Crazy cat carers | Pawpurrfect
WHEN I moved to Mumbai a little less than a year ago, the first thing on my mind was to call my parents over. Apart from the plethora of excuses my father had, this one felt a tad bit more strange. “Who will take care of the cats? They’ll be lonely,” he’d say every time, knowing fully well that our cats in Lucknow have an indoor-outdoors existence, and can hunt or con neighbours for food with cuteness.
So in December, after several emotional pleas, my parents finally decided to visit Mumbai. The house help was requested to stay the night in our Lucknow home to feed cats, change their litter and make sure they weren’t as emotionally bereft as my father imagined.
My parents aren’t the only ones; cat parents are known to kill or postpone their travel plans to assure their care. Cat sitters and boarders, these purrfect lovers of the feline are happy to look after your cat child, often for just the food in your fridge and Wi-Fi access.
Coco, the five-year-old Persian cat, has a human called Arushi Batra. With an existence on Instagram, Coco walks around with an air of entitlement. When the Juhu residents planned a holiday abroad, Google brought them to Dr Neeta Vanjari. “I was apprehensive initially,” says the 27-year-old, “because Coco is my baby. But when we met Dr Vanjari at her home and saw how she treated her own cats, we were relieved. Dr Vanjari would send me a photo of him every two hours, and update me about his eating, sleeping and lording around routine. She was available for a video call any part of the day or night. I knew Coco was in safe hands.” This punctiliousness built trust and over the past three years, whenever the Batras travelled, Dr Vanjari’s home has been Coco’s retreat.
Dr Vanjari has always loved cats. “Cat love runs in the family,” quips the 42-year-old, “Even my grandmother was a cat lady.” She started boarding cats eight years ago in her Oshiwara home. “I was rescuing cats and found there was no safe place to keep them,” she says. “So I became that safe place.” Dr Vanjari treats humans only four hours a day, and takes on cats for the maximum of 20 days at a stretch. Her professional services include cuddling, spooning and allowing cats to lie on her.
So how does one befriend the stoically choosy feline? “Every cat is different,” she says, “You have to go according to her or his behaviour. I let them be by themselves in the room, explore the space at their own pace. Kittens are friendlier than older cats.”
Dr Vanjari has “catified” her home for a restful stay. There are toys and wooden shelves at different levels on the wall to satisfy the predatory (and prey’s) need for vantage points. And her attachment to these guests is real. “I felt a divine connection with Daisy,” she says of a regular boarder. “She would just sit by my legs and I would feel blessed and calm. When her mother shifted to Jaipur after marriage, instead of congratulating her, I burst into tears as it meant that Daisy would not board with me anymore.”