Cat meat is meat prepared from domestic cats for human consumption. Some countries serve cat meat as a regular food, whereas others have only consumed some cat meat in desperation during wartime or poverty.
Prehistoric human feces have contained bones from the wild cat of Africa.
In some cultures of Cameroon, there is a special ceremony featuring cat-eating that is thought to bring good luck.
According to Humane Society International, Agence France-Presse, and the BBC, cat meat is not widely eaten in China. But in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces of the Lingnan cultural region, some—especially older—people consider cat flesh a good warming food during winter months. The Associated Press reported in 2008 that people in southern China's Guangdong province (population just over 113 million) ate 10,000 cats per day.
In Guangdong, cat meat is a main ingredient in the traditional dish "dragon, tiger, phoenix" (snake, cat, chicken), which is said to fortify the body.
Organized cat-collectors supply the southern restaurants with animals that often originate in Henan, Hubei, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces. On January 26, 2010, China launched its first draft proposal to protect the country's animals from maltreatment including a measure to jail people—for periods up to 15 days—for eating cat or dog meat.
With the increase of cats as pets in China, opposition towards the traditional use of cats for food has grown. In June 2006, approximately 40 activists stormed the Fangji Cat Meatball Restaurant in Shenzhen, forcing it to shut down. Expanded to more than 40 member societies, the Chinese Animal Protection Network in January 2006 began organizing well-publicized protests against dog and cat consumption, starting in Guangzhou, following up in more than ten other cities "with very optimal response from public." Beijing News reported in 2014 and 2015 of Beijing and Tianjin authorities respectively discovering feral, and stray cats to be used as part of the cat meat trade, which drew outrage from many Chinese netizens. A 2015 Animals Asia survey found that at least more than 70-80% of Chinese respondents agreed it was unacceptable to eat dogs and cats if they had been abused or tortured during feeding and slaughter.
In Japan, cats were sometimes eaten until the end of the Edo period. In Okinawa, it was believed to be effective against costochondritis, bronchitis, lung disease, and hemorrhoids, and was eaten in the form of a soup, such as maya no ushiro.
According to HuffPost and a few Indian news outlets in 2016, cat meat was being served as mutton in parts of Chennai and being consumed mainly by the Narikuravar community in the city. There had been allegations made online in the same year that some Narikuravar people were hunting feral and stray cats for their meat in Bengaluru.
Cat meat has been featured at the Extreme Market in the North Sulawesi city of Tomohon.
In Korea, cat meat was historically brewed into a tonic as a folk remedy for neuralgia and arthritis, not commonly as food. Modern consumption is seen and more likely to be in the form of cat soup, though the number of people who consume cat soup is considered minimal, compared to a relatively popular dog meat. Julien Dugnoille wrote in The Conversation that cat meat is mostly consumed by middle-aged working class women for perceived health benefits, and that usually 10 cats are needed to produce a small bottle of cat, or goyangi, soju (an alcoholic elixir thought to keep arthritis at bay for a few weeks at a time). According to In Defense of Animals, 100,000 cats are killed yearly to make cat soju in South Korea. Cats are not farmed for their meat in the country, so the trade involves ferals and strays. Nonetheless, the trade is mostly done underground, and the great majority of population is not even aware that cat consumption is common in the country. Moreover, eating cat meat is highly stigmatized throughout the country, unlike eating dog meat, which is often criticized but not universally stigmatized.
According to the Malaysian branch of Friends of the Earth, cat meat is not illegal in Malaysia. The organisation reported that some Vietnamese nationals had been selling dog and cat meat in a couple of cities, an allegation repeated by Coconuts Media. According to The Star in 2012, cat meat was popular among some Myanmar nationals in the country.
In October 2017, Taiwan's national legislature, known as the Legislative Yuan, passed amendments to the country's Animal Protection Act which "bans the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat and of any food products that contain the meat or other parts of these animals."
As of 2015, cat meat is eaten in Vietnam. It is generally seen on menus with the euphemism "tiểu hổ", literally "baby tiger" rather than the literal "thịt mèo". Cat galls have aphrodisiacal properties according to people in North Vietnam. In 2018, however, officials in the city of Hanoi urged citizens to stop eating dog and cat meat, citing concerns about the cruel methods with which the animals are slaughtered and the diseases this practice propagates, including rabies and leptospirosis. The primary reason for this exhortation seems to be a fear that the practice of dog and cat consumption, most of which are stolen household pets, could tarnish the city's image as a "civilised and modern capital". According to data from a market research study by Four Paws, approximately 8% of people living in Hanoi have consumed cat meat in their lives.
According to The Independent in April 2020, COVID-19 has led to increased dog and cat meat sales in Vietnam (and Cambodia) due to their perceived health benefits against the virus.
Section 6, Paragraph 2 of the law for the protection of animals prohibits the killing of cats and dogs for purposes of consumption as food or for other products.
In January 2011, the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain stated that people are not allowed to kill random cats walking in their garden, but " nowhere in the law does it say that you can't eat your own pet cat, dog, rabbit, fish or whatever. You just have to kill them in an animal-friendly way."
In June 2008, three students at the Danish School of Media and Journalism published pictures of a cat being slaughtered and eaten in Citat, a magazine for journalism students. Their goal was to create a debate about animal welfare. The cat was shot by its owner, a farmer, and it would have been put down in any case. The farmer slaughtered the cat within the limits of Danish law. This led to criticism from Danish animal welfare group Dyrenes Beskyttelse, and death threats received by the students.
