Shelter med alum spearheads collaborative approach to tackling cat meat trade in Vietnam

While Vietnam’s brutal dog meat trade is fairly well known, cats tend to be forgotten victims of an equally sinister trade. Now a UF Shelter Medicine Program alum is partnering with local advocates to put an end to this practice.

In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of restaurants in Vietnam serving a dish known as “Little Tiger” or thịt mèo (Vietnamese for cat meat). Cat meat is an emerging delicacy, believed to bring good luck, cure disease, and ward off evil. It is estimated that up to a million cats, many of them stolen family pets, fall victim to this trade every year. Often trapped using snares or poison, they are collected from towns across Vietnam and trafficked to restaurants and markets predominately in the North. From capture to slaughter, the suffering of these cats is immense.

Cats in cage for Vietnam's meat trade

Also fueling the industry is the country’s lack of low-cost spay/neuter opportunities and humane management options for free-roaming and pet cats. This leads to the continuous birth of unwanted litters of kittens that are often stolen or sold into the meat trade.

Cats in cage for Vietnam's meat trade

UF Maddie’s Shelter Medicine alumna and Head of Stray Animal Care – Southeast Asia for FOUR PAWS International Dr. Katherine Polak is working to end this trade. The Cats Matter Too program is a collaborative effort between international charity FOUR PAWS and local charities PAWS for Compassion and Vietnam Cat Welfare.

Children with kittens at workship in Da Nang

The program is the first ever of its kind in Vietnam, focused on improving feline welfare in a sustainable way through education, community engagement, veterinary services, and support of local pet owners in the cities of Da Nang and Hoi An.

Bottle baby and children in Vietnam

The program features:

  • Free spay/neuter services for cats to reduce the number of unwanted kittens who end up in the trade
  • An educational program for children to celebrate the role cats play as friends not food, basic cat welfare, and improve compassion toward animals from an early age
  • Foster training program to facilitate feline rescue and care. A strong local foster network allows for the ongoing care of injured cats and orphaned kittens.
  • Ongoing rescue, medical care, and rehabilitation for sick, injured, and abandoned cats
  • Humane cat management programs for local hotels and restaurants. TNR activities are already being conducted with the Hyatt Hotel in Da Nang.
  • Re-unification program to help reunite lost pets with their owners
  • A local public education campaign disprove the purported health benefits of cat meat, help cat owners keep their cats safe, and improve awareness of the trade

Kittens rescued from the Vietnamese meat trade

In conjunction with this program an investigation is also underway to better understand the intricacies of this brutal trade.

Woman holding cat in Vietnam

For more information on this program please visit

Man with cat on shoulder in VIetnam