The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam

The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam

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Heartbreaking photograph of an unknown kitten begging to be saved in Vietnam

I’ve seen a lot of photos of kitten and cats on the internet whether it be sad, happy, funny or cute photographs.

One of the photos I’ve seen that really got stuck on my head was the photo of a kitten that appears to be in bad condition, asking for help while hugging the man’s boot.

Animal lovers who have seen the photo would ask: “What happened to the kitten”, where is the little creature now”, Did the human save the poor kitty?”

Recently, Christine Liff was able to acquire the answers to these questions regarding the the fate of the unknown kitten begging to be saved in Vietnam.

 Christine Liff said:

I think most of us have seen this picture of the tiny, wet kitten begging to be saved. We have all hoped that the outcome was positive, that either the person taking the picture or the person in the boot had compassion and pity for this poor wee soul. However, after a bit of research I have found out that this was not the case.

These two men left that kitten there to face it’s fate, whatever that may be. I am heartsick and so angry that two grown men were unable to show compassion for such a tiny animal.

Here is the reasoning behind their decision (a litany of rationalization and quite a few insults at Americans).

Graham Lavery:

November 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm


I have received several emails from users of this site about my photo and its posting on your site. This picture has managed to find its way all over the Internet, in some cases with hundreds of thousands of views, and I realize it is a very provocative shot that touches people deeply.

Normally I do not respond to these types of comment threads as they are often degenerative in nature and can get very nasty, one only needs to reference any news site to see how these things generally play out. After reading all the comments here however, and receiving several polite emails I have decided to write a comment.

“First of all, I think it is very important to understand context, and while many request the “story” behind this shot generally to learn the final outcome, it is not that simple and context is critical. I have spent a good bit of time in Vietnam as my wife used to work there a few months each year, and have shot the war in Afghanistan several times, as well as disasters such as the quake zone in Port-au-Prince, Haiti very shortly after that event. When discussing any of these places, or subjects, the context is a most important and often overlooked part of the equation – especially by North Americans.

“This shot, as you seem to have ascertained, was taken in Hoi An, Vietnam during the worst flooding in almost half a century. My wife was there for the worst of it – flooding into the second story of buildings – and the loss of homes, personal property, and life, was pretty significant as you can imagine. It should however be remembered that societies like the Vietnamese have been at this for the better part of 5000 years and have seen it all before, a great many times.

“In my travels all over the world there is a common theme that makes itself known and very obvious to me: we in North America are an extremely young culture and society, with a great deal left to learn. How does this help understand this photo and its story? Well it goes to follow that perspectives on many issues differ from ours, priorities are placed in different areas, and that there are very salient reasons for this.

One such area is animals, and how they are viewed.

Sad kitten begging to be saved in Hoi An, Vietnam hugging man's shoe kitten begging to be saved in vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam2

“In Vietnam, the phenomenon of “pet” ownership is a very new development, prior to the American War this was a practically unheard of concept in many areas. Dogs, as a prime example, are a food source much like cattle, sheep, or pigs are here. Since the development of the “pet” concept, there has been an explosion in numbers with a great many feral and stray dogs and cats roaming the country in various states of health, which is becoming a large problem in and of itself.

“Given the general cultural attitude toward animals like cats, the massive property damage during the floods, and the great deal of human hardship that was experienced at the time this photo was captured, it can be seen how a kitten such as this one would pass well under the radar and slip pretty far down the priority lists of most people who were literally striving to survive.

When my very good friend and I came upon this kitten, it was pretty obvious what its fate would be given the described circumstances, a situation that brings with it several ethical questions that have no really simple answer, mainly: “What to do?”

“As essentially tourists in the area who were in Vietnam temporarily (barely two weeks in Charles’s case), the practicalities of helping an animal such as this become a little more cloudy. If you take it in, how do you care for it? Where do you care for it? What do you do when you leave? Does rescuing it jive with the ethics and practices of the local people (it is their country after all)?

“These are tough questions to answer, and I would submit they become exponentially more difficult when you are in combat zones or disaster areas and instead of a kitten the faces staring at you are those of children or women, either in extreme poverty, or wounded… It can rip one’s guts out, I assure you, and there are no easy answers. Given the ability I’m sure I’d have adopted half of Afghanistan by now. Charles is a Paramedic who has traveled the world through his career, so between us we tend to see things similarly in this regard.

The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam kitten begging to be saved in vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam3

After a brief discussion, it was decided to let nature take its course and leave the kitten to its own devices, whatever the outcome. Some will agree, some will not, but that was our decision based on our collective experiences of this planet over the years. What became of it ultimately? I can’t answer that with certainty, but I can guess.

