Would you eat your cat if you were starving to death?

Damascus cat

This is not a hypothetical question. It is starkly real. Under the Islamic faith it is not permitted to eat cats and dogs1. However, in the suburbs of southern Damascus, not far from people sipping coffee in pleasant surroundings in the center of the city, people are starving to death because the Assad regime has blockaded the roads to those areas preventing the shipment of provisions. People are also starving to death in the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus.

“How does the world sleep with full stomachs while there are hungry people, and not far from the main city, just few meters way,” (leading imam)

The decision was made by Islamic leaders to declare, in the form of a fatwa (a scholarly opinion and ruling), that people can to eat cat and dog meat.

Before I go on, most online newspapers are simply stating that the residents of Damascus are allowed to eat cat and dog meat. To me that implies they are allowed to kill cats and dogs to eat them.

However, as I understand it, the edict states that the residents can eat the flesh of cats and dogs that have been killed by the bombs of the Assad regime. This is substantially different.

However, it is not completely clear as to how the fatwa is being put into practice. I would expect some people to kill their pets because dead animals, killed some time ago, are going to be inedible for obvious reasons.

This religious ruling may simply be a marketing stunt to highlight the plight of starving Syrians living not far from Assad himself. The timing is interesting. It is the time of the Haj, the mass pilgrimage to Mecca where the Prophet lived. Some journey to Medina as well. where the prophet Mohammad is laid to rest. It is particularly poignant that Muslims are starving while others spend good money of the pilgrimage.

I, for one, could not kill and eat my cat to survive if I was starving to death. That is the way I feel now with a full belly whilst in warm, comfortable surroundings. But what if I was a Syrian Muslim, living amongst the rubble of my home, literally starving to death and terrified. We don’t know what we would do under these circumstances unless we are under them.

The human survival instinct is a huge driver to take action. There are documented cases of people resorting to cannibalism under these circumstances. I would, therefore, expect some Syrians to kill their pets and eat them.

One factor that might be worth noting is that most cats in the Middle East have looser relationships with their human companions. The word “community cat” would describe a large percentage of the cats living in these places. This probably facilitates killing them to eat when push comes to shove.

Refs:

  1. Huff Post.
  2. Link to original photo on Flickr
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Comments

Would you eat your cat if you were starving to death? — 28 Comments

  1. I agree that the will to live is very strong and motivating.

    I can see myself eating plants, bugs, amphibians, and the like if I were starving.

    I believe that I would start gnawing on myself (there’s a term for that that I can’t recall) before I considered eating a cat.

    • my pets, especially my compainion dog, would be especially difficult. on the other hand, i’ve played with reading on guinia pigs, not only about them already being consumed in some countries, but also the research going on proving their worth as a calorie dense food sourse – problem being if i went out and bought one in a local pet store and sat down to indulge, that i’m certain that would be considered animal cruelty here in the states. then there’s back to rabbits in ourdoor hutches – but in a crisis, how long would it be before they are on everyone elses tables!

  2. No I would never ever eat one of our cats, nor anyone else’s cats. Just think about it, even if someone did eat a cat it would only stave their starvation off for a while, they would soon be hungry again.
    Being vegetarian I wouldn’t eat any animal, bird, or fish, the very thought makes me feel ill and to put it politely any flesh wouldn’t stay down now lol
    I couldn’t eat an insect or a grub either, if there were no grass or plants to eat I think I’d just have to ‘switch off’ and curl up and wait to die.

  3. Absolutely not. Although, if my cat and I were starving severely (almost been there), I would help my feline forage for plants/bugs/larvae. If my mind/body was so ill and weak that I “craved” my cat’s flesh, my flesh would go first and I would offer that flesh to him before cognitively steeling my plastic brain to eating it myself.

    • My sister, when she was first on her own and very low on funds (and food), told me she fantasized about eating her roommate, who was also our cousin. I still feel badly that I did not know my sister was going hungry, she didn’t tell me. When our cousin got hungry she ate at her parents which was a few blocks away from their apartment. My sister was too proud to ask for help. I was actually gaining weight because my husband grew up cooking for his large family and he was always making more than we would ever eat. If I had only known, I’d have been walking containers filled with casserole across 13th street to my sister so she could have had a hot meal. It was years later that she confided that it got so bad that she actually was thinking about eating Joanne. Not that she’d really do it. She didn’t obviously, because my cousin is still walking around and my sister isn’t in jail for murder. Actually, she didn’t say she thought about killing her first, just that it seemed like she was so hungry she could have just walked up and took a bite out of her.

      Extreme hunger will do strange things to your mind, I think. People get desperate. I hope that I can sincerely say that though it might cross my mind, I would never actually eat Monty if I was starving. Doing so would only stave off the inevitable, so there wouldn’t be much point. I would feel really bad if I couldn’t provide him with food. He’s not much of a hunter.

      • I’m pretty certain that I could be a good scavenger/dumpster diver; good enough to get some kind of food for me and my cat so any thought of consuming each other wouldn’t be an issue. We sort of touched on this subject before when we talked about whether we would give up our cat in desperate times. Nothing would be off limits for me to do for survival except eating my cat.

