In Asia, there’s a growing demand for quirky cat cafés where customers can enjoy tea or coffee in the company of domesticated felines. But in Vietnam, the concept of cat cafés would likely take on a very different meaning — one that any cat lover would find abominable.
Despite an official ban on eating cats, restaurants in the Southeast Asian nation still offer the forbidden meat on their menus, reports Agence France-Presse. In fact, the consumption of felines appears to be rising, prompting cat owners to fear for their pets’ safety.
“Eating cat meat is better than eating dog as the meat is more sweet, more tender than a dog,” said chef Le Ngoc Thien.
According to AFP, at one central Hanoi restaurant the cats are drowned, shaved and burned to remove their fur before being butchered and fried with garlic. A snack of cat meat is colloquially known as little tiger, and typically served with beer and eaten at the beginning of the lunar month.
Thien says the demand for cat meat grows each year. “When I first started working here, I was surprised so many people ate cat," he said. "But now, fine, they like it.”
It’s this growing demand that has pet owners worried. Cats sell for $50 to $70, depending on the size — a hefty sum for many in the impoverished nation. While cat traders claim to breed the animals legitimately, there are hardly any regulations in place to verify this, opening the proverbial cat-flap for pets to be stolen to keep up with demand.
“My family is sad because we spend a lot of time and energy raising our cats," cat owner Phuong Thanh Thuy, who keeps the animals to catch rats and regularly loses some to thieves, told AFP. "When we lose a cat, we feel pain.”