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X Italian Meat Dishes
Cat Meat
Originated from: Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any time
Contributed by: Image courtesy of the New York Public Library, Digital Gallery; notes, Mary Melfi

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A young cat, about 6 months old

For marinade
Olive oil
Lemon juice


Prepare animal for cooking as one would for a rabbit.

Marinate meat in olive oil, lemon juice and favored seasonings for a few hours.

Bake, grill or fry.


According to my father prior to World War II a few individuals living in the countryside did eat young cats. It seems that they were not necessarily eaten by the poorest of the poor, but simply eaten by those who wanted the occasional meat dish. As meat was very expensive at that time, individuals tried to supplement their meat diet any which way they could. Some trapped songbirds, others went after wild game. Many subsistence farmers raised animals such as goats and sheep, but oddly enough, few actually ate the animals they raised, as they had to sell them in order to get needed supplies. It seems my father's father sold his sheep to the local butcher who then re-sold their various parts to the well-to-do in town. The money my grandfather received for the sheep was used to buy his family clothes and shoes. Hard to believe that animal farmers did not eat the animals they raised, but so it was. Even though subsistence farmers could not afford to eat meat, few, as previously mentioned, feasted on cat meat (No one raised cats for food). The eating of cat meat was frowned upon, but not necessarily because cats were perceived as pets -- not at all. The eating of cat food was frowned on because cats ate mice, and mice, it was believed, carried disease. Besides, cats, like all other animals, were "working" animals. Cats were kept to get rid of the mice. The mice attacked not only the cold cuts, but also the wheat and corn supplies. So cats were an essential part of a farming family's household. In any case, those individuals who did eat the occasional surplus cat were not ostracized. However, it seems, dogs were rarely, if ever, eaten for food. As most dogs were "working dogs" (They were the farmers' security system), they were an essential part of the household. In the 1930s few farmers could afford to be sentimental about their animals. Actually, most animals in the 1930s in the Southern Italian countryside lived to a ripe old age, as farm animals were raised for their produce (milk or eggs) rather than their meat per se.

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