In the end we are all faced with choices, some more difficult than others. In photography – particularly in war, or in other difficult circumstances – there are some major ethical implications of even taking a photo: Questions of dignity, intent, and moral imperative. If you do take the shot, do you “put it out there?” I have a hard drives full of photos that will never see the light of day because of this, and countless more that I never took at all given the circumstances.

“This photo has been taken off my website and Flickr without my permission and used all over the world now, and I am fine with that as I think it is critical for people to engage with life in whatever form. I see the members of this site have been affected by it in one way or another, and I am happy to see some thoughtful responses to it.

“I hope that helps answer your questions. -Graham Lavery

starving kitten grabbing soldier's boots kitten begging to be saved in vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam

What about you…What would you do if you’re in their shoes?  Tell us your thoughts below…

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  • Rustry

    This makes me sick absolutely no compassion for this little guy. Why are men so heartless and uncaring and this is every country has heartless men. I hope this little kitten went to God and the fate of those cruel men will be answered by God.

  • Candra Joyce Bates

    I would have taken this baby and cared and loved on her/him. No excuses for this. What if this kitty was a human child asking for help? Would you leave the child to defend themselves?

  • Deb N

    His wife knew people in Viet Nam.. she used to work there for crap sake.. there was a way they could get the helpless little one some assistance.. save it’s life.. they just apparently didn’t want to be bothered.. sickening and disgusting at it is.. if they were not going to save it’s life they should have humanely ended it. oh wait.. you have to be a kind HUMAN to help I guess…

  • Jacquelyn Curnutt

    I would pick up the kitten and take back to usa with me!

  • ireland08

    i can tell u no matter what i would have picked it up gotten it warm and gotten it warm milk

  • Gabriele Giles

    How can you do this? Leave it up to nature? Yeah, we will leave it up to nature to next time you are in need. How can you not help this tiny kitten who´s life depended on you! How selfish can you be! Hope you will be haunted in your dreams by this innocent kitten.

  • Florida Guy

    You should have just stomped on the damn thing…
    ……problem solved!

  • Steppieindalight

    I think many of you missed his point. YES! It’s horrible to see it struggle…and as the author suggests, a difficult decision to make.

    BUT… in a foreign country, surrounded by disaster and starvation…would you take it kindly if some foreigner chose the life of this cat over a child? No. So, sadly… He had to let it be.

    I’ll ask you this… How many animals die in shelters daily? How many are tortured on a daily basis just to provide food for us? Why do we turn a blind eye own inhumanity, but choosing to let a kitten brave the elements (as they’ve done for centuries) over a human is barbaric. I see no difference in the two choices. And, however difficult the decision, understand his reasoning

  • Andrea K Burke

    I am very saddened to hear this outcome. I don’t understand how someone could just leave such a small bedraggled animal on its own, obviously to die. It literally begged for help and love.

  • Sally Johnson

    Cast in the same mold as micheal vick.. I just hope Karma isnt waiting for this person

  • dmac

    Graham Lavery strikes me as being a self absorbed little cocksucker. I hope he dies of aids.

  • SolomonSanford

    so graham, i hope you see this. you need to see this. it has been a long time since i have read such a steaming pile of excuses. a desperate, helpless, defenseless little soul came to you begging for help. and you showed him/her no mercy, but were sure to take your opportunity to benefit *yourself* off the suffering of this helpless baby before walking away. that is about as low and unconscionable as you and your “friend” could have possibly gotten. you overthought the situation in order to justify to yourself doing nothing to help. there can be little doubt that this poor little cat died alone, sad, miserable and suffering. and YOU could have prevented it, but didn’t you should know that cognitive studies of dogs and cats show that they reach the same level of self awareness as two year old human children. just because they look different doesn’t mean they feel or suffer any less. so i can only conclude that had you run across a human toddler in the same position, you’d have tried to rationalize the unforgiveable just as much and abandoned the child to its fate too. it is NOT a question of “either/or” when it comes to trying to help lives in trouble. humans are are just another animal, no more or less important than any other. some people are able to multi-task and care about BOTH at the same time, not leaving ANYONE behind to “let nature take its course.” in the twenty years i have rescued animals, primarily cats, i have NEVER heard of anything this cruel, or seen such pathetic flailing to try and defend the indefensible. you just didnt’ care about this life, which was just as valuable to its owner as yours is to you and has just as much right as you to live. you didn’t even try. this was a LIFE, begging, at the end of his or her rope, traumatized and desperate for anyone to show them some kindness and compassion to ease their suffering. you had the chance to do just that and walked away. i cannot imagine the sickness of the soul it must take to be able to do that. when you care about something, you can always, always find a way. other people have done it, so there is no excuse for not doing it. good god, all you would have had to do was even call the american embassy and you could have found someone to guide you in the right direction to have saved this baby, even if you weren’t going to bring him/her home yourself. there were things you could have done to have saved this life that would have taken no more than a few phone calls, but you just couldn’t be bothered. you will have to live with that for the rest of your life, and i hope it haunts and tortures you every waking moment until you breathe your last. and i hope that you find yourself in this kitten’s position someday, and that everyone you encounter hoping for some kindness and help out of your suffering, turns their back on you as though you don’t even exist, just as you did to another. this was a no-brainer and you tortured it into something it should never have been made into. it was an innocent, suffering life in trouble, begging for your help, not a cultural conflagration or international incident. vietnamese society was not going to collapse in a heap if you had helped save this kitten. may this sweet soul have finally found some peace, and once he crossed over the bridge, found the love, comfort and mercy he begged for in this life, but was denied by two very, very cruel and heartless people. and may both of you, you and the friend with you, never know another moment of peace, happiness or kindness ever, in this life or the next, as a constant reminder of what you did.

