The Ending Is Heartbreaking!

The Ethics of Caring for a Living Creature come under, having Mercy in one’s heart! A Kitten at deaths door begging mercifully for a morsel of comfort, possibly it’s last moments of life to be warmed and cared about!

Personally, I would have picked up this kitten, held it closely giving warmth from my body. If “Pudicat” took it’s last breathes in my arms, I would have found peace in my being for having cared. Given the potential of survival, I would search for goats’ milk or some nourishment would have been my next act.

However I was not the person who took these pictures, nor the boot the Kitten came to in it’s last moments of life, after surviving a horrible earth disaster.

This photo has gone viral over the years. Please quit using this photo, the ending is Heartbreaking!

A surviving kitten from a massive flood was affectionately name Pudicat. Below are the words of the reporter who investigated and researched after these pictures went viral, this link is the entire story.

The photographer was Graham Lavery and these are his words.


Graham Lavery
November 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm
I have received several emails from users of this site about my photo and its posting on your site. This picture has managed to find its way all over the Internet, in some cases with hundreds of thousands of views, and I realize it is a very provocative shot that touches people deeply.
Normally I do not respond to these types of comment threads as they are often degenerative in nature and can get very nasty, one only needs to reference any news site to see how these things generally play out. After reading all the comments here however, and receiving several polite emails I have decided to write a comment.
First of all, I think it is very important to understand context, and while many request the “story” behind this shot generally to learn the final outcome, it is not that simple and context is critical. I have spent a good bit of time in Vietnam as my wife used to work there a few months each year, and have shot the war in Afghanistan several times, as well as disasters such as the quake zone in Port-au-Prince, Haiti very shortly after that event. When discussing any of these places, or subjects, the context is a most important and often overlooked part of the equation – especially by North Americans.
This shot, as you seem to have ascertained, was taken in Hoi An, Vietnam during the worst flooding in almost half a century. My wife was there for the worst of it – flooding into the second story of buildings – and the loss of homes, personal property, and life, was pretty significant as you can imagine. It should however be remembered that societies like the Vietnamese have been at this for the better part of 5000 years and have seen it all before, a great many times.
In my travels all over the world there is a common theme that makes itself known and very obvious to me: we in North America are an extremely young culture and society, with a great deal left to learn. How does this help understand this photo and its story? Well it goes to follow that perspectives on many issues differ from ours, priorities are placed in different areas, and that there are very salient reasons for this.
One such area is animals, and how they are viewed.
In Vietnam, the phenomenon of “pet” ownership is a very new development, prior to the American War this was a practically unheard of concept in many areas. Dogs, as a prime example, are a food source much like cattle, sheep, or pigs are here. Since the development of the “pet” concept, there has been an explosion in numbers with a great many feral and stray dogs and cats roaming the country in various states of health, which is becoming a large problem in and of itself.
Given the general cultural attitude toward animals like cats, the massive property damage during the floods, and the great deal of human hardship that was experienced at the time this photo was captured, it can be seen how a kitten such as this one would pass well under the radar and slip pretty far down the priority lists of most people who were literally striving to survive.
When my very good friend and I came upon this kitten, it was pretty obvious what its fate would be given the described circumstances, a situation that brings with it several ethical questions that have no really simple answer, mainly: “What to do?”
As essentially tourists in the area who were in Vietnam temporarily (barely two weeks in Charles’s case), the practicalities of helping an animal such as this become a little more cloudy. If you take it in, how do you care for it? Where do you care for it? What do you do when you leave? Does rescuing it jive with the ethics and practices of the local people (it is their country after all)?
These are tough questions to answer, and I would submit they become exponentially more difficult when you are in combat zones or disaster areas and instead of a kitten the faces staring at you are those of children or women, either in extreme poverty, or wounded… It can rip one’s guts out, I assure you, and there are no easy answers. Given the ability I’m sure I’d have adopted half of Afghanistan by now. Charles is a Paramedic who has traveled the world through his career, so between us we tend to see things similarly in this regard.
After a brief discussion, it was decided to let nature take its course and leave the kitten to its own devices, whatever the outcome. Some will agree, some will not, but that was our decision based on our collective experiences of this planet over the years. What became of it ultimately? I can’t answer that with certainty, but I can guess.
In the end we are all faced with choices, some more difficult than others. In photography – particularly in war, or in other difficult circumstances – there are some major ethical implications of even taking a photo: Questions of dignity, intent, and moral imperative. If you do take the shot, do you “put it out there?” I have a hard drives full of photos that will never see the light of day because of this, and countless more that I never took at all given the circumstances.
This photo has been taken off my website and Flickr without my permission and used all over the world now, and I am fine with that as I think it is critical for people to engage with life in whatever form. I see the members of this site have been affected by it in one way or another, and I am happy to see some thoughtful responses to it.
I hope that helps answer your questions.
Graham Lavery

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About the Author: MicheleElys is a Writer, Speaker, Educator, Neurobehaviorist. Educating Innovative Behavioral Solutions for Human & Animal coexistences and TBI Improvement to Recovery. Founder of CNBR [cognitive neural behavior rewiring]. Invite MicheleElys to speak at your next forum. ►Contact to schedule an inspiring Keynote. Have questions? Book a consult with MicheleElys [anonymously] email, Connect with her on LinkedIn,    

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. MicheleElys says:

    I was not the person involved in this animal crisis!! I am the writer who wishes to put to rest these pictures being used. The photographer has also requested not using this precious and difficult moments of this kitten’s life and the horrible disastrous calamities the earth and humans must deal with and the horrid decisions we, at times, must make!!

