Every time I am stuck in traffic on Nairobi’s Peponi Road I see them: a group of guys selling puppies, kittens, rabbits, and birds – an entire nursery of pets. Next to the road, there is a little stand with a cardboard indicating “pet shop”, surrounded by numerous boxes and crates amidst thick green bushes and a sound cloud of meows, barks and chirps.
Fury gifts for kids
I always feel my heart sink when the vendors run up to my car and hold one of these little animals right in my face. For them, the animals are goods – nothing else. While they peddle animals, others hawk pictures of President Uhuru Kenyatta, sunglasses, cheap-looking plastic passport-covers, Kenyan flags, bandanas, car paraphernalia, and handmade souvenirs. The animals are often extremely young – too young to be sold and separated from their mothers. But, of course, youth sells: there is little on this planet that’s cuter than the baby-face of a young pet. And these tiny big-eyed beings are particularly attractive to those who are wealthy enough to present their kids with a fury gift.
To be fair, it’s mostly Kenyans who buy pets in such places. Most of the foreigners in Nairobi who want pets either go to the animal shelter and get themselves a ‘rescue’, or they rescue one or more abandoned on the street. Indeed some of the pets who are sold on the streets end up in these very shelters. Unfortunately, often these peddled pets are thrown out on the street once they have become ‘big’ or ‘boring’ and need to be exchanged for a newer toy, one most probably requiring less attention.
Cat sold for booze
We had our own pet-trade experience when Lateef, a beautiful stray cat that we had been caring for, was snatched and sold by a caretaker on our compound. He had a drinking problem and needed a few shillings for booze. Lateef was a gorgeous animal, healthy-looking and well-fed, unlike the strays one encounters on the streets. ‘Why not?’ he must have thought and sold the cat. That’s at least what we heard from the guards. Lateef has not been seen since.
So guess what? Our two own little furballs are total couch-potatoes. Basically, they are in protective custody as letting them outside would certainly mean the end of our happy coexistence: in fact, I am certain that they would be poisoned, shot or on the market within two nano-seconds.
On this note, here’s to our fury room-mates!