          • Yeah, I can be pretty resourceful. But, sometimes, I wonder what sort of dangers (snakes, bobcats, coyotes, human with guns) I would stand up to to save me and my cats if confronted with predators that vie for our food when we are starving.
            I think I would, definitely, fight.

      • I know what your sis told you years later had to hurt your heart. It hurt mine just reading about it. DAMNED PRIDE!
        So sorry.

  4. Not in even the most desperate of circumstances would I ever eat any cat or dog or any other type of “meat” let alone a cat who is a member of our family, I would rather starve to death, though I dare say that maybe they would eat me if they were starving and I was dead and nicely available and good luck to them. I can’t even bear to think of how horrible it is, or how horrible foraging for dead animals is. I feel sorry for those Syrians but turning on the family cat or dog, killing and eating it is pretty low.

        • That sums up my feelings about humanity. It is a bit like domestic cats being a whisker from being wild. Humans are domesticated but we can be degraded to savages quite easily. Look at Syria. There is a shocking story in the paper today about snipers shooting at pregnant women’s bellies (the target was the women’s uterus) to kill the foetus and betting a packet of cigarettes with their colleagues if they hit the target. True. It comes from a very reliable source. The snipers are apparently mercenaries working for Assad and they possibly come from China and Azerbaijan. The surgeon called it hell upon hell. Savages.

    • Me too. Perhaps, for me, it comes down to not fearing death and loving cats and my cat. These two things would probably stop me killing and eating my cat under the most severe conditions of life and death. I value humans less than cats. It seems strange to state that. Although it is not a crazy thought. It is just a preference.

      • There are also practical reasons. Humans consume more resources that cats. Humans have better carcase weight than cats – enough for me and for my cats. Like you, I prefer cats over humans, perhaps because cats don’t deliberately cause hurt and have no ulterior motives. I already eat roadkilled rabbits, pheasants and pigeons, but I’m not sure I could make the leap to roadkilled cat in a time of hardship.

        • A cat has never hurt me, never upset me, never conned me, never lied to me, never been unreliable and always understood me. No surprise I prefer cats to people 😉

  5. I would not kill and eat Monty no matter what. But I have no doubt, were he bigger or I smaller, he would kill and eat me. Or at least smack me around like the chipmunks he likes to torment.

    • That makes me think a bit. Can we deduce a moral or lesson from what you have stated, which has some truth? However, I am not sure Monty would kill and eat you. He might but he is domesticated and sees you as a friend and not prey. Mind you, you’d be a carcass and you’d lose all your scent. Just being practical 😉

      • He wouldn’t eat me, because he doesn’t eat his kills. But he would smack me around like a chipmunk if he could. When we play outside he stalks me and pounces on me constantly.

  6. I think if a person and their cats were starving to death, that if the cats outlived the person they might eat them after they were dead. I wouldn’t blame Walt and Jo if they ate me, I would just hope I’d nourished them long enough until someone found them and they were fed properly.

    • I am sure a starving cat would try and eat a dead person. Wild cats certainly would. It is just that we are a bit tough to eat! You gotta have strong jaws. And domestic or community cats are not that well primed to eat raw meat even if it does taste like chicken 😉

  7. Never ceases to amaze me how the leaders of some religions swop and change the laws of their faith to suit. Surely if its against their faith then thats it; end of. If you think about Jehovahs witnesses they will refuse a blood transfusion even if it means they will die. In this case however, its good that they have declared the Fatwa – well, at least good for the starving people not so good for the cats and dogs that will be eaten.

    I couldn’t eat my cats because I couldn’t kill them as I’ve never killed a living thing (except the odd fly). This isn’t the only reason though; I couldn’t because I would only be delaying the inevitable starvation if nothing else presented itself. Another reason and the most important one is because they are my family.

    The sitiuation that these starving people found themselves in reminds me very much of a book I read;
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Child-44-Tom-Rob-Smith-ebook/dp/B002SW8Y2E

    The book begins very promisingly with the first chapter detailing the lives of a village on the brink of starvation in 1930s Russia. Two boys from one family go out hunting for the only piece of meat seen in the village for a long time – a cat. However, only one of the boys returned. The other has been killed.

    The first chapter reveals the savagery of the starving villagers after every single animal whether it be farm, domestic or wild has been eaten. An old lady despite starving has kept her cat a secret from the villagers decides to set it free I think because she knows she is going to die and she would rather it take its chances than starve with her. Two boys can’t believe their eyes when they see it make a dash for the woods. They hunt it and kill it. This whole first chapter dwells on this awful starvation and how in turn the boys go after the cat like savages. It really is a stark portrayal of the desperation of a village when faced with starvation.

    • You portray that desperation very well in your comment. When the raw survival instinct kicks in, as Sarah Hartwell states, savagery takes over and anything is possible.

      We really are not far from savages.

      • Perhaps we over estimate ourselves Michael who knows what we would be capeable of if we were faced with starvation? I still reckon I would more that likely cannibalise a stranger though rather than eat my own feline family. Lets hope I’m never put to the test 😉

  8. I think the book “Lord of the Flies” sums things up well. Eventually, any living creature weaker than oneself will be considered fair prey.

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