Cat Merchants and Tea Dealers at Tong Chow

Cat Merchants and Tea Dealers at Tong Chow

by Michael

Tong-chow-foo is 12 miles from Peking, now Bejing on the river Pei-ho. Well, it was in 1843 and before that but things change.

However, one thing that has not changed in centuries is the eating of the domestic cat by some Chinese people.

Please note: (a) I am not generalizing by saying “Chinese people” and (b) I am not being judgmental in this post, although I dislike the practice intensely. I have been judgmental in the past but don’t regret it.

In a book on China written by Thomas Allom Esq. in 1843 and entitled: Scenary, Architecture, Social Habits Etc. Illustrated, he refers to the:

Cat Merchants and Tea Dealers at Tong Chow

Here is a picture from the book. Copyright has expired so I can publish it here and some quotes from the book:

cat dealers in China in the 1800s

Here is a detail showing the cats and cages more clearly:

cat dealers in China in the 1800s

The cats are tabbby and white random bred cats swept up from the streets of nearby towns. The quote below refers to wildcats of Tartary. This seems to refer to the region where Tartars lived. As to wildcats I suspect these were feral cats although it could refer to the Chinese desert cat. That species of wild cat would have been found in Tartary, I believe. The Chinese desert (or mountain) cat is a subspecies of wildcat which is the ancestor of the domestic cat. It therefore looks like a tabby cat but would have been more exotic and special. This wild cat species still lives in China…just! It is in a highly vulnerable situation.

The buyer in the picture (the man with the cane) seems to be inspecting the cat. He seems to be stroking the cat. I am sure there was some sort of protocol for deciding which sort of cat was the tastiest.

Here are some quotes from the book which explains what is going on:

“In ancient Chinese writings, cats are spoken of as a delicacy at table; but the species alluded to was found wild in Tartary, and brought thence to China, where they were regularly fed for the markets of the principal cities.”

“The salesmen enter the market-place, or step from their junks upon shore, having baskets suspended at the extremities of a carrying-pole, in which are contained dogs,cats, rats or birds either tame or wild, generally alive..”

” Beside the tarpaulin supporters, table-frame, and trellis-work of the tea-vender’s shop, the conical baskets in which the cats are brought to market, the pole from which they are suspended, the broad….”

As you can see cat, dog and all manner of animals that we would not consider food were and are eaten in China.

I am interested in the historical side of this aspect of the Chinese culture.

Today domestic and feral cats are shipped in metal rather than wooden cages on lorries from towns to the market place. It is the same process, different materials, same cats.

I think you will find that the culture of domestic eating is at its strongest in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, China.

The most uncomfortable part about domestic cat eating is not the eating. It is the treatment that the cat endures before being killed and during the act of killing both of which are highly unpleasant to me. As far as I am aware, there are still no laws concerned with animal welfare in China.

What, eat poor pussy! Eat my pet,
So soft and gentle, sleek and warm?
Go, gorge truss’d mice; I’ll not regret:
“Cat” may eat rarely in a stew or pie:
Let mine pur pleasure, -I’ve no wish to try.



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Cat Merchants and Tea Dealers at Tong Chow

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Feb 07, 2012
by: Michael

Dee, you are a sweet lady who must find what happens in the world hard to accept. Thanks for the comment.

Feb 06, 2012
A cruel world NEW
by: Anonymous

It’s a very cruel world for a lot of animals.
People talk of mans inhumanity to man but mans unhumanity to animals is even worse as too many don’t realise a human is as much an animal as any other animal is.
Eating any other living creature is disgusting and sinful.

Feb 06, 2012
by: Dee Florida USA

I couldn’t even read your entire post, Michael.
This makes me physically, psychologically, and spritually SICK!!!

Feb 06, 2012
by: Ruth

I too think it’s horrible and disgusting that those people kill and eat cats which have been terrified out of their lives at what was being done to them.
You would think the human brain would reject the flesh of those suffering cats even if the stomach of the person accepted it.
But having said that, people in all countries do eat the flesh of animals, birds and fish that have died terrified and painfully and horribly, many of those creatures having lived that way too.
The human stomach accepts that dead flesh and so does the brain of meat eaters.
I saw a photo of a woman I used to know eating a roast guinea pig when she was abroad, yet they are pets in our country, just like cats are !
She wouldn’t have eaten one at home !
So many animals suffer in this world because people have the right to do anything they please with them and don’t give a thought to how those animals must feel.
It makes me feel very angry and very very sad.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Feb 06, 2012
Disgust NEW
by: Barbara

This probably shows me up as blinkered and racist but because I love cats best of all animals and have lived with them for all of my adult life and know what wonderful and intelligent creatures they are, and because I’m vegetarian and would rather gouge my own eyes out with a teaspoon that put animal flesh in my mouth I have nothing but contempt for a race of people that allows such horror and cruelty to happen in the 21st century. Why would anyone want to kill and cook or rather (and horribly) cook and kill a struggling frightened cat, how can the eating of a terrified animal that you have stroked (as the man in the picture did)be something to anticipate with pleasure? It disgusts me(it also puts me in mind of the way people choose a live lobster from a tank and sit back happily waiting for it to be tortured to death for them to eat) I’m not normally a violent person but reading this about cats still being eaten in this day and age, and knowing that it does really happen, makes a red mist rise in front of my eyes. I make no allowances for different cultures, it makes me puke, end of! (as they do say)

Barbara avatar

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