Can Muslims Consume Feline Flesh? Taboo or Halal?


The practice of eating cat meat is controversial in many parts of the world, including in some Muslim countries. While cats have an honored place in Islamic history and culture, there are varying perspectives on whether consuming cat meat is permissible in Islam. This issue intersects with Islamic principles on animal welfare, rules on permissible foods, scholarly opinions, health concerns, and cultural taboos. Understanding the complex factors around this issue requires an in-depth look at Islamic teachings, cultural practices, and the treatment of cats throughout Muslim communities globally.

This article will analyze the debate over eating cats in Islam, examine key considerations from theological and ethical standpoints, and provide insights into cultural attitudes that condemn cat consumption. Given cats’ significance as beloved companions and hunters of vermin, there are compelling reasons why eating them is shunned. We will explore all sides of this issue, aiming to offer clarity on an important but rarely discussed topic.

Islamic Principles on Animal Welfare

The Quran and Hadith provide guidance on the ethical treatment of animals in Islam. Several verses emphasize kindness, compassion, and avoiding cruelty to animals.

The Quran states that all living creatures praise God: “The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [Allah] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving.” (17:44)

Another verse discourages wastefulness and excess when killing animals for food: “And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly – We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law].” (17:33)

The Prophet Muhammad taught kindness towards animals and forbade cruelty against them. He said: “A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being.” (

Islamic principles thus encourage compassion, conservation, and ethical treatment of animals based on guidance from the Quran and Hadith.

Cats in Islamic History and Culture

Cats have held a special significance in Islamic civilization since the religion’s early days. According to the Wikipedia article Islam and Cats, cats were valued for protecting granaries and food stores from pests, as well as preying on mice that could destroy paper-based books and manuscripts. This contributed to cats being seen as protectors and guardians in Islamic culture.

The article Cats in Islam & Muslim Culture explains how cats were revered for centuries in Muslim societies. One of Prophet Muhammad’s companions was even nicknamed Abu Hurairah, meaning “Father of the Kitten,” due to his fondness for cats. Stories describe the prophet caring for cats and encouraging compassion towards them. For example, according to one account, Muhammad cut off the sleeve of his prayer robe rather than disturb the cat sleeping on it.

Overall, cats held great cultural significance in early Islamic civilizations, being seen as protectors of knowledge and written works. Stories and sayings emphasize kindness and care for cats, cementing their revered status within the Islamic tradition.

Rules on Permissible Foods

In Islam, there are strict rules around what types of meat are considered permissible (halal) to eat. For meat to be halal, the animal must be slaughtered according to Islamic ritual procedure. This involves sacrificing the animal by cutting the throat and severing the carotid artery, jugular vein and windpipe in a single swipe using a sharp blade. This method is believed to be the most humane way to slaughter an animal, as it results in a rapid loss of blood and reduced pain.

According to the Quran, permissible animals must be slaughtered “in the name of Allah.” While slaughtering, the person must recite “In the name of Allah, Allah is the Greatest.” The animal must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter, and all the blood must be drained from the body. Meat from animals that die of natural causes or disease is prohibited.

There are differing opinions among Islamic schools of thought regarding the acceptability of meat slaughtered by non-Muslims. According to the Hanafi school, meat slaughtered by Jews and Christians is permitted. Other schools state that the meat must be slaughtered specifically by a Muslim for it to be considered halal.

In addition, there are detailed rules around how the animal must be treated throughout its life and during transportation and slaughter. Causing any unnecessary pain or distress to the animal is forbidden in Islam. Stunning animals before slaughter is controversial within Islamic law.

For meat to be certified halal, the whole supply chain must adhere to Islamic principles. Halal food certification organizations monitor farms, slaughterhouses and food production facilities to ensure compliance with halal standards.

Scholarly Opinions on Eating Cat Meat

The majority of Muslim scholars consider eating cat meat to be haram (unlawful or prohibited) based on the following hadith:

“The selling of cats (is forbidden).” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi 677)

Most schools of Islamic jurisprudence interpret this to mean consuming cats is forbidden. For example, Imam Malik, founder of the Maliki school, said that eating cats is prohibited even if they are not sold or traded.

Ibn Hazm, a prominent Andalusian scholar of the Zahiri school, held the view that all types of cats are haram to consume, stating:

“The flesh of cats is forbidden. This prohibition encompasses all types of cats.” (Al-Muhalla 11/139)

The Hanafi school, one of the largest schools of Sunni jurisprudence, also considers cat meat to be haram based on the hadith. However, they allow for exceptions in cases of necessity.

