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SINCE 1974

Haiti Stories
  I learned about the chat sauvage phenomenon on my first trip to Haiti in 1974. I was living in a small beach village near Cap Haitian. My neighbor Fayo, who was about 12 years old at the time, padded up on his huge feet, made flat and wide by all the hours he spent working barefoot in his jardin on the mountain behind the town. He was beaming and carrying a stick with a dead cat slung over it. I asked him where he had found the animal and he grinned ferociously and said that he had just killed it, after a long chase. I scolded him and began to lecture him on the sanctity of life and on the consequences when the owner of the cat found out. He just laughed and said that this was a chat sauvage, a wild cat.

He explained that since the cat has two ears, you know it does not belong to anybody . Evidently if you own a cat in rural Haiti, you have to mark it somehow so that everybody will know that it is a domestic cat. To do this you cut off the tip of one of it's ears. After that, you must bury the tip in your front yard. By doing this, the story goes, you are assured that the cat will not run away, because he wants to be near his ear.

Ok, even if this cat doesn’t belong to anybody, it still isn’t nice to kill animals, I told him. Fayo went on to tell me that a chat sauvage is a nuisance to the village because it has to kill smaller animals in order to survive. It does kill rats, which is ok because they are plentiful in Haiti. But the chat sauvage will also kill your chickens and that is the major problem here, because chickens are a valuable commodity in the countryside.

Take an ear, save a life!

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