Upon my return to Vietnam earlier this week I faced a moral dilemma.
It happened at Thu Thiem, a pocket of dense jungle amidst the concrete of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a favourite place of mine and many others but like many green spaces in the city it has recently been turned into an enormous construction zone albeit more or less free to access for the general public (at this stage).
Riding my tiny bike along the accidental motocross track forged by hundreds of rumbling trucks I finally came to spot isolated from people, motorbikes and unwanted background noise. I sat on a stack of concrete slabs as I sat gazing across the Saigon River at the jumbled skyline of District 1. After resting for about half an hour I decided it was time to leave before the sun did when I suddenly heard a muffled cry.
The sobbing grew weaker as I looked high and low for the lone kitten. Perhaps there was more than one? This cat saw or felt me here and it wanted me to notice it. The cries stopped and I looked everywhere in earshot of my seat, not forgetting the tight gaps between the concrete I was sitting on. Although I was frantically looking it had become dark already and I was without a torch. I had found no kittens, the cries had stopped and so I had little choice but to ride away from that baby knowing that it would probably die very shortly.
It’s not uncommon to come across abandoned kittens all over this city. Litters of cats are seen living out of the way of people in gaps in form-work of stalled construction or cardboard boxes beside festering canals also seem popular too. I do occasionally visit these kinds of places as I find them fascinating and often the cats crawl out towards you from underneath their ‘homes’ which are the only respite from the intense sun. I know they will probably die as they are often very weak, underfed and alone. You can’t just wash them and give them away (as many expats now realise) and I am allergic so I can’t become a rescue shelter. For locals, cats serve no purpose here and are not valued like a dog and the security they bring to a household. Hence they are often left without love.
For the most part, an abandoned kittens fate here must be accepted. Life here doesn’t favour newborn kittens and many tiny lives are continually cut short. Do I like the idea? No. But I tried to find that kitten the other day with all the resources I had. What I would do once I found it, I do not know, but not every abandoned kittens life will be saved. All I could do then was to acknowledge the situation of the life that was calling out to me and accept that fate would do it’s job. Accepting death, particularly when it seems to be avoidable, is an essential part of understanding the way our world can work.