no more than a miracle.

After a tiring session, Maddy jumps on a chair to take a nap. Putting him to sleep, Dua says all her children are her lucky charms who have only brought happiness, prosperity and love in her life.

Aishah, Rowdy and Minki. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

Seated on a black chair with her feline friends, Aishah seems very anxious. Surrounded by pet accessories, including bells, food, different treats, harnesses etcetera, she along with her cousin had visited Pet Erena, a local pet store, to get Rowdy and Minki vaccinated.

Both felines were contradicting each other in terms of behaviour. Rowdy, a fluffy golden-brown cat, is very calm and friendly. Happy to be seated in her friend’s lap, he was noticing the surroundings very keenly. Reacting over very subtle sounds, his eyes were glued towards his partner, Minki.

A tortoiseshell cat, Minki is very naughty, energetic and likes to explore. While Rowdy was enjoying the petting from Aishah, Minki was running from couch to couch. From couches to people around her, she was smelling everything in her way.

When the veterinarian started approaching towards Aishah, Minki jumped on her couch and hid besides her owner. Calm Rowdy was the first to get vaccinated and Minki followed after. After deworming and vaccination, Minki also behaved like Rowdy, and Aishah started massaging the duo.

After giving them a gentle massage for some time, Minki got up and started sniffing her carrying bag. While Aishah’s cousins were buying food and medicines for the duo, Minki was signaling of going home. Understanding the signal, Aishah unzipped the carrying bag and the duo went into it. She carefully picked up the bag.

Amidst the meowing of Rowdy and Minki, they left the clinic.

Asim and feline family. [FPK Photo/Amir Bin Rafi.]

Aasim Bashir Bhat, a journalism student, first felt the warmth of animal love when he saw two stray kittens outside his house. Without a second thought, he brought the kittens home and from there the story of their unconditional love and bonding kickstarted.

Amber (female) and Badar (male) after abandoned by their mother, found the love of parenthood after being adopted by Aasim.

Looking towards his phone and checking the photos of his feline family, Aasim recalls how a kitten brought him the happiness he had never expected.

For the first few weeks, Amber and Badar used to live in his room. But, suddenly, one day, Badar ran away and disappeared. Clueless Aasim tried to find out his whereabouts but all in vain. However, on the other hand, Amber was now fully comfortable with him as well as his family. Scrolling the photos, he stopped at Amber’s photo and went down in the memory lane.

In early 2020, Amber and Aasim both had had a great time. During the day, she would roam freely in the park. And in the night, little Amber would sleep on Aasim’s bed. Her favorite spot of sleeping was his arm.

Sometimes, Amber would come late in the room when Aasim would already be sleeping. She would go close his face, sniff it, and start meowing in his ears. This was an indication of demanding her favorite spot.

Days passed and Amber became an adult female. After her first delivery, Amber delivered three kittens. Out of which only one survived. Now, Aasim had to take care of both the mother and her baby. All went fine between the two and Amber was once again ready to mate.

During the second time, she delivered four kittens. Out of them, one ran away and three lives with Aasim.

After blessing Aasim with a feline family, Amber’s behaviour has changed. While a separate room and a washroom has been allotted to the feline family, Amber prefers to stay outside. In this bone chilling cold, Aasim has to pass some tests also, set by the newly born kittens. Sometimes, they would stay outside in the night and Aasim has to go and bring them inside the room. He feels restless until all of them comes into the room.

Amber on the other hand keeps roaming in the garden and enters the room sometimes after two or three days. Aasim doesn’t force her to stay with him as she used to do and gives her all the space needed.

The affection towards the felines got transferred into his family as well. While Aasim’s father would go to a chicken shop to get intestines and chicken heads for their cat children, his mother cleans their living space and ensures the window remains open throughout the night for Amber.

Sometimes this mingled human cat family has to face some harsh reactions from the neighbours. But, this love weighs more than blood relation—making them part of the family.

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