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Bengal Cat craze hits India

Vrinda Gopinath

New Delhi, November 26: If a thing’s trendy in Los Angeles, can Delhi be far behind?

The latest fashion accessory is not a Maybach or Gulfstream, but exotic pets: from trinket snakes (its real name) to miniature monkeys from the Amazon rainforest (the movie Gremlins was inspired by these primates). Both can adorn your neck. The snake is non-venomous and rarely grows longer than 4 ft.

The newest craze is the Bengal Cat.

For the uninitiated, this is a pocket edition of the Big Cat, cross between an Asian Leopard Cat (from the Far East actually) and a domestic cat.

Pet agents in the city can’t get enough of queries about the Bengal Cat. Devotees exult about its beauty and style — this feline, with its striking bold spots not only reminds one of its bigger cousins it has also the very same sleek, muscular body and the wild grace. “Its pelt has the rich smooth feel of satin or silk,’’ says a city-based exotic pet shop owner. The animals can weigh upto 50 pounds and grow a foot high and two feet in length.

“It’s like having a small leopard in the house and despite its wild cat appearance, it is pretty domesticated,’’ he added.

Bengal Cats have been in the global market since the ’90s, when they first appeared in the US, where the species was first bred. But even after more than a decade, a pure-bred Bengal Cat is still hard to get even in London’s Harrods and global websites. Every place has got a long waiting list.

Naturally, they don’t come cheap. “In Delhi, this cat could cost up to $3000, with international agents to freight charges to quarantine papers. I have already got a dozen enquiries, but yet to get any confirmation,’’ says an exotic pet importer.

Pet trends, by all accounts, come and go like ringtones. If it was the Iguana a year ago, says an exotic pet importer, today it is Chihuahua and the Shihtzu, the pocket size pedigree dogs.

In fact, “the Iguana has had its day,’’ he offers helpfully, “it was a hot favourite with some farmhouse owners once. Today, it’s the designer itsy-bitsy dogs that fit perfectly into Prada handbags or a jacket pocket.’’

Chihuahuas are prized for their stocky round faces and come at a princely Rs 50,000. Other exotica include amphibians like the Albino Bull Frog, Asia Greenbacks, Russian and Leapord Tortoises, Box turtles, Timor and Burmese pythons, corn snakes and the magnificient birds of paradise in full plume — from cockatoos, macaws, conures, lovebirds, amazons, African Grey, parakeets — you name it.

According to punters in the trade, quality animals born in captivity and farm bred are legal and can be imported. “However, all Indian species are banned for domesticity and cannot be kept as pets,’’ explains one importer. Though importers assure that no trade in endangered species is carried on, undercover agents in many countries have netted trappers of exotic animals.

Pet trendies in India are, however, squeamish about the latest Western fashion accessories: dangerous reptiles — slithery snakes and lizards — and vicious fish and cats like piranhas and the Russian Lynx (it takes a vet long hours to de-claw its razor-like paws).

“Afficionados are divided into two kinds here — serious animal lovers and fanatically fashion-conscious owners,’’ says a dealer. “But they are willing to spend enormous amounts of money to get their heart’s desire.’’

Birds from aviaries abroad range from Rs 15,000 to Rs 4 lakh – cockatoos from the islands of South Pacific of Indonesia, Solomon Islands, New Zealand, New Guinea; beautifully-plumed parrots from Brazil to Africa; blue, gold, red macaws from Australia and Costa Rica, pheasants from Britain… the list is endless.

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=210988

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