Feature: Kenya's affluent urbanites turn to pet ownership for solace, prestige

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-14 21:35:49|Editor: pengying
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by Ejidiah Wangui

NAIROBI, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- An evening stroll down Kileleshwa, one of the upmarket suburbs in Kenya's capital of Nairobi, reveals a trend that is slowly gaining traction.

In this posh neighborhood, the number of locals taking the evening walk while holding their dogs has been on the rise -- proof that pet ownership is slowly turning into a status symbol in the country.

Sharon Momanyi, 33, attests to this phenomenon. Born and raised in this area, Momanyi said she has noticed an "immense growth" in the number of dogs taking walks in the rather quite neighborhood.

"Ten years ago when I was still living with my parents, there were very few people who owned dogs here and the few who did had them solely for security purposes. You couldn't find people buying dogs for the love of it or as a pet," she explained to Xinhua.

Momanyi said she spent an equivalent of 400 U.S. dollars to acquire a puppy, Fifi, that she says kills the boredom that comes with living alone.

Fifi has a whole room to himself, fully equipped with a bed, toys and a music system.

Momanyi's next-door neighbor, Pretty Kigwa, owns two puppies, Cross and Criss.

Kigwa said she acquired the puppies after a nasty breakup with her former boyfriend and a miscarriage earlier this year.

"People might think I am crazy and all but I found my happy place with my two dogs who give me unrivaled love," Kigwa said. "There are no trust issues either."

"After going through a nasty breakup and losing my unborn child, I was really heart-broken. In my search for healing, I came across a story of a woman in the United States whose dog helped her get up from a similar situation," said Kigwa.

A financial analyst by profession, Kigwa said she cannot compare the money she spends on keeping the puppies with the joy she gets from them.

Among the privileges that Criss and Cross enjoy is a spa day at Vip, a luxury pet care center in Nairobi.

At Vip, puppies are treated to a grooming session which includes a bubble bath, nail clipping and filing, ear cleaning and hair removal, tear stain lightening, facial tidy-up, teeth brushing and mouth wash, anal gland expressing and "pawdicures."

For George Ngengi, a businessman, his pet dog couldn't come at a great time than when his wife of six years left him together with their son for the U.S. without his knowledge.

"I returned to an empty home one day and the cold days and nights became unbearable for me. I couldn't think of anything else other than a dog," Ngengi said. "My dog has now become my best friend. We kill the evenings together for the last two years."

According to Borris Nyakundi, a veterinarian based in Nairobi, pet ownership has been on the rise, at least according to his growing list of clients.

"I think the growing middle class in Kenya is behind the growing craze on pet ownership, which is good for people like me as my clinic has turned out to be a worth venture far from what I thought," Nyakundi said.

Going by the many adverts on puppies on sale on social media platforms and sometimes on local newspapers, it's clear that pet ownership is catching on among many Kenyans.

Grace Wairimu, a dog breeder, said business has been good for the last few years.

"Even though most of the dogs I breed are for security purposes, we have recorded an in increase in demand. More Kenyans want to have guard dogs in their homes which is a good thing for us," said Wairimu.

According to Wairimu, most dog owners are not interested in just any kind of dog; they're demanding for exquisite breeds.

This is hardly surprising as sophisticated dog breeds are widely regarded as a status symbol in many parts of the continent, she said.

There is a growing demand for imported pure breeds, especially the German shepherd, Boerboel, Rottweiler, Doberman, British Bulldog, Labrador and Bullmastiff, Wairimu said.

These breeds don't come cheap. The price of a Bullmastiff puppy, for example, starts from 1,000 dollars.