“Where are all the cats in Port-au-Prince?”

February 10, 2014
From Hannah: As a guesthouse manager I field a lot of questions about Haiti. From time to time, I’ll include some of these questions and answers on this blog. This post by Heather gets that ball rolling for us!In October 2013, I went on my first medical mission trip with FHM. From the moment we landed in Port-au-Prince, my senses were filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of Haiti. The vibrant colors, the piles of rubble, the throngs of people, the goats walking down the middle of the street–everything was unusual and intriguing. When arrived at our gated guesthouse and we were greeted by skinny, but friendly yellow dogs. The team leader had already instructed us to not trust the animals in Haiti, so I kept my hands to myself. The dogs guarded the guesthouse at night by barking…all night long…at whomever walked past the gate. Thanks, puppies –Yawn!

As we travelled around Haiti through Port-au-Prince, Blanchard, Leogane, Fondwa, and Jacmel I saw dogs everywhere. Always yellow, brown, and whitish colored dogs, but hardly any black dogs. Then I realized, where are all the cats?

I had only seen one cat during my ten days in Haiti. We were at the Blanchard Community Church compound. The compound had a church, a school, and a clinic. I was looking around the grounds one day and came upon a seemingly friendly tabby cat. We made eye contact and exchanged visual greetings before he sauntered into a storage room beside the school kitchen. I asked Kerby our translator, “Where are all the cats?”

He replied, “They are at home.”

“At home? What do you mean at home?” I said.

Kerby said, “Girl, we don’t eat the cats!* They are at home. They know better than to roam around. They know where they get fed! Not like stupid dogs.”

I thanked Kerby for clearing that up for me. He went on to explain that in Haiti, cats are useful for “mousing” and therefore are fed so they stay around the house and exercise their talents. I asked Missy Owen, FHM Research Assistant, the same question – where are all the cats? Missy Owen lived in Haiti for five years, she confirmed Kerby’s explanation of the value of a great Haitian mouser. She said when it was time for her to move back to the US from Haiti, she chose to bring her Haitian cat, Dr. Livingston, back with her. Dr. Livingston now enjoys a gracious life in Durham, NC and dines on cat food and cookies instead of mice.

So the next time I go to Haiti I will continue to be on the look out for more cats. I guess they are there, hanging out in the shaded corner of a small home, waiting to pounce on a tasty mouse and earn their keep.

*I later learned that some Haitians do…

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