In February 2010, on a television cooking show, the Italian food writer Beppe Bigazzi mentioned that during the famine in World War II cat stew was a "succulent" and well-known dish in his home area of Valdarno, Tuscany. Later he claimed he had been joking, but added that cats used to be eaten in the area during famine periods, historically. He was widely criticised in the media for his comments and ultimately dropped from the television network.
Cat consumption is a stereotype attributed to Vincenzans in Vicenza, Italy. They are jokingly called "magnagati", that means "cats eaters" in the local language.
According to the British Butchers' Advocate, Dressed Poultry and the Food Merchant of 1904, "Just before Christmas it is common for a group of young men in northern Italy to kill some cats, skin them and soak them in water for two or three days. They are cooked with great care on Christmas day and served up hot about 1:30 p.m. after mass....Many people in Italy, 'on the quiet,' keep cats like the English do rabbits—to kill. A catskin there is worth ten pence, as the material for muffs for girls... Extraordinary care has to be taken in procuring the animals, for the Italian Society for the Protection of Cats is vigilant, and offenses against the law are followed by imprisonment only. We have no fines in Italy."
According to The Dietetic & Hygienic Gazette in 1905, "Italy cultivates the cat for home consumption as English people raise rabbits. It is to be done on the quiet, however, for in spite of the profit in the business and the demand for the delicacy, the law has to be looked out for, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Cats is vigilant. Offenses against the law are visited with imprisonment. Cats are raised for the market nonetheless. Fattened on the finest of milk, a choice specimen will attain the weight of fifteen pounds."
There are accounts of cat being consumed in the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis (southern France), in Spain in the 17th century, and during WWI and WWII.
According to the Food Safety and Veterinary Office, the sale of dog or cat meat is not allowed, but it is legal for people to eat their own animals. The Swiss parliament rejected changing the laws to protect dogs and cats from human consumption in 1993. An animal-rights group collected 16,000 signatures in 2014 to outlaw the consumption of cat meat in Switzerland.
In 18th-century Britain, there are a few records of cats being eaten as entertainment or gambling. In 1788 the Duke of Bedford bet the Earl of Barrymore 1,000 guineas he could not eat a live cat; the earl did not.
Cats were sometimes eaten as a famine food during harsh winters, poor harvests, and wartime. Cat gained notoriety as "roof rabbit" (Dachhase) in Central Europe's hard times during and between World War I and World War II.
Indigenous Australians in the area of Alice Springs roast feral cats on an open fire. They have also developed recipes for cat stew. Some other inhabitants of the area have also taken up this custom, justified on the grounds that felines are "a serious threat to Australia's native fauna". Scientists warned that eating wild cats could expose humans to harmful bacteria and toxins.
In two 1996 TV reports from different networks, Telefe Noticias and Todo Noticias, some citizens in a shanty town in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina, stated that, during an economic crisis, they had to feed the neighborhood children with cat's meat, and commenting, "It's not denigrating to eat cat, it keeps a child's stomach full".
Although, the validity of these reports has been questioned in a book by journalists Gabriel Russo and Edgardo Miller these authors didn't produce any evidence nor taped confession of someone stating that was responsible for the forgery. Moreover it's been reported that the then Mayor of Rosario was the source of the rumor that the TV networks enacted a play just to discredit the city's municipal government. In 2013 Josefa Villalba a former municipal council member in 1996 stated that previously to the TV reports she denounced to the local municipal government the fact that children were being fed with cats but the municipal government heads tried to silence her. Contemporary reporting by the journalist Ricardo Luque of La Nación, a newspaper of record of Argentina, reproduced a quote from an inhabitant of the shanty town "When the kids come to ask for something to eat, there's no point in giving them anything, so we go out and hunt cats, anything to fed them".
Cat is not a regular menu item in Peru, but is used in such dishes as fricassee and stews most abundant in two specific sites in the country: the southern town of Chincha Alta (Ica Region, Afro-Peruvian mostly) and the north-central Andean town of Huari (Ancash Region). Primarily used by Afro-Peruvians. Cat cooking techniques are demonstrated every September during the festival of Saint Efigenia in a town of La Quebrada.
In October 2013, a judge banned the annual El Festival Gastronomico del Gato (the Gastronomic Festival of the Cat), which was held every September in La Quebrada to commemorate the arrival of settlers who were forced to eat cats to survive, citing it as cruel to the 100+ cats specifically bred for the event, which involves being kept in cages for a year prior the Festival. The judge also cited concerns over the safety of the meat, which drew criticism from residents who contend that cat meat is far richer than rabbit or duck, and that it has been long consumed globally without any deleterious effects.
That same month, magistrate Maria Luyo banned the festival of Curruñao in the small town of San Luis. Locals say that the festival, which sees cats being drowned, skinned and tied to fireworks and blown up, dates back to the practice of eating cat on the part of African slaves who worked on sugar-cane plantations in colonial times, and is part of the religious celebrations of Santa Efigenia, an African-Peruvian folk saint. Luyo stated in her ruling that the festival "fomented violence based on cruel acts against animals which caused grave social damage and damaged public health", and that minors could be "psychologically damaged" by watching the events.
In December 2018, the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2018 was signed into federal law making the consumption of cat meat illegal and punishable by a fine of $5,000, except as part of Native American religious ceremonies. Previous to that bill, consuming cat meat was legal in 44 states.
Islamic dietary laws forbid the consumption of cat meat as it is a terrestrial predator.
Jewish Kashrut laws forbid consuming cat meat as it is a predator. As well as not being a predator, a mammal must both chew cud and have cloven hooves in order to be considered kosher.