The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam

The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam

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

“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

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

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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  • Kairen Jamieson

    Well, that rationalization does not justify leaving a life no matter the country. Nor does it take anything more than human morals to show empathy and compassion over “hard decisions” of leaving an animal to its’ fate. What these photographers have done is simply tried to ease their own conscious and have people not judge them.
    As new as pet ownership is in Asia especially China there are also organizations that help small animals and have contact numbers, two weeks would have been more than enough time to track one down and deliver the kitten.
    These men are simply trying to justify their lack of humanity with a reasoning that is simple tripe!

  • lilanimaluvr

    Don’t be so sure. I for one looked up every customer of his I could find and asked them not to use this POS ever again. And I bet I am not the only one. Call it what you will, I call it karma. And I will continue to do this every chance I get to the heartless creep.

    • redmond49

      Good for you!!!

  • Linda Schmid

    I would’ve at least picked it up and comforted it, weather it was in it’s last moments of life or not, or at least given it some food & water, POOR, poor thing!!………… tears

  • Nancy Braunig

    I wouldn’t have just left it. I would have tried to give it a chance. I don’t think I could live with myself.


    he had the time to take this picture… why not bend over & feed this cat? Pet this cat.

  • Danny Benjamin Bahar

    i would do whatever it takes to save this kitten`s life

  • Danny Benjamin Bahar

    most north americans are spoiled and heartless.

  • Bethany

    I love that the response this photographer gives merely clouds an entirely simplistic act of human kindness with selfish politics and pretentiously scripted global ‘context’. That picture provides the only context we need; it’s a little living creature that has every bit of capacity to feel helpless, desperate, miserable and vulnerable. It’s voiceless and those little claws clutching at a stranger with the capacity to kill it with one kick should break any person’s heart, with a soul. I don’t care about historical, political, cultural and anthropocentric context my friend. I don’t care about the practical difficulties in helping this kitten. I care that without seemingly menial acts of pure, senseless, irrational crazy kindness, we are not human. We’re stony-eyed, cold-blooded deadpan beasts.

  • Animal Lover

    I’d have taken the kitten ignore this poor sweet baby is criminal, in my opinion. Totally heartless.

  • Scott M Sykes

    There is NO EXCUSE for allowing an animal to suffer for anything. I barely have enough money to pay my bills and put food on my own table but yet every two weeks I take the time and energy to purchase food for the 8 cats that were “LEFT” outside to fend for themselves. I also feed between 8 to 10 cats that come by in my apartment complex. When you start justifying your cruelty to animals it is just a short step to justifying your cruelty to humans. I hope that when these two “men” (really men? more like pathetic excuses for humans) are older and feeble that they are left to “nature”!

  • Jamie Coughlin

    Just excuses for “I didn’t want to bother”. I’ve read too many stories of people in foreign countries, in horrible conditions, going out of their way to help animals (and people) in trouble. I know it can be done, these men just didn’t want to bother to do it because it WOULD have been a bother.

  • Eduard Farcas

    I took the cat without no remorse…I don’t understand their point of view about their sick vietnamese civilisation about eat cats and dogs…it is not relevant…this is a soul dude, a soul, not a toy….it is the same importnat that saving a man….we all are souls…not simple meat on a table…

  • mamaji

    my real question remains at large… can there be love without proper action?…

  • shawnna

    This is very depressing, you dont just let a helpless and hurting animal suffer. you do anything you can to protect and save them.