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Pet peeve: none to bell the cat
- One-month census from Sept 15, questions on hygiene & care

Calcutta, Sept. 7: Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?

I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen (because the Bengal census will not take my count).

Poor pussycat: it is the only pet left out of the Bengal census scheduled to start this month.

Like in the timeless poem, all that the cat can do now is frighten the little mouse under the counter’s chair. Or ask India’s most famous Kat to let loose her Tiger (last seen as a RAW agent on screen) to persuade the Bengal animal resources department to change its mind.

Asked about the omission, the answer of an animal resources development (ARD) department official could give many feline lovers a cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof moment. “Cats are not on the list because very few are kept as pets. Most cats in our state are stray and we don’t have the infrastructure to count them.”

Minu, Calcutta’s most famous cat, would purr in righteous indignation. Writer Taslima Nasreen’s cat has a Twitter account on which she’s quite active.

The pet census will be conducted from September 15 to October 14. The Centre funds the census, which is done every five years.

“The census result will be known on October 15. Nearly 12,000 officials of the ARD department as well as volunteers will be involved in it. The main purpose of the census is to find out how a particular animal or bird is reared,” said Uday Sankar Nandy, special secretary in the ARD department and milk commissioner.

“For example, if it is found that goat meat is becoming scarce in a particular market, the census will help us find out whether villagers in neighbouring areas are rearing lesser number of goats; and if so, why,” Nandy added.

He said the officials would visit every house. They will count dogs, cows, buffaloes, goats, pigs, rabbits, sheep, hens, fowls, ducks, emus, camels, horses and elephants. Stray dogs will also be counted with the help of civic bodies.

Many people in Calcutta could not remember the last time animal census officials had come to their house. An ARD official said: “Census officials are supposed to visit every house. If we receive complaints that they have not, we will take action against the officials concerned.”

He said pet owners would be asked how they are rearing the animals or birds, whether they have been given vaccines and medicines, and the quality of their food.

“We will also ask dog owners if they take the animals to veterinary doctors regularly,” the official said.

Next week, the government will place ads informing people of the census. Notices will be put up at civic bodies and panchayats.