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

Damascus cat

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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.


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

28 thoughts on “Would you eat your cat if you were starving to death?”

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

  2. 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;

    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 😉

  3. 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 😉


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