Friday, 28 January 2011
Author / Source : Farah Tarannum and Ishtiaque Hossain
Animals are such agreeable friends, the novelist George Eliot once said; they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. Be it a bird, a fish, a cat or a rabbit; it’s always nice coming home to someone who’s happy just to be around you (unless it’s a dog – dogs aren’t just happy, they’re ecstatic to see their owners come home). Countless studies over the years have proved beyond dispute that having a pet can substantially reduce stress, and people who own pets live longer and healthier lives than people who don’t.
In a city like Dhaka where a simple task of getting from home to work takes a herculean effort, owning a pet can do wonders for stress management. Although having a pet is a huge responsibility, the rewards are well worth the time, money and effort.
Long before the upscale pet stores moved in, Katabon was and still is, the one stop destination for getting a pet. Anyone who has ever walked past Katabon has witnessed the endless rows of cages, aquariums and fishbowls filled with a cornucopia of exotic animals: dogs, cats, fishes, turtles, rabbits and even rats! At Katabon almost everyone can find a pet to suit their needs. Ranging from small animals that are suited for tiny apartments to giant dogs that can pull sledges without breaking a sweat.
The most obvious choice for most people in this city when it comes to pets would be birds. The pet stores at Katabon boast a huge collection of birds: ranging from Parakeets, Budgerigars, Australian love birds, Parrots, Mynahs, Pigeons and hundreds of breeds with exotic shapes and colors. Although it is cruel to keep birds in cages, some birds can be tamed and are quite fond of humans, for example there are Parakeets that spend most of the time outdoors, on the shoulder of its trainer! Other than Parakeets, pigeons are another breed of birds that can be easily tamed, and once tamed they always return to their pigeon holes. There are other birds like Turkeys and Koels for people who want to earn an easy buck while keeping pets. Most birds are sold in pairs in Katabon and the price ranges from 400 to 12000 a pair. For roughly Tk.8000 one can get a tamed talking Moina, for Tk.12000 a pair of Turkeys, and for 4000-5000 takas a pair of adorable Australian love birds. As for their accommodation, bird cages are in abundance at Katabon. They come in all shapes and sizes. The smaller ones are between 500 to 700, while the bigger ones go upto Tk 1000 to 1200.
The most alluring tenants of Katabon pet stores are the dogs. From bulldog to Alsatian – you name it, they have it. For dog lovers, it is the place to be. Most pet stores in Katabon have catalogues of various species of canines ranging from miniscule Chihuahuas to giant Great Danes. The best part is most stores offer pedigree certificates to authenticate whether the dog is purebred. While most breeds would have to be pre-ordered with an advance down payment, the more popular breeds are readily available. For example: German Shepherd (Alsatian) and Golden Retriever (Labrador) puppies are readily available for 20000 and 25000 takas, so are Dachshunds, Japanese Spitzes for 60,000 and 15,000 takas respectively. Spritzs are the most popular breed of dogs, because of their small size (13 inches), cute cuddly appearance and friendly nature. Spritzes are low maintenance dogs that are ideal for small apartments. But the most awe-inspiring canine currently residing in Katabon would be “Butcher”, a formidable cross between a Great Dane and a Bull Dog that is literally 5 feet tall and more than willing to rip his master’s enemies to shreds. “Butcher” and other fully trained attack dogs come with a hefty price tag of Tk.120,000-150,000.
If you’re a cat person you will find Katabon disappointing. The only breeds they claim to have are Persian and local cats. Since cats don’t come with pedigree certificates here, some stores try to sell local cats with unusual colouring for as high as 25000 takas by calling them “Siamese Cats”. It’s not an uncommon occurrence where you are shown a “rare half-breed Persian-Siamese” cat with a price tag of Tk. 15,000, which upon closer inspection turned out to be a common alley cat! Unless you’re an expert on cats or know someone who’s an expert on cats, it would be a bad idea to buy a cat from the Katabon pet stores. Adopting the kitten that showed up at your garage might be a less risky option.
For people who don’t have the time or patience to deal with pet poop, getting a fish is a great idea. Fishes are fairly easy to keep; their only requirement is to be fed twice a day and a clean aquarium. Fishes are more than just pets; they can liven up any boring old room and add a substantial amount of zing to the décor. Katabon has the largest and the most exotic collection of fishes in Dhaka City. The most popular species are Gold Fish, Oscar, and Angel fish. Like birds, fish are also sold in pairs and most pairs are under a 500 taka cap. The most unusual fish in Katabon are the Transparent Fish that actually have transparent bodies and they swim around the aquarium with their skeletons perfectly visible to the naked eye. If nothing else, the transparent fish are a conversation starter and they only cost 180 taka per pair. Other unusual fish include the glow-in-the-dark bioluminescent fish that are tiny and only cost Tk.300 per dozen. Apart from the species mentioned, the pet stores at Katabon literally have hundreds of species of fishes, along with turtles and snails. Small turtles cost around 360 takas per pair, while large ones are sold for 300 taka a piece. As for fish bowls and aquariums, bowls go from 150 to 800 takas (bargaining is a skill that will serve you well here) while aquariums start at 1200 and go up to 2500 takas.
