Is It Okay To Eat A Pet Cat?

The psychologist Jonathan Haidt is a pioneer in the study of disgust as motivator of moral judgments. In some of his early experiments, he asked individuals to evaluate the ethics of situations which are upsetting even though they do not involve the infliction of suffering or harm. One of his scenarios involved eating pets: A family’s dog was killed by a car in front of their home. They had heard that dog meat was delicious so they cut the dog’s body up and ate it for dinner. Haidt then ask his subjects if it is okay for a person to eat their dead pet and to explain the logic behind their answer.

When I pose this scenario to my university psychology students, nearly all of them conclude that it would be wrong for the family to eat their deceased dog. Most of them, however, cannot come up with a coherent logical reason for their decision. After all, the dead dog is not going to suffer. They tell me it just feels wrong. It’s the yuck factor. And as most Americans consider their pets to be family members, dining on your dog seems uncomfortably close to cannibalism.

A recent study published in the journal Anthrozoos, however, suggests there are surprising cultural differences in attitudes towards eating pets, in this case, cats. It is widely known that dogs are a common item on the menu in some Asian countries. (See this post on the origins of dog-eating.). But until now, I had never given any thought to the idea that people might eat cats, and sometimes, even their own pet cat.

The Cat-Eaters of Madagascar

The article, aptly titled Consumption of Domestic Cat in Madagascar: Frequency, Purpose, and Health Implications, describes a study conducted by a team of researchers —> Read More