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Why do Vietnamese keep cats on a leash? (Hint: What's for dinner?)

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Julie Masis

(Read caption) A tethered cat in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

There is a notable absence of stray cats in Vietnam’s capital. And the few cats that a visitor may come across on city streets are securely leashed. Dung Kim Doan, who works in a Hanoi guesthouse, says that this is to safeguard the pets in a culture that has a taste for cat meat.

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While it is widely known that dog meat is eaten in Southeast Asia, Mr. Doan says some Vietnamese restaurants also offer cat on the menu. To keep thieves from catching an unsupervised cat to eat or sell to a restaurant, pet owners keep their felines close.

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Eating cat is traditionally thought to bring good luck, according to Mai Pham Thi Tuyet, the director of the Asvelis veterinary clinic in Hanoi. But this practice is becoming less common, she says, because the improvement in the standard of living, particularly in the cities, has enabled more people to keep animals as pets. And as a result, more veterinary clinics have opened in Vietnam’s capital.