The ‘Furryghor’ project: Alumna offering an urban amenity to pet owners
Posted: 29 August 2022
Australia Awards alumna Nuzhat Nabila is the co-founder of a unique pet hotel in Bangladesh: Furryghor. Established in February 2022 in Mirpur, Dhaka, Furryghor takes care of pet cats and dogs when their owners are away. ‘Ghor’ in Bangla means ‘house’ or ‘home’, so the portmanteau ‘Furryghor’ means a home for pets with fur. The business caters for cats and dogs by providing a safe, secure environment and opportunities for playful activities while ensuring that all their needs—such as feeding, cleaning and grooming—are met.
By profession, Nabila is an architect and a lecturer at the Department of Architecture at Southeast University, Dhaka. Her dream is to build better cities that will be inclusive by accommodating the diversity of nature, animals and people, allowing cities to sustainably co-exist with nature.
Nabila completed a Master of Urbanism from the University of Sydney in 2019 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. She believes that urbanism has a responsibility to make communities more compassionate and more socially and economically equitable.
“It often happens that we forget that we coinhabit our landscapes with many other animals and living beings,” she says. “We need to incorporate all species while designing built environments ethically.”
While studying in Australia, Nabila started working as a pet sitter through apps such as MadPaws and Pawshakes. She quickly developed a passion for working with and caring for animals, and soon discovered other related services, like pet cafés, pet hotels and pet resorts. Her keen interest led to her networking with these organisations, and while studying urbanism she also learnt how a quality organisation ensures animal safety and wellbeing.
When Nabila visited pet boarding facilities in Sydney, she immediately perceived the strong need to have similar services available in her home country. Being a pet owner herself, she knew that many pet owners in Dhaka could not find a reliable place to house their pets when they were on vacations, traveling for work or needing their pets taken care of in emergency situations. She also understood the positive impact pets have on our mental health and wellbeing. At her university, there were therapy dogs that provided emotional support to students who felt overwhelmed with their studies, especially during exam time. All these experiences led her to open Furryghor, where people can come and find peace whether, they are a pet owner or not.
“My Australia Awards experience was invaluable to my current line of work. In Dhaka, where it is so difficult to create urban activities for people, Furryghor and its ‘Pat a Pet Cafe’ provide a breathing space for people in a unique way. The experience in Australia provided me with the strategic guidance in rebuilding relationships between people and public spaces and I applied all the standards I learnt in Sydney while designing Furryghor,” Nabila says.
Nabila designed and implemented this project in collaboration with animal rights activist and architect Rakibul Haq Emil and digital marketer Khalid Farhan. She also developed ideas for the hotel while working as a volunteer at PAWS Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation in Bangladesh that works for the rights of animals.
Furryghor, located on Mirpur’s Zoo Road, consists of three rooms for dogs and twenty cat cabins, totaling 1800 square feet. The space is already attracting interest from pet owners from all over Dhaka and the hotel is generally fully booked during vacation periods. Furryghor’s pet-friendly Pat a Pet Café, established in collaboration with chef and artist Saria Saguaro, not only serves coffee and other delicacies to human visitors but also caters to the needs of animals, providing pet treats such as cookies and donuts. Visitors can also play with rescued kittens at the cafe.
The element that makes Furryghor different from other boarding facilities is the provision of separate living spaces for each pet: specially designed playing spaces for cats and dogs that cater to slightly more aggressive pets (or those that don’t mix well with other animals) and prevent the risk of spreading diseases. “Even though showing a pet’s updated vaccination card is a prerequisite to enter Furryghor, we do not take any risk when it comes to animals’ wellbeing,” Nabila says. Furryghor has a clinic in the same building named Paw Life Care, which ensures 24/7 medical support for the boarders. To ensure security, the whole facility is under CCTV surveillance and access to the hotel area is restricted by fingerprint identification.
“Australia Awards gave me a multicultural environment and that really helped me to form such a diverse team here at Furryghor, who are working coherently despite belonging to different backgrounds,” Nabila notes.
“Australia Awards also boosted my leadership qualities, which helped me to guide and train my employees, which was challenging as this hotel is relatively a new concept in Bangladesh,” she adds.
Nabila believes that it is her core responsibility to build better animal-friendly cities and communities and contribute to improving health and social wellbeing. She says that people with pets have a more active life, report less loneliness and stress, and have stronger social ties.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how essential our neighbourhood infrastructure is for mental health and wellbeing. Restorative cities are now a call for action to design cities in a way that puts mental health and social wellbeing at the heart of urban design. My Furryghor project is a small effort in restorative urbanism that will help build healthier urban societies and communities,” she concludes.