Tsai Ing-wen is a cat lover (ailurophile)

It is nice to know that the first female president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, is a cat lover, a democracy campaigner and a gay-rights champion. Those three topics go together quite nicely, don’t they? I think you will find that the vast majority of cat lovers also support democracy and gay-rights and the rights of all individuals because they are often thinking, independent-minded people.

Tsai Ing-Wen and her two cats
Tsai Ing-Wen and her two cats: Think Think on the left and Ah Tsai on the right. Photo: Twitter.

Tsai Ing-wen was elected Taiwan’s president in January 2016 when she was the leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive party. She is a former law professor. During her presidency she has often posted photographs of herself and her cats: ‘Think Think’ and ‘Ah Tsai’, on social media websites. Think Think is a female, gray tabby cat. Ah Tsai is a male ginger or marmalade cat.

I would like to know why she called her gray tabby Think Think. It is an interesting and unusual name which indicates that either she believes that her cat is thoughtful or that her cat’s presence makes her think more effectively 😎. Perhaps she does a lot of are thinking with Think Think on her lap! She was adopted in 2012 after she was brought to her as a homeless kitten by a female politician of the Democratic Progressive Party, Hsiao Bi-khim, who found her on a muddy road by a railway station.

The ginger tabby cat’s name, ‘Ah Tsai’ means “talent”. He was a farm cat and a gift from a friend during the president’s presidential campaign. He was found near a pineapple field in Taitung County in eastern Taiwan.

Tsai Ing-Wen on a campaign poster with Think Think her gray tabby rescue cat
Tsai Ing-Wen on a campaign poster with Think Think her gray tabby rescue cat. Photo: Twitter.

And so, both Tsai Ing-wen’s cat companions are genuine rescue cats plucked from obscurity, in the wild, to now live with one of the most high-profile politicians in the world who resolutely defends democracy on the island of Taiwan much to the annoyance of the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi whose attitude towards animals is in stark contrast.

Her admirable adoption of rescue cats was also evident in July 2020 when she visited the Hsinchu Animal Protection Education Park and made a statement urging citizens who wish to adopt a cat to always adopt stray cats instead of purchasing purebred cats. This is the sign of a true cat and animal lover. She is obviously a very genuine person.

People comment on the fact that the president of China, Xi Jinping, does not have, on all accounts, a pet dog or cat. One commenter said that it would be a sign of weakness if there were photographs of him with a cat or dog. We don’t know whether his family has a dog companion. It’s almost certain there’s no connection between him and cats! That would be a terrible image for him. He has publicly supported the eating of cat and dog meat. These animals are brutally slaughtered before being eaten. A reflection on President Xi’s mentality.

It is interesting that Tsai Ing-Wen is very happy to be photographed with her cats and even, as you can see in the photograph above, campaigned with her gray tabby, indicating personal confidence in her image whereas President Xi Jinping is far more cautious it seems about his image and appears to avoid being photographed with a companion animal as it is believed that it would be a sign of weakness. Arguably, it is a sign of weakness to try and portray a sign of strength.

Wang Xi insults Tsai Ing-wen
Wang Xi insults Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: Twitter.

This is particularly relevant at this very moment after US Speaker Pelosi visited Taiwan to the chagrin of China followed by extensive military live exercises just outside Taiwan to try and make a statement about the strong possibility that China will invade Taiwan and take the country by force.

P.S. Tsai In-wen also lives with three dogs. She adopted them in October 2016, and their names are Bella, Bunny and Maru. She is an animal lover more than a cat lover.

Below are some more articles on cat lovers.

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154 purebred cats smuggled from China to Taiwan by sea have been put down

NEWS AND COMMENT – TAIWAN: I wrote about this earlier. It concerns a smuggling operation when purebred cats of great value are smuggled from mainland China to Taiwan using the sea route. The smugglers have been intercepted and the cats confiscated. It is now reported in The Guardian newspaper that, in total, the cats had an estimated value of 10 million new Taiwan dollars which equates to US$357,504 and tragically they have all been put down i.e. euthanised causing outrage. Click to read an earlier account.

164 smuggled purebred cats euthanised for biosecurity reasons
164 smuggled purebred cats euthanised for biosecurity reasons. Photo: Twitter

Funny how policy is so easily quoted when it suites – Peter Stormonth on Twitter

This appears to be a very large smuggling operation with a continual number of boats transporting these cats between China and Taiwan. In this latest intervention (there have been many others) coastguards intercepted a fishing vessel from China on Thursday which was about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The Coast Guard officials discovered 62 cages containing purebred cats of the breeds: Russian Blues, Ragdolls, Persians, American Shorthairs and British Shorthairs.

