Nestled in a quaint by-lane of Haripada Dutta Lane at Tollygunge is probably Kolkata’s only sanctuary exclusively for cats.
Meow Baari isn’t just another pet crèche in Kolkata, it is Koel Chatterji’s dream project.
Two years ago, when Chatterji opened the doors of her home to cats; she wanted to create a ‘mama-r bari’ of sorts for cats – where they can go just to have fun, get pampered, get cuddled and there would be absolutely no rules.
Team Beacon Kolkata met with Koel Chatterji at Meow Baari and she got candid about her love for cats.
Beacon Kolkata: How did the idea of Meow Baari occur to you?
Koel Chatterji: It all started when I had fostered a kitten that my friend had rescued and got it adopted. The pet parents were going out of town, and by that time I had five cats of my own but no crèche, so they asked me to take care of their kitten while they were out of town. But they agreed to pay for all the expenses. And that is how this little cat became my first boarder, kick-starting my journey with the pet crèche.
With regards to Meow Baari, I have a circle of friends who are all animal parents, and I call them my founding members. They are the ones who encouraged me to open up a crèche in Kolkata exclusively for cats. Because a lot of people rescue cats and want to adopt them, but are worried about what to do when they go out of town.
“I’ve been very grateful that people trust me with their pet kids. The fact that people come to me and have faith in me to take care of their pets means a lot to me”
BK: So where this love for cats come from?
KC: See, a lot of families don’t like animals, and if they do, they like dogs. Because dogs are very easy to understand and will tend to be at your beck and call. But with cats, you have to earn their trust. I’ve always loved animals but since I had dogs, keeping cats used to be a problem. My first adopted cat was when this queen cat came to my house and gave birth to her litter. Eventually I took them in and I got the whole family neutered and spayed. Over the years, I fostered some cats and a few became a part of my family. Now, I have 7 cats and 9 dogs.
“I wanted to create a ‘mama-r baAri’ of sorts for cats – where they can go just to have fun, get pampered, get cuddled and there would be absolutely no rules”
BK: So tell us about Meow Baari.
KC: When I opened Meow Baari, I had the middle class Bengali family in mind. Because a lot of these people really love cats but whenever they think of a crèche in Kolkata, they shy away from it thinking that it is something they can’t afford. So I keep the boarding charges really low and try to take cost required for food and maintenance only. Everything is done by me and my partner, we don’t have handlers, so from cleaning to grooming, everything is done by the two of us.
BK: What has been your biggest achievement so far?
KC: I don’t know if I can call it an achievement, but I’ve been very grateful that people trust me with their pet kids. The fact that people come to me and have faith in me to take care of their pets means a lot to me.
BK: Can someone volunteer with Meow Baari, and if so, how?
KC: I have not really given it much thought, but maybe someday I’ll figure out a device to work things through. For now, we’re a small establishment and it’s really hard for me to trust anyone with other people’s pet kids besides me and my partner. But I realize it’ll be nice for people to come in and spend some time with the cats, and it can be therapeutic. But then, the person has to have knowledge of how cats work and have prior experience with them. So the idea of having volunteers over is a thought in progress.
BK: What’s next for Meow Baari?
KC: Currently we’re not thinking of expansion but we’re constantly thriving to make Meow Baari a better place for cats to come in and have a fun stay. This Pujo we had 30 boarders together and I couldn’t have been happier.