The Cat’s Meo

Curtailing the overpopulation of cats in Vietnam

Why are a large number of cats (meo) being abandoned in Vietnam? Why do these ‘little tigers’ suffer the fate of being consumed in the beginning of a lunar month thinking this ritual will eliminate last month’s bad luck and raise one’s luck in the new? Another black mark against cats in Vietnam is the sound of the word “meo”; it’s similar to the word “ngheo” (“poor”). Conversely, “cho” (dog) sounds like “giàu” (rich) – an unfortunate disadvantage for cats.

I like cats. A lot. I admire their feline capabilities, physical prowess and beauty. They also drive me crazy with their stubbornness, aloofness and uncanny nature to disrupt every aspect of my life. Little do we know they do this on purpose. They say we are a dog’s master, but we are only amusement for cats. In my previous article I wrote about the importance of sterilizing dogs, however, in regards to cats, there is an even greater need to do so because Vietnam is facing a cat overpopulation crisis. If this article can prevent one more person from finding a bag of abandoned kittens, which occurs almost on a daily basis, I would be grateful.

A cat, whether male or female, in pursuit of sex is extremely annoying. The guttural sounds of being in heat are similar to wailing: loud and persistent. Male cats mark territory by spraying urine, female cats, to a lesser extent, usually target you and your belongings.

Female felines reach sexual maturity between five and eight months. An unspayed female goes into a heat cycle every few weeks and can give birth to appropriately 12 to 15 kittens a year. These same kittens, if left unspayed, will repeat the same birthing numbers as their mother – multiply this by several hundred unspayed females and the numbers would be in the thousands in a very short period of time – truly staggering!

Sterilizing a cat is a basic procedure that prevents the production of hormones controlling the cat’s sex drive and prevents unwanted pregnancies. Cats must be healthy and female cats should not be operated on during their heat cycle. The surgery can also control aggressive behavior associated with sexual maturity and can reduce the risk of certain life threatening diseases in older life. Most people acquire cats without knowing their history and whether they have similar bloodlines. Inbreeding produces cats that are physically deformed with genetic diseases. For example, an abnormally curled tail is not cute; it’s a result of inbreeding that will develop into medical problems in the future.

Many local animal rescue organizations offer affordable sterilization programs and there are many vet clinics available in Saigon that perform this operation. I strongly believe sterilizing kittens before they reach sexually maturity should be mandatory.

BIO: With a family that includes six cats, two dogs and a couple of dozen fish, Wayne Capriotti is a zoo curator and, along with his wife, publishes Vietnam’s first pet magazine Me Thu Cung.

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