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When my pet is family to me

Living alone in a big city can get lonely; and roomies can be a pain. But not if they have four legs and a tail. Animal company fills a home without intruding, which is why many people prefer the extra responsibility of walks and vet visits.
Hindustan Times | By Mitali Parekh
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2014 08:25 PM IST

It's the dream, isn't it? To be young in Mumbai. Live alone. Chase the career. Party all night. Then feed the cat.
It's happening more often. When professionals are old enough to gain financial independence, but not willing to give up their social independence, out goes the roomie or family, and in comes a pet.

Animal company fills a home without intruding it, so it's no surprise that many people prefer taking up the extra responsibility of walks, vet visits and feeding. It's still less interfering than living with an actual person and is a small price for playful companionship and uninterrupted cuddling.

Read: Exotic pets you can have

Three people tell us what life's like with just a pet for company.

Joshi's parents stay in Malabar Hill, while most of his work is in the western suburbs. "Luckily, my parents were looking to invest in a property and bought a place in Santa Cruz," says the 30-year-old comedian. "So I didn't have any financial compulsion to get a roommate."

He shares his home with two cats, Louie and Arya, one rescued by him, the other by his girlfriend. "Cats are very independent," says Joshi, explaining that they don't impinge on the freedom of a young man. "As long as they have dry food and water, I can leave them alone for eight to 12 hours. I usually have household help dropping in, so there is someone checking on them."

And with the cats around, he's never lonely. "If I am bored, I just have to put a piece of string between them. I can watch them be idiots for hours."

For Joshi, the cats appeal to his paternal instincts (but without the more serious responsibilities parenthood brings). "They are family. I do for them what I would do if a family member fell ill," he says, adding that he is thorough about regular visits to the vet. "And like family, they have a knack of walking into awkward moments."

Joshi is lucky. His cats are very social and like being around his friends. They are however not without their own quirks and moods, just like roommates or family members.

"They want to talk when you want to be quiet and the other way round too," says Joshi.

Richa Chadda, Actor

Richa Chadda got her first cat when she was still living with roommates, but "she was always more mine".

"Then, we adopted Madira to give my first cat company," she says. Now Madira is her companion and spiritual guru. "Animals are so simple. They know what is important in life - eating, sleeping and sun-bathing," she says. "I even tried to be her for a day. I sat idle in the balcony but my phone kept buzzing. My cat gave me a look as if to say, 'you don't know your priorities.'"

With Madira as a roommate, it's natural that Chadda took a house that suits both of them. "We live on the first floor, even though I love high rises, because of her. I lost my first cat when he jumped off a balcony. So now I have netting as well," she says

Her cat is also the understanding partner you hear of only in fables.

"Before an award show, I was nervously pacing. She disappeared, only to be found in the gown I was supposed to wear that evening. It was as if she was saying, 'everything will be all right'. When I came back with the award, she rubbed against it and licked it. It was like a celebration!"

Today Chadda and Madira travel together comfortably. Madira even chills in pet-friendly hotels. But initially there were a few adventures. "Once for an outdoor shoot, I took her with me on location. And then like a novice, I left her in the car," she says. "She didn't enjoy it one bit."

Shruti Nair lives with Oreo, the one year old not-really-a-labrador. Since she is a 24-year-old entrepreneur, her life is mostly work-home-work. "I don't socialise," she says. So she enjoys Oreo's company when she comes home.

Only he's not quiet. "Oreo is naughty. He's always up to something," she says. Opposites attract right? "You bet!"

Read: Wish you had furry friends? Adopt one

Living alone with an aggressive dog who is also protective can be reassuring. "He is a guard dog and barks if someone loiters around my house," she says. "But that's not why I got him."

And it wasn't even loneliness that compelled me to get him. "I got him because I have always had pets, and secretly, I always wanted a naughty one."

Nair did not expect to live alone with Oreo and would not recommend it to others living alone. "I'm lucky that things have worked for me, but they may not for everyone else," she says. She takes him to her office every day and people take care of him there. "And when I must leave him alone, my sister and my friends help out," she says.

From HT Brunch, March 9

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