Government officials decided to euthanise them because they were concerned about a biosecurity risk under Covid policy and the risk of rabies which exists in China. They didn’t know where the cats came from and therefore, they felt they had to euthanize them all. But this drastic measure has caused outrage among Taiwanese people and animal rights groups.

Taiwanese people like their cats in general and have a high rate of cat companion ownership. This is why, incidentally, this smuggling operation exists because they are feeding Taiwan’s desire to own fancy purebred cats. The cats killed are also currently very popular and Covid has increased adoptions due to social isolation. The outrage got so bad that Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, who is a cat caregiver herself, decided to make a public statement.

She said that she was saddened by the event but blamed the deaths of the cats on the smugglers. She asked the public to understand that the authorities have to prevent the importation of diseases in smuggled animals. Notwithstanding that statement she said that amendments to the current law should be considered to allow for more humane treatment under these circumstances.

The criticism centres on the obvious, namely: “Why didn’t they put the cats into quarantine?” Why couldn’t they test the cats to see whether they had Covid? A lot of animals have been tested for Covid. It’s quite a routine veterinary diagnosis these days. So why couldn’t they have done that for these cats? Not only were they very valuable they were sentient beings. Holding the cats in quarantine would have cleared the treat of rabies which must have been extremely small.

They could have been rehomed in Taiwan after quarantine and testing. This is an obvious observation and it is quite clear to me that the authorities behaved rashly, callously and in an unthinking way.

The head of the Taiwanese government’s agriculture Council stood by the decision to kill the cats. They said: “Even after quarantine, these cats could still carry … diseases due to the long latency periods of viruses, which could pose a major threat to pets and farm animals in Taiwan.”

Taiwan is going to punish smugglers more severely through increased fines.

Would they have been the same outrage if the cats were non-purebred? And I think, too, Taiwan needs to look at their citizens’ desire to buy purebred cats rather than adopt rescue cats. You could argue that the only reason why the smugglers are doing this is to feed a surging market for purebred cats. This is about market forces and capitalism. To stop the problem at root you need to dampen down the desire to possess these animals.


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Taiwanese town where tourists abandon and steal cats on a whim

NEWS AND COMMENT: Taiwan’s ‘cat village’ is the town of Houtong in the north. It is referred to as a ‘cat village’ because there are hundreds of cats while the population of humans is smaller. And it has become a tourist attraction because of it. It was originally a mining town but the population declined when the mine closed in 1990s.

Houtong Taiwan's 'cat village'
Houtong Taiwan’s ‘cat village’. Photo: Shinya Sawai.

While the human population declined the cat population increased. A photographer, Jian Peiling, became interested in the place and photographed the cats. She started a blog and apparently has published books on the subject and also organised volunteers to support the cats and arrange for their vaccinations.

Gradually the popularity of the place as a tourist attraction increased. In January 2010, Houtong had about 500 visitors and then along came social media, particularly Facebook, to spread the word together with television programmes which featured the village. CNN, in 2013, described Houtong as one of six places where “cats outshine tourist attractions”.

It is believed that today (before the coronavirus pandemic) almost 1 million visitors arrived at the place to sample restaurants, souvenir shops and to look at the cats.

An undesirable spin-off from this is that there’s been a sharp increase in visitors coming to the place to discard their cats or to steal ones that they desire. One lady, a sixty-five-year-old villager named Zhan Biyun, said that she adopted two female sibling cats about a month old who’d been abandoned at the foot of a cliff, near her home. One of them had beautiful fur. Her name is Baban. She was stolen and later appeared on a website, up for adoption. She adopted her cat again. She was stolen again but this time has never returned. She said:

“There are people who adopt cats without thinking seriously about it, and abandon them as soon as they don’t want them anymore.

The idea of abandoning cats where there is a huge colony of cats is a familiar one to people all over the world. Those people who don’t want to keep their cats seem to think that they can dump them in these colonies as an easy way out. The concept of stealing cats from this large population is a new one for me. But they, too, appear to then dump the cat that they have stolen. It points to a human condition which is unpleasant i.e. cats are non-sentient possessions. Perhaps they want to find a cat who can become a media celebrity to make money and discover that it is harder than they envisaged.

Local government in conjunction with volunteers have been running a sterilisation program (TNR) to stabilise the numbers. If numbers do go up it’s because people are abandoning their cats there. Many of the abandoned cats are ill. Comment: perhaps this is the reason why the cats are abandoned; their owners cannot afford to treat them. That, by the way, is another problem with cat ownership. Often people don’t budget for the cost of it.

Another problem at this huge colony of cats is that sometimes cats are abandoned with an infectious disease which spreads throughout the colony. This happened in 2014 and much of the population died. I don’t know what the disease was (FIP?).

