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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  • alteringeye

    You’re just talk talk talk and you did NOTHING! Very average.

  • Karen Oliver-Paull

    Two weeks of feeding this poor kitten would have made a HUGE difference in it’s life! It could have given it the chance to live and perhaps they could have found someone to take it in until they could have it sent to them. Soldiers do this all the time and they aren’t even that rich.

  • sumame

    For crying out loud, it’s a kitten. A living being begging for help. You could have picked it up and fed it….given it love…ANYTHING! To take pictures, and leave it behind for “nature to take its course”, is cruel and heartless. Maybe, someday, karma will come back and put you in a position where you need help and no one will help you. Then, perhaps, you’ll remember this little kitten and how heartless you were. At least the Grinch had a heart that grew 2 sizes too large.

  • Stephanie

    Shameful. .life is life, human or animal. You help when and where you can. I guess these men have no hearts…I hope they are repayed someday for their callousness

  • merm

    Sick!! How can people be so heartless???

  • marivioleta

    bla bla bla…… just you should say. I didn’t save the kitty, because is not my business. JERK!!!

  • kitty

    People who take photos of others who are in misery, be it humans or animals, then walk away without doing anything to help them – even it it’s just for that day, should feel ashamed of themselves. They can go home and eat and sleep in a clean bed, while they made money from someone else’s misery.

  • Sharial

    The one thing I have learned in life over the last 60 years is that you never know what you will truly do until you are actually wearing that person’s shoes. You may think you do, but once reality comes into the equation, the answer usually changes.

  • Sher

    That poor kitty was BEGGING for help and you both let him down. I would’ve scooped him up and carried him with me until I was done in that country, then find a way to bring him home with me.

  • Katie

    I was in Hoi An one month ago. My fiancee and I traveled through Vietnam for two weeks. Aside from the flooding, we found a kitten in the exact same position. Sick, skin and bones, eye infections, you name it. And she was begging to be saved while everyone around her just laughed. It tugged at my heart like no other. Now, I know that everybody has their causes, and admittedly, I have a soft spot for animals. That being said, I knew that we had to help this cat. I didn’t even know if it was possible but I knew I had to. It was not easy, and we ‘lost’ nearly a whole day of our vacation. We snuck her into our hotel and cleaned her up the best we could. We asked at the hostel next door if they knew of any local vets. To our luck, the hostel employed a local girl who spoke excellent english. She thought she knew of one, but the power was off so she could not access the internet to look him up. So we waited. When the power finally did come back on, she contacted the vet for us. Since it was Sunday, the vet wasn’t open. We were able to negotiate with him (through her as he spoke limited english) and he agreed to see us at 6pm that night.

    We had been scratched and then kissed by this little kitten. Neither of us had received the rabies vaccine before and we know that it was a real risk, since the disease is transmitted through saliva. We had a few hours before the vet was able to meet us, so we called a cab to take us to the hospital. We met with a doctor, who was very kind and told us he could give us rabies shots, although a local person would never worry about it. The nurse kindly provided us with a follow up schedule to take to our doctors to ensure that we were adequately protected. The doctor told us that we were not at risk for any other diseases.

    When it was time to meet the vet, we phoned another cab and took the kitten into the middle of nowhere to meet this vet. We arrived, waited until 6pm, and he did not arrive. We had our cab driver (again, limited to no english) to phone the vet. He got ahold of him, he ensured that he was on his way, and we waited, in the dark for another 30 minutes. I am almost certain, judging by the looks we received, that no tourist had ever been to this part of Hoi An.

    The vet arrived, and although he looked like a young frat boy, he was the kindest man. He took the kitten, looked her over, took her temperature, gave her shots, asked me questions. At this point, I did not have a plan. I had no means to support a kitten while in Vietnam, let alone try to get it back into Canada.

    The vet was extremely helpful and referred us to a local animal shelter. My fiancee made arrangements with them to pick up the kitten the next day, while I made arrangements for the vet to keep her overnight and continue her medical care until she was well. We made a few donations to the vet and the animal shelter to cover any medical expenses or what have you. With the donations we made, the total medical expenses for her was about $15 USD. The vet’s bill alone was just over $2 USD.

    Our rabies shots were $15 USD each. We spent a nominal amount in cab fare. It cost us a day out of our two week vacation, and a day of our three day stay in Hoi An. Was it easy? Nope. Did I wish that I had never turned down that alley to find her? Honestly, at moments, I did. Because it was hard, and I didn’t know if she was going to make it, and I didn’t know if anyone would be able to help us help her. The vet wasn’t open, we were leaving, so we had to fight. We really had to fight to make it work. I was so certain that she was going to die that I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture. I just know that my heart could not take having that memory if she didn’t survive.

