The Pets Filling Voids in Iranian Families
WANA (2021) – Pets have long been members of western households. It’s not hard to envision a stereotypical western family with, for example, a pet dog. These animals have long been regarded as members of the family in the west, and their pain and even their deaths prompt the same response from the family as the death of a relative would, sometimes even more severe ones. Despite the presence of pets within the courts of ancient Iranian kings as well as the common household, these creatures are no longer a prominent or usual member of Iranian households. These creatures are steadily increasing their presence and prominence in Iranian families, especially Tehrani ones, and are fulfilling the same roles they are known to fill in other countries.
Pets have historically been very present in Iranian culture.. The Persian cat has had its place in the courts of Persian Kings since the Achaemenid and Ashkanid dynasties, dogs have been used for hunting and herding sheep, and birds have been kept in cages to bring people’s homes to life. Large pets like dogs require a lot of space. Despite this, pets are no longer a prominent member of Iranian households, and it can be partly attributed to modern Iranian cities. American houses with large front and back yards provide the required space for these pets to roam and be active. The vast majority of housing in Tehran, however, is made up of apartments. Apartments limit dogs to a much smaller environment. Physical activity is a crucial part of a dog’s health, and Tehranis frequently have to take their dogs to parks to give them a big enough space to be active.
In a country where gratuitous spending is generally avoided, pets are seen by many as a financial burden not worth what they return in benefits. A doctor at Tehran Pet Hospital talks about the emotional and natural void that pets have filled in our lives since we transitioned from a traditional lifestyle to an industrial one. “It may start with a home plant on the first day, then a rabbit, then a dog or a cat or a bird,” he tells WANA. He also mentions the emotional happiness that animals provide their owners and how this increases their work efficiency, stating that this and of itself is a way in which pets are paying for their own expenses.
On the same note, a customer at the pet shop above the hospital, spoke about the changing viewpoint on owning pets in Iran, citing positive advertisement, and the following of countries with strong pet-ownership cultures as two important factors in the evolution of people’s opinions. “Iranian families no longer have the cohesion they used to, and they’ve grown apart. They [Iranians] try to fill the void brought on by a smaller population with a soulmate [in the form of pets].”
Despite the economic restrictions brought on by sanctions, supplies seemed to be in stock. A customer at the pet hospital who lives abroad and had brought her dog to the hospital for grooming, told us she could find all the same products and services at the hospital as she was used to outside the country. The pet shop a floor above the hospital had everything from pet food to beds and cages. A sign hung on the store that read “Friskies has arrived,” signifying that the store had restocked on the Nestlé-owned name brand.
The burdens of a worsening economy may polarize the population on the subject of pets, with one group – viewing the animals as a novelty – no longer considering the benefits worth the cost, but those who view pets as a family member have formed a bond with the animals and will continue to fund their lifestyle, which now partially revolves around the animal.
Photo by : Nazanin Tabatabaee