My friend was telling me recently that she heard the sound of a dog dying for many hours one evening. It reminded me of a time a few months ago when a kitten at my Pagoda died. I don’t know what has compelled me to write about this, maybe to sort of point out what the culture here is like.

I was eating lunch at my workmates room (which is situated next to the Pagoda) when I saw a kitten lying close to us, not moving. I went over and was convinced she was dead. I spoke to my workmate about it, and he showed me that no, the kitten was not dead, she was breathing. She had been drowning in the pond next to his room, and a student had taken her out of the water. Unfortunately, she had swallowed too much water and was incredibly bloated.

My workmate used a broom to push her around to another spot while we ate, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this kitten, who I knew was dying a prolonged, waterlogged death. I asked this workmate if he could find a way to kill her and ease her suffering. Going to a vet was not an option – it was too expensive, probably wouldn’t have helped, and also none of us have the time or money to look after the kitten if it were to make a recovery. He was shocked and told me that he could not kill the kitten, as he was a Buddhist.

About half an hour later, another workmate came back from lunch. I asked him the same thing. He was also shocked, and said he couldn’t kill the kitten. I told him that the kitten was dying, and that as a good Buddhist, he should try to ease the suffering (though, that being said, I was not mentally strong enough to find a way to kill the kitten). He disagreed, and told me that when his family sells their animals for food, they do not kill them, there are special people in the community who do that for money. Then he brought up the time his parents sold his buffalo to be killed, and the buffalo cried. Talk about a guilt trip.

I then called over one of the older Monks at the Pagoda who loves animals, and asked him to help. He told me not to worry, to leave it in the sun, and the kitten would dry out. I didn’t even try to explain that lack of logic to him.

I then called another Monk, and asked him to help. He also would not.

Meanwhile, the kitten laid there, its tiny arms and legs hardly visibly because of how bloated its stomach was, while ants crawled all over it. I continuously checked on her until around 4pm, when I saw she had died. One of my workmates was kind enough to dig a hole so we could bury her.

The next day, the kittens brother kept crying and crying, knowing she had died.