A livestream of a stray cat feeding station in South Korea has the Internet losing its mind, but the video isn’t simply cute — it could be an important step for cat welfare in South Korea.
It all started when Koo Eun-je put under some leftover fish for a stray cat near his mother-in-law’s home in a southwestern Korean mountain village, The Associated Press reports. When more cats started demonstrating up and Koo set up a camera so he and his wife could monitor the area, a livestream was born.
“We guessed that there would be one or two cats, but now it turns out that 17 cats are coming to eat food, ” he told the AP.
The livestream is only available in South Korea, but some clips are up on YouTube.
He refers to the feeding site as “restaurant for cats, ” adorning it with different decorations and a chalkboard of the changing menu. The online show is called “Cats Meok Bang.” Meok Bang is the term for a Korean trend in which people — frequently attractive females — eat for audiences in front of webcams . Like human Meok Bang stars, Koo’s stray cats receive money gifts from spectators, which Koo uses to purchase more food for the felines. Many people have compared the footage to Neko Atsume, an iOS and Android game in which players collect and care for cartoon cats.
But Koo’s footage isn’t simply cute. Its burgeoning popularity could be a good sign for the situation of women South Korean cats. Though the country patently has some cat devotees, cats are often seen as diseased pests or bringers of bad luck. As a outcome, stray cats, which are rampant in many cities, can fall victim to horrific acts of cruelty as people take it upon themselves to bring down the populations.
Seoul launched a trap-neuter-return( TNR) program in 2008, meaning that cats could be caught, spayed or neutered and then released to the region they came from in an effort to prevent the cat population from growing. But cat advocates complained that officials were unwilling to work with local cat custodians and seemed unconcerned for cat health, leading to high rates of infection and demise, Korea JoonAng Daily reported in 2013.
Korean TNR “is still very dangerous, ” Park So-Youn, the founder of South Korean animal welfare group Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth, told the blog Care Like I Do last year. “The cats lack recovery period after the surgery and are often released before being properly cared for.”
But Park added that in recent years she’s watched an increase in people who like cats, and more people are interested in adopting the animals as pets.
There’s anecdotal evidence that “Cats Meok Bang” is helping that tendency along. Multiple spectators told the AP that they disliked cats before watching the display, but that the livestream has changed their minds.
“I was never fond of cats before, ” physician Yoo Young Hoon told the AP. “Now when I take a walk after lunch, I go to places where I might run into street cats.”
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