For over twelve years, the Khots have not gone together for a single outing together. The reason being the 15 furry and winged members of the family who reside with them in a humble, immaculately kept 2BHK home at Jalvayu Vihar Phase 2, Kharghar. Their home is haven to 15 animals – two dogs (an Indian breed and a beagle), seven cats (5 Persian and 2 strays), two cockatiels and four fishes – all rescued after being abandoned by the original owners.
Each of these rescued animals and birds has a heart-wrenching story to tell.
The family of three – Utpal Khot (50), a media analyst and food blogger, Prita (49) and Pranav (22) – though had to make many sacrifices like letting go lucrative international job or spend over 50% of their income on these animals or share space with them, they are ready to adopt anymore that needs a home. Despite so many pets, the house is perfectly clean.
“Don’t adopt an animal” says Utpal, a staunch advocate of using head over mind while getting a pet animal. The 50-year-old’s thoughts are rooted to over 12 years of hands-on experience of tending to abandoned animals found in various circumstances.
“I am vocal in using that please don’t go about having a pet if you cannot consider them as a family member. Don’t get a pet just because they appear to be cute and friendly. The feeling of having a pet should be similar to getting a new-born child,” said Khot.
Talking about their lives with these animals, he said, “The support of my wife and son has been the driving force. It’s been 12 years that we all three have gone together for any outing. Since one of my dogs was often hit with a broomstick by previous owners, we have not been able to even hire a maid as the sight of any other women picking broomsticks causes my dog to go into a panic attack. The onus of keeping the house clean is now shared by us.”
Utpal narrated a childhood incident which gave birth to this passion of tending to animals. A stray cat picked up by him at the age 11 was abandoned by his father. “That incident left a scar and made me resolve that when I grew old, I would try to do my bit for the abandoned animals. I got the opportunity in 2007 when I began feeding stray dogs in my locality as I had left my corporate job,” he said.
Having left his plush job as country head with a content firm, Khot began channelising his energy in helping the helpless animals. His very first pet was a Pug named Bruno, purchased by chance from a breeder who wanted him to ensure there is a steady supply of pedigree dogs in the market.
“The person who was supposed to purchase the pug backed out and at the behest of my wife I decided to fill in and purchased him by spending 16,000. This was in 2012 and we were totally clueless about how to raise a puppy. We researched and eventually found that breeders indulge in cross breeding to fill in the extensive demand of pugs when they are actually very difficult breeds to raise. In the process of the research, we realised that Bruno was actually Puggle, a cross between Pug and beagle. Within a year, it started suffering from major epilepsy attacks and eventually passed away after suffering endless epileptic attacks on October 5, 2016,” said Khot while pointing to the numerous photos of his pet on the wall.
The Khots remember the hardships they underwent in tending to the ailing Bruno. From visiting the local veterinarian every alternate day to seeking extensive treatments at Bombay Veterinary hospital every fortnight, the husband-wife duo was willing to do everything to find a cure. “He used to have over 15 seizure attacks and to get any means of solution, we had got ourselves enrolled in multiple animal parent groups,” said Prita.
From one such group, Utpal came in contact with another pet, Vinnie, a cross Indi breed fondly referred to as the daughter of the family. Six-year-old Vinnie suffered extensive mental and physical abuse for not being a pedigree. “When I got her home, she was violent. The behaviorist said that she cannot get pregnant as well. We nurtured her and even now, after six years, she still doesn’t trust outside women easily,” said Utpal.
Vinnie’s arrival made the Khots realise their willingness to take in animals that were in need of love and care. “I got Mia and Tiger, the Persian cats, after a lady contacted me saying she cannot attend to the needs of the cats,” said Prita.
The Khots were once again in an unknown territory when they found that Mia was pregnant with four kittens. “We Googled for information on how to help cats deliver. When Mia eventually delivered the first of the kittens, we waited for her to cut open the sac, which she didn’t. I tore it for the kitten to come out,” said Prita.
According to Utpal, Mia did not tear the first kitten sac was natural as the first kitten whom they named Devi didn’t survive for more than a year. “Following the death of Devi did we realise that Mia already knew her first kitten was not healthy enough to survive. Devi suffered from paralysis and was never friendly either. These kittens are family and not for sale,” said Utpal.
The litter given by a stray cat within their society had to be given for adoption and to set an example to be open to stray adoption, the Khots brought their cats Shiva and Gauri home.
“I had this condition that I will not pick up a kitten, instead the one that jumps into her hand will be taken. We stood beneath the cabin roof with arms spread and awaited for one of the litter to roll over and jump. One kitten actually fell and we named it Shiva as it was a Monday blessing,” added Prita.
The inclusion of a fish tank as well as two cockatiel birds has its own interesting side. The fish tank Utpal relates to was to be away thrown by the owner because they thought it to be a bad omen whereas the cockatoos during Covid were causing a health scare.
The newest addition to the Khot family is the six-month-old Beagle named Prince, who now keeps the family busy.
MEET THE PETS…
VINNIE – CROSS-INDIAN BREED, 6 YEARS
Vinnie was purchased by a couple on rent in Koparkhairane. The owner thought they had bought a Dobermann. When she turned out to be a local breed, the owner used to hit her with a broomstick. eventually, before vacating their flat, they abandoned Vinnie by tying her to the door of a neighbor who was out of town. The neighbor contacted Utpal and sought to get the dog relocated. She could not get pregnant due to the abuse and is still scared of maids with brooms.
MIA – TIGER PERSIAN CATS – 5 YEARS
The cats own to a couple in Kharghar. However, after the owner suffered a heart attack, the wife was not in a position to take care of the cats. The cats were not even allowed to be inside the house as the lady feared that they would destroy the furniture in her absence. For 15 days, the cats were made to stay within the balcony. Utpal had initially thought of keeping the cats for adoption but backed out as the cats were a couple and the female was already pregnant with four kittens. The kittens were delivered in 2018 and they named them Devi, Avni, Tango and Charlie. Devi, however, succumbed to paralysis after just a year.
SHIVA – STRAY CAT – 2 YEARS
Shiva was one of the five litters delivered by its mother atop the security cabin of Jalvayu Vihar. Utpal and fellow animal lovers were asked to get the cats adopted. Utpal volunteered to take one that happened to be Shiva. Shiva is, however, mute and therefore the Khots take extreme care to not let him out of sight.
GAURI – 10 MONTHS
Gauri was just 10 days old when she was found abandoned at the society entry gate. Utpal took the kitten to the veterinarian and was told that she was unlikely to survive in the absence of timely feed from the mother. Khot took turns to feed the kitten and today she has grown into a beautiful cat.
CHIKKU AND CHIKKI – BIRDS
The cockatiels were the pets of a relative in Mumbai. However, during Covid, the family started having health issues related to breathing. Aware that letting the birds fly would lead to their death, the relatives, knowing about Utpal’s love for animals, sought him to take the birds. The birds were not expected to live any more as the average lifespan of a cockatiel in captivity is not more than 8 to 10 years. It’s been two more years now, and they continue to chirp.
The owner considers the fishes to be a bad omen and causing hardships in the family. The aquarium was to be thrown away when Utpal volunteered to take them. The tank has four Angelfish and one Dollar fish.
BEAGLE – SIX MONTHS
Prince was not toilet-trained, therefore he used to poop and urinate all over the house. The family had two kids who were learning to crawl. They found it to be not healthy and decided to give the dog back to the breeder but the Khots didn’t want the dog to be traumatised again and took him to their home.