The information centre at the village tells people that abandoning cats is illegal and results in a fine of 150,000 New Taiwan dollars which equates to US$5,119.

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Heart-rending photograph of Asiatic leopard cat and her kitten lying next to each other, killed on road

This is a heart-rending photograph of a mother Asiatic leopard cat and her cub lying next to each other on the roadside having been hit together by a vehicle. It is believed that the mother had her kitten in her mouth when she hit as she was carrying her kitten to a new den site.

The Asiatic leopard cat is the wild cat ancestor of the famous Bengal cat. They are endangered1 in Taiwan and only 1,000 remain in the wild in that country it is believed. World-wide roadkill has a distinct negative impact on wildlife conservation.

Asian leopard cat and kitten killed on road
Asian leopard cat and kitten killed on road. Screenshot.
Asian leopard cat and kitten killed on road
Asian leopard cat and kitten killed on road. Screenshot

The cat was trying to navigate across a motorway. There was little chance of success. They never do it, but authorities should be aware of wild species ‘highways’ when building highways for humans.

Many species have their own routes often developed over many years. If motorways are built which cut across these routes you get a high level of roadkill of that particular species at that particular location. A classic example is the way roads intersect Florida causing many Florida panther deaths on the roads.

“Vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for panthers.” – National Geographic

Florida panther killed on road
Florida panther killed on road. PHOTOGRAPH BY CARLTON WARD, JR

In one study of a 2-mile stretch of Highway 44 through Payne’s Prairie State Park in Florida the following roadkills were found: 1,291 snakes, 1,333 frogs, 374 turtles, 265 birds, 72 mammals, 29 alligators, 1 lizard.

The numbers may surprise people. In Taiwan there have been 77 Asiatic leopard cat road kills between Nov 2011 and June 2019. Fifty-six occurred in one place: Miaoli County. Perhaps this is where the leopard cat has it’s routes.

Looking at America the University of Washington tells us that 5.5 million reptiles are roadkilled in Australia annually, 65,451 deer on Michigan’s roads in 1997, 102 black bears in North Carolina in 2002.

Roadkill is just another example of how humans are pushing wildlife off the planet. There is less and less space for wild species free of human intervention and therefore danger.


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Taiwanese veterinarian overwhelmed with concern for stray animals euthanized herself

Her name is Chien Chih-cheng. She was a very bright woman who graduated from Taiwan’s top university. She had the highest mark in the civil service exam. She could have worked anywhere but chose an animal shelter where she showed massive dedication but became suicidal over the high kill rate.

vet and dog
Miss Chien Chih-cheng and her dog Egg Yolk

On 5th May 2015, she took her own life using the same drugs she had used to kill hundreds of unwanted rescue animals. The first time that she saw an animal being euthanised she went home and cried all night.

She was vilified by the media when it was revealed that she had euthanised 700 dogs in two years. But each time had taken its toll on her and now that she is gone there is an outpouring of grief and national guilt for allowing so many animals to be unwanted.

Her death seems to have sparked national introspection on the country’s attitude towards pets. Not neutering and spaying being a cause for concern. Breeding informally is another area of concern. There are not enough people in animal rescue and control.

She died just before a major change occured in Taiwan’s animal laws. She knew about this. It begs the question as to whether counselling should be given to people like her who apparently needed it. Should counselling be on hand to shelter staff?

From 4th Feb 2017 it’ll be illegal in Taiwan to euthanise abandoned animals. That is a massive change in the law. The country has increased the budget for animal control and rescue by 40% and there will be more inspectors. A person abandoning a pet at a shelter will pay a fee of $125 (USD).

She told the media what happened when a dog is put down:

“We first let it take a stroll and eat some snacks and talk to it. Then we take it into the ‘humane room’. When you put it on the table, it’s very scared and its whole body is shaking. But after we administer the drug, it leaves in three to five seconds. It no longer shakes. Actually, it’s very sad.”

In a letter she wrote before taking her life she said:

“I hope my departure will let all of you know stray animals are also life. I hope the government knows the importance of controlling the source [of the problem]….Please value life.”

An amazing woman. A tragic story. A wonderful animal welfare law banning euthanasia of shelter animals which must be unique in the world. And to think that China considers that Taiwan belongs to the Chinese. China has no animal welfare laws whatsover. Leave Taiwan alone, please.

Source: BBC website.

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Student murdered a well-known cat so he could feel better he said

They say that gross animal cruelty is a precursor to violence against people. I think it applies very strongly in this instance. A 24-year-old student from Macau living in Taipei, Taiwan brutally killed a tabby cat belonging to a vegetarian restaurant owner because he said that he was in a bad mood. He wanted to feel better and killing a cat would achieve this. If that isn’t a precursor to further violence I don’t know what is. In fact the student, Chan Ho-Yeung admits that he has a psychological problem:

Chan a cat killer attacked by mob
Chan a cat killer attacked by mob

“I have a psychological problem and I could not control the compulsion to kill a cat.” These are Chan’s words to the judge when he was hauled before the courts on a charge of animal cruelty under Taiwan’s Animal Protection Act.

