Cat meat is meat prepared from domestic cats for human consumption. Some countries eat cat meat regularly, whereas others have only consumed cat meat in desperation during wartime or poverty.
Prehistoric human feces have contained bones from the wild cat of Africa.
Cats are regularly eaten in West Africa, especially in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Togo.
In Guangdong and Guangxi provinces in south-eastern China, some—especially older—people consider cat flesh a good warming food during winter months. However, in northern China eating cat is considered unacceptable.
Organized cat-collectors supply the southern restaurants with animals that often originate in Anhui and Jiangsu provinces. On 26 January 2010 China launched its first draft proposal to protect the country's animals from maltreatment including a measure to jail people, for periods up to 15 days, for eating cat or dog meat.
With the increase of cats as pets in China, opposition towards the traditional use of cats for food has grown. In June 2006, approximately 40 activists stormed the Fangji Cat Meatball Restaurant in Shenzhen, forcing it to shut down. Expanded to more than 40 member societies, the Chinese Animal Protection Network in January 2006 began organizing well-publicized protests against dog and cat consumption, starting in Guangzhou, following up in more than ten other cities "with very optimal response from public."
Cat meat is eaten in Vietnam, even though it is technically illegal. It is generally seen on menus with the euphemism "tiểu hổ", literally "baby tiger" rather than the literal "thịt mèo". Cat galls have aphrodisiacal properties according to people in North Vietnam.
In Switzerland the private consumption and slaughter of dog and cat meat is permitted though its commercial trade is prohibited by law. A 1993 petition to ban consumption failed with the government declaring the matter a "personal ethical choice."
In June 2008, three students at the Danish School of Media and Journalism published pictures of a cat being slaughtered in Citat, a magazine for journalism students. Their goal was to create a debate about animal welfare. The cat was shot by its owner, a farmer, and it would have been put down in any case. The farmer slaughtered the cat all within the limits of Danish law. This led to criticism from Danish animal welfare group Dyrenes Beskyttelse, and death threats received by the students.
In 18th-century Britain, there are a few records of cats being eaten as a form of entertainment.
In February 2010, on a television cooking show, the Italian food writer Beppe Bigazzi mentioned that during the famine in World War II cat stew was a "succulent" and well known dish in his home area of Valdarno, Tuscany. Later he claimed he had been joking, but added that cats used to be eaten in the area during famine periods, historically; he was widely criticised in the media for his comments and ultimately dropped from the television network.
Cats were sometimes eaten as a famine food during harsh winters, poor harvests, and wartime. Cat gained notoriety as "roof rabbit" in Central Europe's hard times during and between World War I and World War II.
According to the "Butchers' Advocate, Dressed Poultry and the Food Merchant" in 1904, "Just before Christmas it is common for a group of young men in northern Italy to kill some cats, skin them and soak them in water for two or three days. They are cooked with great care on Christmas day and served up hot about 1.30 P. M., after mass. "Many people in Italy, 'on the quiet,' keep cats like the English do rabbits—to kill. A catskin there is worth ten pence, as the material for muffs for girls. "Extraordinary care has to be taken in procuring the animals, for the Italian Society for the Protection of Cats is vigilant, and offenses against the law are followed by imprisonment only. We have no fines in Italy.
According to "The Dietetic & Hygienic Gazette" in 1905, Italy cultivates the cat for home consumption as English people raise rabbits. It is to be done on the quiet, however, for in spite of the profit in the business and the demand for the delicacy, the law has to be looked out for, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Cats is vigilant. Offenses against the law are visited with imprisonment. Cats are raised for the market nonetheless. Fattened on the finest of milk, a choice specimen will attain the weight of fifteen pounds.
There are recounts of cat being consumed in France's Gallia Norbon region and Spain in the 17th century.
Indigenous Australians in the area of Alice Springs roast feral cats on an open fire. They have also developed recipes for cat stew. Some other inhabitants of the area have also taken up this custom, justified on the grounds that felines are "a serious threat to Australia's native fauna". Scientists warned that eating wild cats could expose humans to harmful bacteria and toxins.
Cat is not a regular menu item in Peru, but is used in such dishes as fricassee and stews most abundant in two specific sites in the country: the southern town of Chincha Alta (Ica Region, Afro-Peruvian mostly) and the north-central Andean town of Huari (Ancash Region). Primarily used by Afro-Peruvians. Cat cooking techniques are demonstrated every September during the festival of Saint Efigenia in a town of La Quebrada.
In October 2013, a judge banned the annual El Festival Gastronomico del Gato (the Gastronomic Festival of the Cat), which was held every September in La Quebrada to commemorate the arrival of settlers who were forced to eat cats to survive, citing it as cruel to the 100+ cats specifically bred for the event, which involves being kept in cages for a year prior the Festival. The judge also cited concerns over the safety of the meat, which drew criticism from residents who contend that cat meat is far richer than rabbit or duck, and that it has been long consumed globally without any deleterious effects.
That same month, magistrate Maria Luyo banned the festival of Curruñao in the small town of San Luis. Locals say that the festival, which sees cats being drowned, skinned and tied to fireworks and blown up, dates back to the practice of eating cat on the part of African slaves who worked on sugar-cane plantations in colonial times, and is part of the religious celebrations of Santa Efigenia, an African-Peruvian folk saint. Luyo stated in her ruling that the festival "fomented violence based on cruel acts against animals which caused grave social damage and damaged public health", and that minors could be "psychologically damaged" by watching the events.
In a 1996 report, some citizens in a shanty town in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina, stated that, during an economic crisis, they had to feed the neighborhood children with cat's meat, and commenting, "It's not denigrating to eat cat, it keeps a child's stomach full". The validity of this report has been questioned, however.
The Jewish laws of kashrut and Islamic dietary laws both forbid the consumption of cat meat. Kashrut disallows the consumption of any terrestrial predators. To be considered kosher in the case of mammals, it must not be a predator and it must both chew cud and have cloven hooves.
Islam also forbids the consumption of predatory animals (those that hunt with their claws and/or teeth). Additionally, the cat is traditionally considered to be Prophet Muhammad's favourite animal.
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