Are There Really Cats in Vietnam? A Feline Mystery


Cats have a long history and special significance in Vietnamese culture. Vietnam is one of the only countries that uses the cat instead of the rabbit in its zodiac system. Cats have played an important role in Vietnamese society, helping control rodents in rice fields and homes for centuries. Today there are many native cat breeds as well as domestic cats that roam the streets and live as beloved pets.

Archaeological evidence shows that cats were domesticated in Vietnam as far back as the 3rd-6th century AD. Over the centuries, cats became an essential part of Vietnamese agricultural and household life. Native cat breeds emerged that were well-adapted to the climate and good at hunting rodents. Cats hold an esteemed position in folklore and astrology, seen as clever and possessive but also loyal and protective. The Year of the Cat brings luck in Vietnamese culture. While some Western influence has shaped perceptions of cats, they remain an integral part of Vietnamese history and society today.

Native Cats of Vietnam

There are a few rare and distinctive cat breeds native to Vietnam. Two of the most well-known are the Vietnamese Lynx and the Golden Cat.

The Vietnamese Lynx, also known as the ‘Vietnamese Bobtail’, is a wild cat species found mainly in the mountainous forests of Vietnam, Laos, and China. They have a short bobbed tail and ornate markings. Vietnamese lynx are shy, elusive creatures under threat from habitat destruction and illegal wildlife trade (Source).

The Golden Cat is a medium-sized wild cat native to Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. It has a beautiful golden coat with dark spots and stripes. Golden Cats inhabit remote forested areas and have been driven into steep decline by deforestation and hunting. They are now endangered with only an estimated 2500 left in the wild (Source).

Other native cat breeds include the Korat and the Khao Manee, which originated as landrace breeds in Southeast Asia before becoming established pedigree breeds. The Korat is known for its unique blue-grey coat and playful personality, while the Khao Manee is all white with a muscular build.

Domestic Cats

Domestic cats are very popular as pets in Vietnamese households. According to a 2021 survey conducted by Statista, 19% of respondents in Vietnam owned a cat, which equates to over 15 million pet cats nationwide. The most popular cat breeds kept as pets in Vietnam are the Traditional Siamese, Scottish Fold, Persian, Ragdoll, British Shorthair, and Sphynx.

The Traditional Siamese is one of the oldest and most beloved cat breeds in Vietnam. They are known for their distinct markings, lithe and athletic build, and very affectionate personalities. The Scottish Fold with its unique folded ears is also extremely popular, especially in the major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Persians and Ragdolls are prized for their luxurious coats and laid-back natures. British Shorthairs and Sphynxes have seen a surge in popularity more recently. There is great pride associated with owning pedigreed and exotic cat breeds in Vietnam.

Many Vietnamese cat owners pamper their feline companions, treating them like children. High-end pet hotels, cat spas, and cat cafes catering to domestic cats have sprouted up to meet the growing demand for luxury pet services. However, cats can also still be found roaming the streets and temples of Vietnam. Overall, cats are cherished by many Vietnamese families.

Street Cats

Vietnam has a large population of stray and feral cats. While there are no official estimates, some animal welfare organizations claim there are millions of stray cats roaming the streets and alleys of cities across Vietnam. These cats face difficult lives as strays, struggling to find food and water and vulnerable to illness, injury and cruelty (source).

Many animal welfare groups in Vietnam are working to help street cats through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs. TNR involves humanely trapping stray cats, spaying or neutering them, vaccinating them against rabies, and then returning them to their original habitat. TNR helps control the stray cat population while allowing these street cats to live out their lives (source). These programs provide care that improves cats’ lives and health. However, the large stray cat population means TNR efforts currently can only reach a fraction of cats in need.

Cats in Vietnamese Culture

Cats have played an important role in Vietnamese legends, folklore, and symbolism for centuries. Vietnamese cats are often depicted in poetry, literature, and art.

In legends, cats were believed to have mythical powers like other animals such as dragons and phoenixes. The bạch mãnh, or white lion, was a mythical cat said to ward off evil spirits. Cats were also associated with various Vietnamese goddesses. Đại Bà Tây, the principal goddess of the coast, was said to have a cat as her familiar spirit.

In terms of symbolism, cats represent femininity, flexibility, adaptability, and cleverness in Vietnamese culture. However, they can also symbolize laziness, aloofness, and unfaithfulness. The phrase “con mèo mun” refers to a lazy, unmotivated person. There are also folk sayings like “lòng dạ mèo mun” meaning a fickle, unfaithful heart.

Overall, cats have a complex and nuanced role in Vietnamese folklore and symbolism. They are depicted both positively as clever and mystical creatures as well as negatively as representing laziness and unpredictability.