Overall, most Muslim scholars agree eating cat is forbidden based on authentic hadiths, and view cats as domesticated companions not to be slaughtered for meat.[1]

Health Concerns Around Eating Cats

Consuming cat meat poses several health risks due to diseases and parasites that can be transmitted from cats to humans. Cats can harbor toxoplasmosis, rabies, cat-scratch disease, ringworm, tapeworms, hookworms, and other infectious agents.

Toxoplasmosis is one of the biggest concerns with eating cats. This parasite causes toxoplasmosis infection, which can lead to flu-like symptoms, blurry vision, and in severe cases, neurological problems or damage to the eyes. Pregnant women are advised against consuming cat meat because toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects and miscarriage. [1]

Rabies is nearly 100% fatal once clinical signs appear. Eating the meat of a rabid animal can transmit the virus. Cats are common rabies vectors. [2]

Ringworm is a fungal skin infection that causes lesions and hair loss. It can spread to humans through contact with infected cats or their meat. Tapeworms, hookworms, and other intestinal parasites can also be passed from cats to people who eat their meat.

Overall, cat meat is considered a high-risk food due to the many potential zoonotic diseases. Proper cooking can reduce some risks, but does not eliminate them entirely. Consumers of cat meat face preventable health hazards.

Cats as Pets vs. Livestock

Unlike cows, chickens, sheep and other domesticated animals that have been bred specifically for human consumption over thousands of years, cats have historically been raised primarily as pets, working animals and pest controllers rather than livestock. According to The Evolution of House Cats, cats were first domesticated in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago to control rodents infesting early agricultural settlements. As cats spread around the world alongside humans, their role continued to be pest control and companionship rather than a food source.

Today, cats remain much more common as pets and strays than as farmed animals bred for meat. According to the ASPCA, there are around 86 million pet cats in the U.S. compared to a small number raised on farms for exotic meat. With no substantial cat meat farming industry, eating cats has not been normalized like eating traditional livestock. Consuming cats is seen as taboo and morally questionable by most cultures where cats are kept primarily as companions rather than a protein source.

Animal Cruelty Concerns

The cat meat industry involves extreme cruelty and inhumane treatment of cats. Cats who are farmed and slaughtered for their meat suffer immensely.

Cats destined for the meat trade often live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions without adequate food, water, shelter, or veterinary care. They are typically kept in small, filthy cages and have no ability to exhibit natural behaviors. This cruel confinement causes immense stress and suffering.

To prepare cat meat, many cats are bludgeoned, hanged, bled out, or boiled alive. These slaughter methods cause immense fear and pain before death. According to The Facts – Four Paws International, cats can suffer for up to 5 minutes during boiling.

The dog and cat meat trade is inherently cruel. As the Four Paws International report states, an estimated 10 million dogs and cats in Southeast Asia suffer each year. Consuming cat meat supports an industry built on prolonged, egregious animal suffering.

Cultural Taboos

Eating cat meat is considered taboo in many cultures, including Western countries like the United States. There is a strong social stigma and cultural aversion against consuming cats. According to Wikipedia, “Cat meat is generally considered ‘forbidden’ in most Western countries,” and “its consumption is culturally taboo.” This cultural taboo is rooted in historical, cultural, and societal factors.

On Reddit, many users have discussed the taboo against eating cats and dogs in Western culture. One user notes that these animals have traditionally been seen as pets and companions, not livestock, leading to an aversion to eating them. There is a perception that cats and dogs have personalities, respond emotionally, and are part of the family unit in many households. This creates reluctance and discomfort around eating them.

Overall, while some cultures accept eating cat meat, it faces strong social stigma and cultural taboos in many parts of the world. Cats are deeply ingrained as pets and friends, not food sources, leading to discomfort with the idea of consuming cats. The cultural taboo reflects societal values and norms around companion animals.


While scholars in Islam do not have a consensus on the issue of eating cats and other carnivorous animals, the dominant scholarly opinion seems to be it should be avoided. Much of the discourse on the prohibition of cat meat points to many moral and health reasons to abstain, such as our ethical duty to protect cat welfare, the uncleanliness of cats as potential disease carriers, and the cultural taboo in many societies against cat consumption.

Islam teaches general principles of animal welfare and avoidance of harm that can be drawn upon when assessing whether eating cats and dogs is appropriate. There are also explicit prohibitions in the Sunnah against harming cats specifically, likely due to the revered position of cats in Islamic history and the benefits they provide humanity. Ultimately, while the scholarly debate is complex, the mainstream view tends toward prohibiting cat consumption on animal welfare grounds.

Further study into the health, hygiene, cultural context is needed before determining the permissibility definitively. However, the precautionary principle and general Islamic ethic of animal compassion suggest that it is safest and most ethical for Muslims to avoid eating cat meat altogether.

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