  • Etty M. Surya

    I will take kitty out of there to a village near by…I am sure somebody will be able to help her, we are human we are suppose to take care of them..they are helpless out there at least feed them and take them out or danger give them food, dry them if they are wet I am sure someone will take care of this little kitty so hopelessly wet and skinny… I think both of you should at least take kitty to the nearest village where some human has a heart in the right place and put kitty in their heart… I feel so sad since I see this picture I can’t get kitty out of my mind…

  • kelly

    I saw this photo and my heart broke. Who could just walk away. What kind of person could let a small animal suffer and die. The man said he had two weeks before he left, he could have took the kitten, fed him, loved him, and found a home for him in those two weeks. Karma will find you for what you did!

  • hellen

    its sad to see this picture of a kitten asking for help .Why take a picture of a helpless kitten when this individual never intended to save its life . i have seen pictures and read stories of pets brought home to live with families .They were determine to save the lives of abandon pets and animals through charity and donations like the red cross helps people ..

  • Marjorie gauntt

    If it had been me, I would have taken the cat, adopted him and try to get him back to the states. This broke my heart
    I have always been this way and now own 3 adopted adult cats who are much loved.
    I hope that cat who begged so strongly, was able to survive although I very much doubt it. Another spoils of the war.

  • Elaine Hasty

    Troubles, starvation, poverty, attitudes toward animals are all entirely human problems. Animals do not create any of these. Human greed, need and exploitation all over the planet causes misery for animals. It is exactly our responsibility – all matters animal and attitudes. This kitten is begging for its life because the attitudes of human beings got it to this place. Human beings have choices and decisions to worsen or better life around them – animals live with the consequences of these actions. Today animals are suffering because of the massive burden of human over population – human decisions not animals.

  • Ali Browning

    rescue it of course, having compassion for just one is one more at least, sod the ethics of the country and their culture, you rescue the creature, soldiers have done it in Afghanistan and Syrian refugees have carried kittens and puppies with them. If everyone helps one it is one more then other wise cared for. They could at least have fed it and put it somewhere warm.

  • Godslittlekitty

    i believe that kitten was an angel in disguise and these two men were given a moral test and failed…

  • Deborah Murphy Ross

    Rationalizing ……sorry. But, this dying creature chose these humans to ask for any bit of comfort and they rationalized why it was ok to walk away without any effort whatsoever to comfort it at all. They may not have been able to do anything for all the desperate souls in need, but they could have at least held and loved on this one …..they could have done that and given it a quicker death than have left it to suffer.

  • eda

    I forgive you. Sometimes we all make mistakes we regret. I hope in that little cats name you fill your home and your heart with love.

  • saveasunbear

    The photographer is happy to take the recognition for the poignancy of the picture (lets face it there are ways and means of covering a photo with a watermark etc rendering it less attractive to copy but he has chosen not to). This is nothing less than exploitation of an animal not matter how the picture was taken at the time, to have given something back in exchange for this ‘gift’ would have rendered it less painful. I agree with the majority, a little clean up and some bits of food, milk would have helped this poor little mite on it’s way. We have seen all manners of animals begging to be helped or saved on you tube, even ‘wild’ whales / dolphins caught in nets, or deer stuck in fences. This kitten was clearly begging and gripping on… in hope, and to the edge of a boot no less, a possible weapon from many others who care little for animals. in hope. How I hope it found it’s way. My heart is torn thinking about being left behind and how helpless and desperate it must have felt.

  • APLSurvivor

    Blah Blah Blah! Heartless POS. (PERIOD)

  • Darcy Sherman

    The absolute opposite of what they did is what I would have done. God put the kitten in their path fir a reason and they failed. No life is lesser than any other. God knows when every sparrow falls. You failed. You took a horrid picture and dud nothing about it. You failed. Your a failure.