Cats as Pets

Pet ownership has been increasing in Vietnam in recent years. According to Euromonitor International, the pet care industry in Vietnam was valued at $54.5 million USD in 2020 and is projected to reach $94.2 million USD by 2025 [1]. Cats are especially popular pets, with around 14 million household cats in Vietnam as of 2016 [2].

Many Vietnamese people view cats as independent yet affectionate companions. They appreciate cats for keeping mice and rats away and providing companionship. Although some Vietnamese are still warming up to the idea of cats as indoor pets, attitudes are gradually shifting as more Vietnamese adopt pets and bring them inside their homes.

The pet care industry in Vietnam is responding to this growing trend. Pet stores, veterinary clinics, pet grooming services, and pet hotels are expanding. Premium cat food brands like Whiskas and Royal Canin are gaining popularity. Cat cafes, where people can interact with cats in a cafe setting, have also emerged in cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

While pet ownership is rising, animal welfare practices still lag behind other parts of Asia, though increased awareness and economic development could improve matters. Many organizations are working to spay/neuter and vaccinate stray cats. Overall, cats are cherished by many in Vietnam, and their status as pets will likely continue growing.


Cat Cafes

Cat cafes have become increasingly popular in Vietnam over the past few years. These cafes allow visitors to interact with cats while enjoying coffee, tea, and light snacks. Many cat cafes in Vietnam focus on adopting rescue cats. The relaxing atmosphere makes cat cafes a popular destination for both tourists and locals.

Some of the most well-known cat cafes in Vietnam include:

  • Jack’s Cat Cafe in Hoi An – Vietnam’s first cat cafe which is home to over 50 rescue cats. Visitors can pet and play with the cats in a beautiful garden setting while enjoying vegetarian food and drinks (source).
  • Yuna Alaska Coffee in Ho Chi Minh City – This cafe has a separate cat playground area housing rescue cats. They also have a dog section. Food, coffee, and smoothies are available (source).

Animal Welfare

Vietnam has struggled with animal welfare issues related to stray and feral cats. Many cats in Vietnam are abandoned or born on the streets, leading to large populations of “community cats” across cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. These cats often suffer from disease, hunger, and poor treatment.

A few organizations in Vietnam are working to help cats through trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs, veterinary care, feeding programs, adoption, education campaigns, and advocating for better animal welfare policies. Some notable groups include PAWS for Compassion, Vietnam Cat Welfare, and the Hanoi Animal Rescue Center.

For example, Vietnam Cat Welfare provides veterinary care for community cats in HCMC, implements TNR programs to humanely control the stray population, and finds homes for adoptable cats. They have made many videos to raise awareness about cat welfare in Vietnam.

While progress has been made, animal welfare in Vietnam is still developing. Groups could use more volunteers and donations to expand their work helping street cats across Vietnam.

Traveling with Cats

Bringing a cat to Vietnam involves following certain regulations and logistics. According to a Reddit discussion on r/unitedairlines, cats must travel as cargo on flights to Vietnam and cannot be brought in-cabin as they can on some airlines. This is an important regulation to keep in mind when booking travel. Owners should ensure the airline they book allows transporting pets in the cargo hold.

There are also regulations for bringing a cat into Vietnam. The required veterinary documents include a microchip, current rabies vaccination, and health certificate. These should be prepared by a licensed veterinarian in the country of origin. Some key tips for the travel process are using an approved airline pet carrier, attaching current ID to the carrier, and confirming pet policies and regulations with the destination country.

To make travel as smooth as possible for a cat, it’s recommended to get them used to the carrier in advance through training. Feeding them in the carrier and taking short car rides can help reduce anxiety on travel days. It’s also important to attach bowls and familiar bedding to the carrier and confirm the flight routing to limit long layovers. While traveling as cargo has risks, proper preparation and an understanding of regulations can allow cat owners to transport their pets safely.


In summary, Vietnam has a rich diversity of native wild cats as well as a large population of domestic cats and street cats in its cities. Cats have played an important role in Vietnamese culture, being seen as symbols of good luck and prosperity. Today, cats remain very popular pets for many Vietnamese families. The cat café trend has also taken off in Vietnam as it has in many other parts of the world. However, animal welfare laws and standards of care are still developing in Vietnam. Those looking to travel to Vietnam with their pets or adopt cats in Vietnam should research regulations and pet transport options.

Looking ahead, it will be important for Vietnam to continue improving animal welfare standards and services such as veterinary care and sterilization programs in order to humanely manage the street cat population. With proper education and regulations, cats can continue to be cherished pets and cultural icons in Vietnam.

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