Me: Tell me about the superstition your family has around cats.
AL: Specifically, uhm my mom or other women— Vietnamese women that I’ve encountered… have this superstition of that there is this cat, Con Mèo, which translates to “Cat” in English… Essentially, this cat would kidnap children, so… it means for the children to stay close to their mothers…
Me: …Every single time Con Mèo was kind of brought up, would it be… kinda referred to as like a monster or some type of entity that would kidnap you, specifically?… Did you have a particular image associated with it? Or did you just see a cat?
AL: I just associated the entity as a cat… But somehow evil… And it’s usually referenced by my parents— by mom at like night. Mainly because it’s dark, and to like stay close… I would see this saying more in Vietnam due to how poorly lit the city is, and the suburbs or the countryside, compared to here which is much more safer and has a lot of lights…
Me: …What age do you think this kinda like started, and what age do you think this kinda stopped? Where your mother was like “You’re getting too old for this!” Or is it kinda like a little joke that you bring up every now and then? You know, how does that relate to your personal experience with cats now?
AL: This started when I was young, probably in Kindergarten… Six? Five?
AL: …It’s not that she stopped saying that superstition at a specific age. It’s just— it occurs less. Like she sometimes says it… Like once in like a while, she’ll say it. Just kinda like, just as a fun joke. But I would never say it back because *shrugs* Eh. But my relationship with cats now… I like cats, so it didn’t really affect how I viewed them as monsters.
This was taken from a conversation with my roommate, in our bedroom at the Cale & Irani Apartments in USC Village.
This belief could reign from one of the oldest superstitions that black cats are considered bad luck. This is especially prevalent amongst Asian cultures, and I even saw this fear manifested as a general disliking towards cats by my Vietnamese mother. Cats in this context were used by the informant’s mother with him and his younger brother, to instill fear in them and keep them out of danger, especially at night. It is beliefs like these that lead to almost all children, having a universal fear of the dark—a fear that my roommate already had. However, his positive relationships with cats won out over his fear of the dark. Therefore, Con Mèo didn’t affect him that much.