A word of caution to the aspiring pet owner, while Katabon is a good place to buy fish food, bird feed or rabbit feed, when it comes to dog and cat food it’s not the best place. Many buyers say they have been overcharged by a large margin. These days shops like Agora and Nandan also sell dog and cat foods which are reasonably priced. They also offer a wider variety to choose from. You can even buy these from your local vet. As for collars, the stores in Katabon also stock them, so do the local vets. Prices for collars differ depending on the type and thus vary from anything between 120 to 600 taka. For the cat owner, kitty litter is something a little more difficult to find. However, most vets can provide you with this. A good place to find it will be the Gulshan-2 DCC market. Dr. Azmat Ali’s Pet Clinic (situated right behind the market) not only provides medical help for pets of all species starting from vaccinations to over-night stays at the clinic if the animal is a little too ill, the clinic also sells kitty litter, cat and dog food for cat and dogs at different stages of growth, as well as collars etc. Incidentally, they also sell pets if you are looking to buy something specific. They take in puppies and kittens from owners and often sell them to animal lovers looking for a new pet to care for.
There are other pet care clinics around the city. Notably, Pet Care in Green Road is also another veterinary clinic that provides dog training and plays host to the Kennel Club which brings together dog lovers across the city. Other than these, Katabon also has pet clinics and private veterinary practices. Given these services are restricted to a select few who actually keep pets, word of mouth is often the best way to find a good vet near you.
Dr. Siamak is a well known vet in the city who pays home visits to sick pets. Interestingly enough, Dr. Ali’s clinic, as well as Dr. Md. Motahar Hossain’s pet clinic situated right next to Dr. Ali’s, runs something of a pet hotel service. If you have nowhere to leave your pets or no one to leave them with, you can contact them and for a fee, they will take care of your pets for you while you enjoy a vacation. The rates for taking in dogs range from 300 taka to 500 taka per day, depending on the breed. For cats it is 200 to 300 taka per day. This fee covers everything from food to lodging, as well as grooming. The dogs cost a little extra as the bigger dogs require larger meals, according to Dr. Ali.
Apart from the more obvious pets, Katabon also previously catered to the more adventurous pet owners. According to one of the shop owners, they used to sell all sorts of things starting from squirrels to eagles, monkeys and even sea turtles. But, due to a government ban on trading such animals, now they do not stock them at the shops. However, if you do manage to get a little friendly with the owners, they actually offer to ship in whatever animal you wish if you just place an order and put in a somewhat hefty amount as down payment. Incidentally, if you have any such exotic pet, they are more than interested and happy to buy it from you if you no longer wish to care for them. This is applicable for all pets actually. You can take any pet you own and they will buy it off you, provided the animal is healthy.
Besides the local vets and the Pet shops in Katabon, these days there are street vendors who carry around cages with parrots and baby rabbits, even the occasional guinea pig. The prices are negotiable and differ much from that of Katabon. However, the guinea pigs can be a little expensive, ranging between Tk.750 for one or 1500 for a pair. If you can negotiate then they usually sell for 1000 a pair. Incidentally, once a popular display at pet shops, guinea pigs and gerbils are hardly seen in the shops anymore. The vendors claim to buy the birds and animals from Katabon. Another odd place to buy pets would have to be a cart that stocks pets of all types, starting from birds to cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, etc. The cart situated right in front of the Gulshan 2 DCC market is like a mini pet shop on wheels. Although, the police keeps trying to evacuate them saying they are illegally doing business, business for them is pretty good. However, they are not too keen on saying where they get the animals from. Also, the prices are somewhat of a rip off compared to the shops in Katabon, and the dogs do not come with a pedigree certificate.
So, no matter what pet you are looking for, you can probably find an animal to suit your preference. Taking care of pets may be time consuming and sometimes a bit difficult, but with all the facilities at hand and the perks that come with owning a pet, it’s always worth it. If you care for an animal, it will love you back twice fold. And the best part is, the brand of love that your pet will provide you is completely unconditional and non-judgmental. That’s more than you can say for most people in whom we invest time, money and emotions!