Chan attacked by angry protestors outside court
Chan attacked by angry protestors outside court

Chan faces a year behind bars for the violent murder of this cat who was a well-known to residents around the university. He also faces a £25,000 fine.

Residents heard about the charge and attended outside the court where the angry crowd animal of rights activists and protesters attacked him as you can see from the photographs.

Chan attacked and killed this cat
Chan attacked and killed this cat owned by a local restauranteur.

Chan said that he stole the cat from the restaurant and then beat him to death. He then dumped the cat’s carcass in a nearby river.

It transpired that he felt in a bad mood because he was upset at being charged earlier in 2016 for the killing of another cat whose name was Big Orange – a ginger tabby and white (see photo). Big Orange was killed by Chan last December and was also a very well-known cat to local residents.

Chan attacked by angry protestors outside court
Chan attacked by angry protestors outside court and Big Orange (inset)

When he saw Big Orange passing by he couldn’t restrain himself from killing him. It has been suggested by other residents that Chan is a serial cat killer having killed four cats at least in total.

Residents are urging politicians to tighten up the animal cruelty laws. They want a five-year jail sentence for extreme animal cruelty. Correctly, animal-rights activists believe that Chan may harm more animals when he is released from prison. Chan has begged for forgiveness so he is showing remorse but judging by his previous behaviour I am certain that he cannot be trusted and never will be.


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Leopard Cat In Taiwan Under Threat from Habitat Loss

Once again concerned people are presented with another example of the destruction of the habitat of a wild cat. This time it is the leopard cat in Taiwan.

Leopard cat cub
Leopard cat cub

The leopard cat is also called the Asian leopard cat and people will know this wild cat species as the other half of the wild cat hybrid, the Bengal cat, which is a very popular domestic cat especially in the USA. In Taiwan this cat is also called “Joho” meaning “Rock Tiger”. I presume that in Taiwan this wild cat lives amongst rocks. The leopard cat has very strong facial markings not unlike the markings of the tiger.

The leopard cat is found across large parts of Asia. It is probably fair to say that all wild cat species are threatened by habitat loss, some more than others. The leopard cat is quite adaptable and is able for example to live on plantations but nonetheless more needs to be done to conserve this single-minded small wildcat species which is said to be impossible to domesticate.

We are told in a petition on the petitionsite.com that fewer than 500 leopard cats are living in a part of mid Taiwan called Miaoli County (or does that number relate to the whole of Taiwan?). Their habitat is threatened by a large development of a consortium of companies including Yulong Vehicle Company and FuLuSo Funeral Service.

Despite the fact that there appears to be no planning permission at present from the local government to build on the habitat of the leopard cat in this part of Taiwan, the companies have started engineering work. It appears that an environmental evaluation is yet to be completed.

I just wish to spread the word really about habitat loss in Asia which is having a terrible impact upon the wild cats species in that part of the world.

The major reason for habitat loss is deforestation. In Borneo where the Bay cat is under tremendous threat. The Bay cat is a very secretive and rare species of small wild cat.

I don’t know much more about this problem except to say that it seems to me to be quite typical in that there appears to be insufficient planning controls and insufficient enforcement of existing legislation preventing uncontrolled expansion of businesses.

One last point: it appears that the leopard cat is already forced to live amongst urbanisation because an adult leopard cat was run over by a car in Sanyi, Miaoli County and killed. Apparently the cat suffered a serious head injury.

Note: My thanks to Marc for spotting this story.

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Taiwan: Strange Cat Abuse Story

Taiwan cat abuse story persian cat

The pictures sums it up. A woman studying English at a Taiwan University makes a big mistake when she posts, on Facebook, a photo of her cat that she had stuffed into a large plastic jar with the caption that she was punishing her cat for some innocuous, meaningless reason.

Rightly so, there was an uproar and she learned a quick lesson on (a) the power of internet social media and (b) cat punishment (don’t ever do it) and (c) a bit about decent cat caretaking.

What she had done got back the local police force and she is now being investigated for animal cruelty under national Taiwanese animal protection laws. As a result she made an excuse that she was just testing ways of taking her cat outside in a safe way. She had drilled some breathing holes in the jar to try and give this idiotic excuse some credence. I suppose no one has believed her. Who could?

I have never seem such a novel example of stupid and cruel cat caretaking.

Taiwan is off the coast of China. I don’t think it is a part of China but I expect that the Chinese hold different views on that subject.

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