The domestic cat Felis catus has a long history of interaction with humans, and is found throughout the world as a household pet and a feral animal. Despite people's often sentimental association with cats, cat meat is sometimes consumed by them; this practice can have important implications for public health. In Madagascar, a least developed country that has experienced recent political instability, cat consumption is known to occur, but remains poorly understood. To improve our understanding of cat consumption practices in Madagascar we interviewed 512 respondents in five towns. We used semi-structured interviews to: (1) clarify the preference for, and prevalence, correlates, and timing of, cat consumption; (2) describe methods used to procure cats for consumption; (3) identify motives for consuming cat meat; and, (4) evaluate to what extent patterns of cat-meat consumption are influenced by taboos. We found that, although cat was not a preferred source of meat, many (34%) Malagasy respondents had consumed cat meat before, with most (54%) of these indicating such consumption occurred in the last decade. We did not detect a link between consumption of cat meat and recent access to meat (a proxy for food security). Cat meat was almost never purchased, but rather was obtained when the owners consumed their own pet cat, as a gift, or by hunting feral cats. Cat meat was usually consumed in smaller towns following cat-human conflict such as attacks on chickens, but in the large capital city, cat meat was procured primarily from road-killed individuals. These results suggest cat-meat consumption is typically an opportunistic means to obtain inexpensive meat, rather than principally serving as a response to economic hardship. These results further suggest cat handling and consumption may present a potential pathway for transmission of several diseases, including toxoplasmosis, that may warrant heightened public health efforts.
|Author Address||Department of Biology, Temple University, 1900 North 12th St., Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA.firstname.lastname@example.org|
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