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The mousing cat and its moment of weakness



Dr Thanh and operatives

Vietnam Heritage, March 2011 -- Assistant professor Dr Nguyen Van Thanh had just returned to his house in Trau Quy, a suburban area of Hanoi, from a trip to southern Vietnam where he had studied the possibility of raising cats to kill crop-damaging mice and rats. ‘This year, 2011, is the year of the cat; thus cats are very important,’ he said. His two beautiful white cats jumped to sit in his arms.
Dr Thanh said, ‘We have tens of cats at home. If you take good care of them, they are very beautiful. It is also normal that they visit and stay at your neighbours’, sometimes. Cats help you kill mice and rats, regardless of where they are.’    
Dr Thanh is the director of the Professional Dog Centre, which belongs to the University of Agriculture in Hanoi. He saw cats being sold to local restaurants and to China while mice and rats were destroying crops. Dr Thanh cooperated with  Youth With A Mission (YWAM), an international volunteer organization of Christians, to help the farmers in Thanh Binh Ward, Chuong My District, Hanoi, work out a plan to protect their crops from mice and rats. Dr Thanh said that one mouse or rat could destroy 20kg of rice every crop.
Mr Sang, president of the People’s Committee of Thanh Binh Ward, said, ‘I don’t know where all the mice and rats came from. There are a lot of them and they are not afraid of people.’
During the cropping seasons, mice and rats destroyed the paddy fields. Traps, poison and other methods didn’t work.
The project carried out by Dr Thanh and the YWAM provided 100 cats to farmers under the condition that they would not eat them, castrate the males, use chemical poisons against mice and rats (this could affect the cats and other useful animals and birds) or sell the cats to restaurants. When a female cat gave birth, the household given that cat was allowed to keep the kittens and should give the mother to another farming household. Dr Thanh also created and gave out instructions on how to raise the cats and analyze the dangers of mice and rats.
However, as long as the number of cats increased, the people inside and outside of the village stole them to sell to restaurants. After that the authority established a rule that whoever stole the cats would be publicly addressed on the propaganda loudspeakers in the ward and strictly punished by the police.
Having wondered why the most beautiful, strongest and biggest male cats were always easily kidnapped, Dr Thanh wandered some nights around Thanh Binh Ward with his pocket lamp to find out. He discovered that the female cats attracted the males in a strange way. The female cats, when sexually aroused, made heart-rending sounds that attracted the strongest and biggest male cats to make love with them. The strange thing was that the males did not fight one another, but peacefully waited their turn. At that moment it was very easy to catch them. Thieves made good use of the opportunity. After realizing this weakness, Dr Thanh asked the local authority to assign people to guard the cats on the streets during the night.
Now every household in Thanh Binh owns cats, which comes to almost 200 cats in the ward. The productivity of the crops eventually increased by 30 per cent compared with previous years.
Dr Thanh and his teammates also organize a lot of competitive activities for the cats, including beauty contests. Hundreds of cat participants are brought in to compete. The person who has the winning cat wins prizes in cash and is honoured by certificates.

By Do Doan Hoang
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