    I am sharing this story because I want to share that it actually is possible to help. I can’t save all the animals in Vietnam. No way. But I couldn’t let that stop me from saving her. Because you know what, it mattered to her. Everyone we encountered on our quest to save this kitten was amazing. They could see that we were doing something selfless and difficult, and it caused them to act with kindness and join in. The girl at the hostel didn’t need to find us a vet. The cab driver didn’t have to call us the vet when he was late, and the vet didn’t have to open his clinic for us on his day off. The vet didn’t have to keep her overnight, he didn’t need to connect us with the shelter, and the shelter didn’t need to pick her up the next day. Our cab driver didn’t need to stick around to wait for us. But all of these people helped us because we were helping a being in need.

    We didn’t do it because it was easy. We didn’t do it for praise. We didn’t even know if it could be done. But we did it because it was the right, compassionate thing to do. We all know that deep down the excuses people give aren’t authentic. They’re weak excuses. And I’ve made them, and I will likely make them again. But, again, I wanted to share with you that it actually is possible. Not easy and a little inconvenient, but it is absolutely possible.

  • Capt.

    Sometimes reason or logic will take you in one direction, and emotion will take you in another direction in the decision making process. Under the circumstances there was no wrong choice, IMHO.

  • susan slater

    Wow what a cold heart , yet he used the kitten by using the picture for profit, ugly fascist

  • okydoky

    Pathetic excuses, they could gave done SOMETHING, anything, just heartless.
    Any crumb of kindness helps

  • okydoky

    Tell the photographer not to feel bad, join the others and go to the restaurant and have some chopped kitten for lunch with his beer, and rationalize why the animal he just photographed wasn’t worth saving ?!?! Sickening!?!

  • okydoky

    It takes a real man to save a kitten, most people just make excuses why they shouldn’t, obviously he could afford his camera, the printing, his world traveling
    Excursions, but a starving kitten, no, too difficult.

  • okydoky

    The greatness of a nation and it’s MORAL progress can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated…….GANDI

  • msattler

    I have tried and tried to justify this story, and just cannot.

    Let me preface this by saying that I am a terminal lover of cats of all kinds. They have taken my soul’s attention for many years now. I just yesterday came across this story, and I realize it is years old.

    I cannot help but be taken by the look in kitty’s eyes. I am sure poor kitty has long ago been laid to rest by the kindness of our Lord. I say that because it is my belief that cats have souls.

    It was a time of war, and many human casualties were involved. But that does not mean that one could not take a few moments of time, if not under fire, to save a little soul begging for a tiny morsel of either food or attention. Given kitty’s eyes, either would have done her wonders at the moment.
    She was begging with her eyes for just a tiny scrap of either one.

    I am not belittling the thoughts of the soldier involved……
    He at least came forth and tried, truthfully, to explain that moment in time and those heart tugging pictures. I wish he could have done more.

    But, then again, I wish the VN conflict could have been avoided too……….

    God rest you, wonderful kitty. I know you are in God’s hands now….purr for me….

  • disqus_FHOIdicPge

    I can understand the problem of actually taking care of a kitten in a foreign land where you will not be staying very long but I can’t understand just leaving it without trying to at least dry it off, warm it up and get it something to eat and maybe find a box or something so it could get out of the weather somewhat. The outcome may well have been the same, but, at least you know you tried

  • Antonio Edge

    Let’s hope since the young cat is not ‘house broken’ that it’s natural abilities to live in nature that it is doing well. This is a strong posibility too. Cats naturally know how to hunt and to survive in the wild.

  • James G

    At the least, this creature was brave enough to look to the only possible source of help. Isn’t courage worth reward? I’m sure there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of animals who died or were displaced by the floods. This one – this one little life – asked for help. It asked for help from creatures who traditionally, in its homeland, were not known for helping. Think of the tremendous leap of faith in that small mind, the desperation needed for it to overcome its fear and approach giants to ask for help!

    So, why not give it a sip of clean water, a small bite of food? Why not put it in your shirt to warm it and dry it. Even if you must ultimately leave the creature behind, a few moments of kindness may have made all the difference in one life – just a few short moments of safety, warmth and grace in a short, cruel life would have been a remarkable gift to one small creature. Such a gift would have cost the humans nothing but a moment or two, perhaps as long as it took to ignore and photograph the animal.

