For over twelve years, the Khots have not gone on a single outing together. The reason is the 15 furry, winged family members who reside with them in a humble and immaculately maintained 2BHK house in Jalvayu Vihar Phase 2, Kharghar. His home is a refuge for 15 animals: two dogs (an Indian breed and a beagle), seven cats (5 Persians and 2 strays), two cockatoos and four fish, all rescued after being abandoned by their original owners.
Each of these rescued animals and birds has a harrowing 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 such as quitting a lucrative international job or spending more than 50% of their income in these. animals or share space with them, they are ready to adopt anyone who needs a home. Despite so many pets, the house is perfectly clean.
“Don’t adopt an animal,” says Utpal, a strong advocate of using head over mind when getting a pet. The 50-year-old’s thoughts are based on more than 12 years of hands-on experience caring for abandoned animals found in various circumstances.
“I am eloquent in saying please don’t get a pet if you can’t consider it a member of the family. Don’t get a pet just because it seems cute and friendly. The feeling of having a pet should be similar to having a newborn child,” said Khot.
Speaking of his lives with these animals, he said: “The support of my wife and son has been the driving force. The three of us went out together for 12 years. Since one of my dogs was often hit with a broomstick by previous owners, we haven’t even been able to hire a maid as seeing other women picking up broomsticks makes my dog have a panic attack. Now we share the responsibility of keeping the house clean.”
Utpal recounted a childhood incident that gave rise to this passion for caring for animals. A stray cat picked up by him at the age of 11 was abandoned by his father. “That incident left a scar on me and made me decide that when I grew up, I would try to do my bit for abandoned animals. I got the opportunity in 2007 when I started feeding stray dogs in my locality since I had left my corporate job,” he said.
Having quit his lavish job as country manager at a content company, Khot began to channel his energy into helping defenseless animals. His first pet was a Pug named Bruno, purchased by chance from a breeder who wanted him to ensure there was a constant supply of pedigree dogs on the market.
“The person who was supposed to buy the pug backed out and at my wife’s urging I decided to replace it and bought it spending $16,000. This was in 2012 and we had no idea how to raise a puppy. We investigated and ultimately discovered that breeders indulge in crossbreeding to meet the high demand for pugs when in fact they are very difficult breeds to breed. In the process of investigation, we realized that Bruno was actually a Puggle, a cross between a Pug and a beagle. Within a year, he began to suffer from severe epileptic seizures and finally passed away after suffering endless epileptic seizures on October 5, 2016,” Khot said while pointing to the numerous pet photos of him on the wall.
The Khots recalled the difficulties they went through in caring for the sick Bruno. From visiting the local vet every other day to seeking extensive treatments at the Bombay veterinary hospital every fortnight, the husband and wife duo were willing to go to any lengths to find a cure. “I used to have more than 15 seizures and in order to find some means of solution, we signed up with various animal parent groups,” Prita said.
From one of those groups, Utpal came into contact with another pet, Vinnie, an Indian cross breed he affectionately refers to as the daughter of the family. Six-year-old Vinnie suffered extensive mental and physical abuse for not having a pedigree. “When I took her home, she was violent. The behaviorist said she can’t get pregnant either. She was taken care of and even now, after six years, she still doesn’t trust outsiders easily,” said Utpal.
Vinnie’s arrival made the Khots aware of their willingness to take in animals that needed love and care. “I got Mia and Tiger, the Persian cats, after a lady contacted me saying she couldn’t attend to the cats’ needs,” Prita said.
The Khots were once again in uncharted territory when they discovered that Mia was pregnant with four kittens. “We Googled information on how to help cats give birth. When Mia finally gave birth to the first of the kittens, we waited for her to open the sack, which she didn’t. I broke it so the kitten could come out,” Prita said.
According to Utpal, Mia did not tear up the first kitten sack it was natural as the first kitten they named Devi did not survive for more than a year. “After Devi’s death, we realized that Mia already knew that 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,” Utpal said.
The litter given by a stray cat within their society had to be given up for adoption and to set an example of being open to stray adoption, the Khots brought their cats Shiva and Gauri home.
“He had this condition that I am not going to pick up a kitten, but he will take the one that jumps into his hand. We stood under the roof of the cabin with outstretched arms and waited for one of the bunks to turn and jump. In fact, a kitten fell out and we named it Shiva because it was a Monday blessing,” added Prita.
The inclusion of a fish tank and two cockatoos has its own interesting side. The owner of the fish tank that Utpal is related to was going to throw it away because he considered it a bad omen, while the cockatoos during Covid were causing a health problem.
The newest addition to the Khot family is Prince, a six-month-old beagle, who now keeps the family busy.
MEET THE PETS…
VINNIE – CROSS-INDIAN BREED, 6 YEARS OLD
Vinnie was bought by a couple who were renting in Koparkhairane. The owner thought that he had bought a Dobermann. When it turned out to be a landrace, the owner used to hit it with a broomstick. Finally, before they vacated her apartment, they abandoned Vinnie by tying her to the door of a neighbor who was out of town. The neighbor contacted Utpal and sought to relocate the dog. She was unable to get pregnant due to her abuse and is still afraid of maids with brooms.
MIA – PERSIAN TIGER CATS – 5 YEARS OLD
The cats belonged to a couple in Kharghar. However, after the owner suffered a heart attack, the wife was unable to care for the cats. The cats were not even allowed inside the house as the lady feared they would destroy the furniture in her absence. For 15 days, the cats were forced to stay inside the balcony. Utpal had initially thought about keeping the cats for adoption, but backed off because the cats were a couple and the female was already pregnant with four kittens. The kittens were delivered in 2018 and named Devi, Avni, Tango and Charlie. Devi, however, succumbed to paralysis after only a year.
SHIVA – ALLEY CAT – 2 YEARS OLD
Shiva was one of five litters delivered by her mother atop the Jalvayu Vihar security booth. Utpal and other animal lovers were asked to adopt the cats. Utpal volunteered to take one which turned out to be Shiva. However, Shiva is mute and therefore the Khots are very careful not to lose sight of him.
GAURI – 10 MONTHS
Gauri was only 10 days old when she was found abandoned at the front door of the society. Utpal took the kitten to the vet and was told that she was unlikely to survive without timely feeding from her mother. Khot took turns feeding the kitten and today she has grown into a beautiful cat.
CHIKKU AND CHIKKI – BIRDS
The cockatoos were the pets of a relative in Mumbai. However, during Covid, the family began to have health problems related to breathing. Aware that letting the birds fly would lead to their death, the relatives, knowing Utpal’s love for animals, sought him out to take the birds away. The birds were not expected to live longer, as the average life span of a captive cockatoo is no more than 8 to 10 years. Two more years have passed and they are still singing.
The owner considered the fish to be a bad omen and causing difficulties in the family. The aquarium was going to be thrown away when Utpal volunteered to take them away. The tank has four angelfish and one dollar fish.
Beagle – six months
Prince didn’t know how to go to the bathroom, so he used to poop and pee all over the house. The family had two children who were learning to crawl. They discovered that he was not healthy and decided to return the dog to the breeder, but the Khots did not want the dog to be re-traumatized and took him home.