NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - As incomes surge in economically booming India, pet lovers are driving the growth of a whole range of new trends, from organic pet toys to crystal healing and even nail painting for cats.
The pet care market in India has risen from $31 million in 2003 to $64.34 million last year, says pet care magazine Creature Companion quoting Euromonitor International, as millions of people moved into the middle class and disposable incomes grew.
Pet care services such as grooming, pet-sitting and boarding are becoming hugely popular, while the rapid spread of the internet has also boosted virtual stores and digital networking platforms to such an extent that the market is projected to double yet again, to $144 million, by 2015.
But at the India International Pet Fair in New Delhi at the weekend, some of the most popular areas catered to pet owners looking for advice on how to cope with grumpy and aging pets.
More than 3,000 visited a stall devoted to crystal therapy, or using gems and stones for healing, over the first two days of the three-day fair, a ticket taker said.
"My 6-year old St. Bernard has been troubling me with his unfriendly and obnoxious behavior over the past year, though before he was always very affectionate and showed a pleasant demeanor with everyone at home," said Christina Paul.
"The veterinarian I took him to helped changed his eating habits but he continues with his hostility, so I am very excited to learn about this stone therapy."
Madhu Kotiya, who began pet healing five years ago, offers packages of crystals and stones to deal with things such as "Anger and Aggression" and "Accident and Emergency."
The prices range from $10 to $12 -- in a country where the per capita income was $945 as of fiscal 2010.
"Apart from using crystals, we are also doing energy healing called 'angel communication healing,' which helps people find their lost dogs," Kotiya added.
But others at the fair sniffed at the idea of New Age care, recommending old-fashioned methods such as lavishing pets with time and company.
"It's not easy to domesticate any pet in the house. They require hygiene, love and training which not many pet owners are willing to provide," said one exhibitor.
The three-day fair, now in its fifth year, was begun originally as a trade fair to help organize the industry, which despite its rapid growth still remains a bit of a free-for-all.
Dogs accompanied their owners as they strolled from stall to stall, lazing around or engaging in playful mock fights with other dogs. At one stall, cats could get their toenails painted in bright colors.
Also on tap were races, a dog obedience show, and a fancy dress competition won by Moni the Cocker Spaniel in a butterfly design and Jojo the cat for a "Save the Tiger" theme.
Despite many modern options, pet toys, including rubber space stations and studded chops and bells, remained a show stealer.
But even here there was a nod to present-day sensibilities -- many of the more popular toys were advertised as "eco-friendly" by virtue of being made out of natural rubber.
Editing by Elaine Lies