Caring for pets

"Imprisonment even if it be in a golden cage, is still imprisonment."

A couple of years ago, I saw a beautiful green parrot in a cage. That upset me. Since childhood, we had been told that to keep birds in a cage is a sin.

And very often my mother would quote two lines from the poem of a famous Malayali poet, Vallathol, “Imprisonment even if it be in a golden cage, is still imprisonment.” Then she would tell at length about the sorrow the poor bird would feel not to be able to joyously spread its wings and whiz through the air to its nest, where perhaps there were little ones waiting for their mother. So we grew up hating the sight of a caged bird.

I happened to see the bird during the first few days of captivity. It was a pitiable sight. It would feverishly move the length of the cage pecking at the wired cage trying to find out if there were any loose wires which would move to enable it to find a hole large enough to squeeze through into the open and escape. Of course, its frenzied hopping and pecking was of no avail. I have no doubt it was a pet that was loved by the owners. That it was being looked after well was certain. During the day the sun shone onto the veranda and the cage would be taken away, probably, to a shady side of the flat to escape the hot sun. Then, in the evening, it would be brought again to the other side. I often wondered how long it would have to go through those hateful days. 

Of all the pets people keep, I think it is only cats and dogs which enjoy being kept in the house. For one thing, they do not have to be locked up inside rooms. They have the whole house to wander about, good food and a pampered existence. And if the dogs wish to go for a ‘walk’ they are taken out most often by the owner himself. We always had cats in the house...  They, literally, ruled us and as a by-product kept the house free of rats. One day, we heard our father call out, “Someone bring me my glasses and the newspaper. I want to read the paper but cannot move to get it
 because the cat is sleeping on my lap.” And sure enough, that was a fact.

Of course, females mean litters. A joy and a big responsibility. And it was amazing that when our senior-most cat became old and the time came for it to have its last chance at motherhood, she wanted to find a quiet place to have her babies. She sought out my mother and us, sisters, and demanded we find a suitable place for her accouchement!

But to go back to the tragedy of the caged parrot, we were utter strangers to the owners of the green beauty and could not beg them a favour to let the parrot go. They must have been very fond of it and to let it go might have been hard for them too. In the meantime, the poor bird suffered and we who saw it go through hell on earth suffered along with it. I wonder what happened to it finally.

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