The Truth About Cats & Dogs In Vietnam
It’s a difficult concept for outsiders to grasp – Vietnamese people keep cats and dogs as pets, they love them and are loved in return. Yet cat restaurants and dog restaurants exist here.
People don’t actually eat their own pets. Not unless the family is starving or the pet has done something wrong. In the West, a very naughty or dangerous cat or dog would be put down … and buried or incinerated. Here, it would be a shame to waste the meat!
I don’t like the concept of eating dog at all. Dogs are loyal and loving and you can see the intelligence in their eyes — and the pain.
The worst thing about dog restaurants in Vietnam is that the dogs are tortured before they’re slaughtered. It’s believed the surge of adrenaline through their bodies makes the meat more tender. The concept makes me a bit sick.
I hate seeing “thit cay” (dog meat) signs. I hate it even more when I don’t look away fast enough and I see a roasted leg in the window. Thank goodness I’ve never seen the places where the whole roasted carcass is on display.
Darling Man tells me people eat dog because it’s considered lucky, tasty and an aphrodisiac. For a true dog meat experience, you’re supposed to go to a place that does “cay mon 9” or dog nine ways.
Cat restaurants also baffle me. I mean … why would you eat a cat when there’s plenty of cheap and delicious seafood around? And chicken and pork.
But Darling Man says cats are considered “little tigers” so eating them is supposed to give you the strength of a tiger.
I don’t want to have anything to do with dog restaurants OR cat restaurants.
Today, one of the street cats from behind our house squeezed through a partially opened window, came upstairs and murdered one of our birds. It was in its cage and the cat somehow killed it and hauled the frail little body – or bits of it – between the narrow bars of the cage.
It happened at about 4am and the screaming of our blue bird’s “wife” woke me up. I ripped open the bedroom door, our dog rushed past me and barked once and a streak of darkness flashed between me and the dog and disappeared into the blackness of the stairs.
I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed at 4am. Darling Man said my scream woke him up, but I don’t remember screaming.
I wanted to see what happened but I couldn’t get the light to turn on.
It was several long seconds before I realised the power was out. So by the light of our mobile phones Darling Man and I surveyed the damage. Three trembling budgies, still in their cage. Scattered feathers. A pitifully small pool of blood.
Our dog, surely an embarrassment to her German Shepherd AND Pekinese heritage, leaned against my leg, seemingly happy to have escaped death herself.
These f@#$king cats are just getting too much.
This is the second bird they’ve killed. The first bird, creatively named Birdie, we found in the garden, a wobbly-necked frail newborn, still shaped like an egg.
Darling Man brought it/her/him (we never worked it out) inside and made it a little bed in an ice cream container. He went out and bought a bag of crickets and some special bird food he mixed with water to make a strange smelling goop that we rolled into small worm-like shapes and dropped down Birdie’s gullet every couple of hours.
I didn’t think Birdie would make it so I tried not to get too attached. But she was a sweet thing. So gentle and trusting.
After two weeks, Darling Man started teaching Birdie how to fly. He swooped her up and down on his finger so she fluttered her wings. After a couple of days of this, she suddenly flew from his finger to my shoulder.
She made short flights around the lounge room, landing once of Miss M’s face and I was so proud of Miss M for just shutting her eyes and staying still rather than trying to bat the little bird away.
Our dog was also gentle with Birdie. Gentle in a calm disinterested way, the same reaction she has to chickens and baby chicks.
Birdie had just made her first Skype call to my relatives in Australia when one of the f#$@king street cats got her. It was the first anniversary of my Dad’s death, so the Skype call was a bit maudlin. I put Birdie on the call to try to cheer everyone up.
Mum and my sister, of course, loved Birdie.
And 10 minutes after the call ended I heard a crash in the lounge room. I ran in to find feathers everywhere and Birdie’s cage empty.
It was very upsetting. Especially on a day when I was already sad.
So a friend tried to cheer us up with a pair of budgerigars. One blue, one white.
Darling Man, the softest man on the planet, went out to buy a cat-proof cage and came back with a cage WITH A BIRD IN IT. I told him budgies are happiest in pairs. So he went out and bought another one. And just like that we had four budgies.
Had. Now we have only three. And I am carrying the cage around the house with me. Afraid to let it out of my sight.
And I’m asking Darling Man if we can call up a cat restaurant to come and catch the nasty street cats that are monstering our household.
I love animals and I hate thinking of them being hurt. But I don’t know how to resolve the problem of the cats without … er … terminating them.
They are not fixed up and they are breeding rapidly. When we moved into the house five months ago, there were two adult cats and four kittens. Now there are six adult cats AND FOUR MORE KITTENS. Soon the young cats will be having litters of their own. And it’s all happening in a very small space — the three small courtyards belonging to us and our neighbours either side.
On one side, our neighbour has built a cage over the courtyard. The cats loll around on top of it.
The cats “own” our back yard. (Our dog is afraid to go out there unescorted.)
Now it seems the feral street cats “own” our house.
They started by coming inside and stealing the dog’s food. It escalated to stealing food left on the table, then anything left on the stove. (Leaving food on the table sounds quite slack. But you have to understand that we live in a multi-storey house and our lounge/living area is upstairs, above the kitchen.)
In Ho Chi Minh City’s sweltering heat, we seal up our house against the cats. We miss the cool breezes that our part of town has. When we leave a room, we lock it up tight.
The nasty street cats that possess our back yard don’t come into the front courtyard or into the street. Other street cats “own” that territory. And the other street cats are much nicer.
After a sad day today mourning Blue, as the sun set, I heard the surviving birds fluttering in their cage. One of the evil cats had come back, a speedy shadow that ran right past our dog and our helper and up the stairs to take another bird.
I got there before anyone was hurt.
And that’s when I started thinking, really thinking, about cat restaurants and dog restaurants.
Are they the local form of animal control? This is a poor country, after all, where animal sterilisation would come way down someone’s priority list, after food, schooling and other human necessities.
We, after all, haven’t gotten around to fixing up our dog. It’s on our list but we are both soft — and not very impressed with how local vet clinics look. Operations are conducted within sight of the waiting area, which is often wide open to the street.
I remembered the two lovely street cats we adopted when we lived in Hell Money Hem, before we had Miss M. First one and then the other disappeared. Our neighbours said local boys probably caught them and sold them to a restaurant. I missed those cats.
And our dog’s mother went missing from Darling Man’s parent’s house earlier this year. The family thinks the dog restaurant down the street took her.
As an animal-lover, could I really condemn an animal to death?
Today I could. And not all animals, just the nasty street cats that have taken over our house and murdered our pets.
Near our house, there’s a sign for a cat and dog restaurant. I usually look away but tonight when we drove past I asked Darling Man to stop and help me translate it.
The sign says: The King of Cat and Dog Restaurants. Straw barbecue – many types of dishes. We buy “fresh” dogs and cats. 15 metres that way.
What do I do? What would you do? (Apart from continue to keep a close eye on our dog, that is.)
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10 years ago