    So, yeah, I’m a bleeding heart. I don’t really wish to know anyone who would not have at least comforted this kitten a bit and been kind to it, even if the person could not change its fate. Way to go guys! Perhaps we humans don’t value animal life as much as human life, but I cannot help but draw some comparison in the non-intervention here and the non-intervention exhibited by Kevin Carter when he took a photo of a starving toddler trying to reach a feeding center with a vulture watching. Both situations show humanity at some of its worst. It is ethical to exploit innocents, human and animal, but not help, even a bit. Capital B.S.

    I wish you had never taken this photo, as it only serves to remind me that humanity is a lost cause.

  • Kat

    It is Jan, 2015, while I understand their decision to leave the kitten; I don’t agree with it!!! Was the picture for greed and not compassion? You are Americans (i think) and could have given this little guy a chance of living! Instead YOU BOTH punched its “one way” ticket. You can justify this anyway you want, but if you chose correctly then why were the pics taken down?

  • Marisol

    I rescued a kitten that cried to me for hours. Once i found it, I just couldn’t leave it to die. The guys who let this kitten die, I hope the picture is a reminder of the lost opportunity for you to be human and show compassion. For others to be compassionate you must lead by example. With this said, karma is a bitch. You will get yours. We are all connected in life, no matter how small. When you suffer in life, just know, this is something you brought onto yourself. You get what you give. This is why I prefer to help animals more than people. People Always think life owes us more than what we care to give. Shame.

  • DogMom

    Stop making excuses and save the kitten. I dont give a flying fu@# what is custom, or what you are to do with it. You SAVE it and then the rest will come easily. To just walk away and leave it, makes you heartless and one that should not have a family, due to not being able to love.

  • Ana Lopez

    Would have helped the kitten in a heartbeat. His is a very lame excuse for his cruelty. He benefited from the photo yet abandoned the subject that I am sure made him $$$.

  • Ingeborg

    I think this kitty could have saved the photographer but instead he choose to ignore this opportunity to show some kind humanity in times of great distress …

  • Trudy Bledsoe

    I sure hope this man did not make a damn cent off this picture.

  • Nonya

    While I would love to adopt this kitty and take it in it really is important for people to realize that there are not only human adults trying to survive under harsh circumstances but also human children. Who do you help? The child who can gain strength and learn to survive on their own or the kitten you’ll be able to provide for only for a couple of days because you’ll be leaving and it’d nearly impossible to bring them home with you? What would you do? It really isn’t okay to judge especially if you’ve never endured the pain and suffering those people in Vietnam were faced with or seen it in person yourself. Seriously, stop and consider how you’re probably sitting in your comfortable home with enough means to have Internet and to take care of a pet. You really shouldn’t judge, also the question was would you save it or not. Not what you think otherwise guy behind the photo.

  • Erla

    Instead of judging over the internet, why don’t we come together and save as many animals and men as possible. Can someone educate me on where to start ? Any website or information about organisations that help those in need would be more than enough to start with

  • Cassandra

    These men who left it deserve to feel what it’s like to be left for dead, cold and wet and starving while people look on and say, well no one else can help it so we shouldn’t.

  • Kathy

    Not what you did. I could not leave it there. Every life is worth living. This little one was begging for help.To deny that is cruel.

  • Elena

    I’m so angry and my heart broke a little more for all the animals in the world. It’s almost like this man bragging about his logic of steel and non-emotional resolve. I am just crying. This is why I stopped eating and wearing all animals. People do tend to cry over dogs and cats and them blissfully indulge in about dog or a stake while what preceded those “foods” was far more gruesome than that photo of this kitten

  • Elena

    Makes me so angry and just broke my heart a little more for all te animals in the world. This man out his “art” above suffering. He had the logic not to save the kitten but took these photos because he used this situation to elicit an emotion with his “art”. I am an amateur photographer and know perfectly well how it feels when the shot is just “right” and you have to capture it. But if it ever involves suffering, I would go out of my way to help. These two men are horrible men. The only point he has (well it sort of can be derived from his iron clad excuses) is that those of us who cry over cats and dogs better stop eating meat otherwise it seems a bit illogical to feel bad for one creature and then create demand for horrible slaughter of another creature of identical pain receptors and often levels of intelligence higher than those in cats and dogs (like pigs who are way ahead of western pets with respect to their intelligence).