    As the title invokes, The Ending is Heartbreaking

    Personally, I have had to delight this kitten’s photos from my collection for I cannot BARE to see this pleading face, it brings me to tears every time and rips my heart to the core!!

    Animals, Earth, Plant Life and Humans must live in a stronger degree of caring, or we all shall perish!!

    Je n’étais pas la personne impliquée dans cette crise animale! Je suis l’écrivain qui souhaite mettre en repos ces images utilisées. Le photographe a également demandé de ne pas utiliser ces moments précieux et difficiles de la vie de ce chaton et les horribles calamités désastreuses dont la terre et les humains doivent faire face et les décisions horribles que nous, parfois, devons faire!

    Comme le titre l’invoque, The Ending is Heartbreaking

    Personnellement, j’ai dû ravir les photos de ce chaton de ma collection car je ne peux pas retrouver ce visage suppliant, ça me fait pleurer à chaque fois et déchire mon cœur au coeur!

    Les animaux, la terre, la vie végétale et les humains doivent vivre dans un degré plus fort de soins, ou nous devons tous périr!


  2. Stéphanie says:


    J ai bien lu votre commentaire. Une question me vient à l esprit, oui il y a une situation humaine et animale dramatique. Des coutumes, de la misère et d autres facteurs que nous occidentaux avons du mal à cerner. Mais, une vie ne vaut elle pas la peine que l on essaye de la sauver? Vous vouliez interpeller les gens sur une condition, mais un travail de partage de connaissances sur le droit à une vie ou une mort honorable s est elle fait après? Avez vous diffusé des photos montrant un animal et un être humain en symbiose? Votre travail photographique ne sert il qu’ à interpeller sur la condition humaine? Toute souffrance est intolérable, peut importe qui la subie. N est ce pas à nous êtres humains, être doué de conscience, de créer un éveil qui fera qu’ un jour, l homme et la nature seront en connexion? Ce chaton est mort, mais si cela avait été un être humain, dans une civilisation cannibale, auriez vous fait le même choix? Les coutumes et l ignorance sont elles intouchables?…


  3. Grace Diemand says:

    This is tragic, this kitten deserved better, as with a little food and warmth he may have had a chance to live. What would that have taken?


    1. MicheleElys says:

      Grace, none of us know for many of us have never been a natural disaster, war zone, areas such as Darfur.
      I truly suggest reading the answer from the photographer, he explains the best and we all react differently in situations; I cannot be a judge, for I am a different person. I do not live their life styles as paramedics or photographer in the above zones of life.
      I do know what I would do and the extremes I would have gone to. Nonetheless, that is who I am, and I am not in the same situation.
      As the title states, This is a Heartbreaking Story. Thank you for your comment


      1. jacqueline says:

        on ne lui demande pas d’adopter la moitié de l’Afghanistan mais seulement d’avoir mis ce minuscule chaton au chaud dans sa veste; et même si il n’y avait pas à manger au moins il serait mort avec un peu de chaleur humaine et de compassion. Il devait peser 250g ce chaton !!!!! Aucune excuse , c’est de l’ignorance ou de la connerie humaine ou encore de l’inertie intellectuelle. Pauvre type !

        For English speaking:

        I read your comment. One question comes to mind, yes there is a dramatic human and animal situation. Customs, misery and other factors that we Westerners find difficult to pin down. But is not life worth the effort to save her? You wanted to challenge people on a condition, but a work of sharing knowledge about the right to an honorable life or death is it done after? Did you show pictures showing an animal and a human being in symbiosis? Does your photographic work only serve to challenge the human condition? Any suffering is intolerable, no matter who it is. Is it not to us human beings, to be endowed with conscience, to create an awakening that will one day, man and nature will be connected? This kitten is dead, but if it had been a human being, in a cannibal civilization, would you have made the same choice? Are customs and ignorance untouchable?


        1. MicheleElys says:

          C’est une histoire difficile et beaucoup d’entre eux ne devront pas prendre une telle décision. Dans les pays où les gens ne favorisent pas les animaux comme animaux de compagnie et une partie de leur famille, cela semble dur!
          Pour beaucoup, dans un autre jour, pas après un ouragan majeur, peut-être que le chaton serait épargné. Nous ne sommes pas dans cette position.
          Quand j’ai écrit ceci, mon cœur a éclaté! Cependant, c’est moi!
          Je connais beaucoup de ceux qui ont vu des personnes égarées et les ont laissé mourir de faim et regretté l’action. Peut-être que je l’ai fait moi-même, j’espère que non. Je vous remercie.


      2. Brian says:

        No, the photographer took the EASY way out. Rescuing this kitten could have been done to some degree. To leave this kitten behind was, unfortunately, most likely death. It was just easier for the photographer to blame different country, different customs, different rules instead of taking a chance and saving a life. The photographer choice the easy choice, and it was, in my opinion, the morally wrong choice.


        1. MicheleElys says:

          Given all the facts which I attempted to write, this was a very difficult choice due to the country’s lack of caring for animals.
          Many of us would have gone out of our way to save this kitten, and yes the ending is horrific. We do not know all the circumstances the photographer faced, he certainly has faced numerous negative replies since he published the photo. At the same time, none of us were in his situation and I reserved judgement, albeit,I am a monumental lover and protector of animals and my view is different, however living on the outskirts of a major city, we are not in a severe weather pattern. It was a very difficult piece to write and still to this day I must bypass the kittens’ face and urgency. At the same time, it must be written for we ALL have burdensome choices in life.
          Thank you for your comment


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