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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 16:01 GMT
The cat eaters of Cameroon

By Francis Ngwa-Niba
BBC, Douala Cameroon

Batibo men
Eating cats brings good luck, they say in Batibo
As a cat lover I found it hard to believe the stories coming out of north-west Cameroon, so I decided to investigate.

In the port city of Douala, I met some people from the north-western village of Batibo, who were taking part in a grisly lunchtime ritual.

I met the Batibo cat eaters, a small group of men who have no qualms about killing and eating what in Cameroon, as elsewhere, are usually domestic pets.

They justify their controversial eating habit on two grounds - taste and good luck - although the reality may well be that poverty means more traditional meats are out of their price range.

Cooked

I uneasily watched Atangiang David, a 37-year-old Batibo man, purchase a six-year-old tiger-coloured male cat called Minuh off his owner.

Then, the cat was placed in a sack and beaten with a stick until it was dead.

Batibo cat
Nine lives would be handy in Batibo
The body was then roasted with vegetables and plantains for an hour.

Four other men joined Atangiang for lunch.

In the midst of his meal, I asked one of the men how the cat tasted.

"It is very, very sweet. I recommend to people who do not eat cats to start eating it because when you eat pussy cat, you don't get fever."

The man who prepared and cooked the cat ate the head, while the four others shared the other parts.

I was offered some but declined.

Lucky

Pa Adangwa John, another of the diners, told me that joining their cat eating group would bring good luck.

And as evidence he told me that before going to ask for the hand of his girlfriend in marriage, he ate some cat meat to be sure she would not turn him down. She is now his wife.

"Everybody can eat it but if you are not ordained as a cat eater, you cannot get good luck," he said.

Women are not allowed to join the Batibo cat eaters group and so are banned from eating cat.

A Batibo women I spoke to said she was not impressed by this obvious male chauvinism.

But from what I have seen that is a lucky escape, which is more than can be said for Minuh.




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