The huge demand for cat meat in Guangdong has fuelled a debate over the practice of eating pets. A controversial article in the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News has claimed that 10,000 cats are eaten in the province every day. Older cats are said to taste the best and are believed to keep those who eat them warm in the winter. Intrigued by the amount of complaint letters after a cat-meat restaurant advertised in the newspaper, reporters interviewed restaurant owners and meat suppliers in Guangdong. Their discoveries appalled cat lovers. Although cat-meat restaurants are now rare since the trend among the nouveau riche a few years ago for eating exotic food has subsided, small food stalls and hot-pot restaurants still serve cat meat as a delicacy. One employee at a meat market told the newspaper that people had turned from eating game to eating cats as a cost-cutting measure. A cat stall in the game-meat market can easily sell 500kg of cat meat a day in winter. 'We made a rough estimate. There are about 80 stalls selling cats in the three [game meat] markets. If each sell about 300 to 400kg of cat meat, then the conservative estimate is that they sell about 10,000 cats a day,' the paper said. The report said almost all the cats sold to restaurants were domestic animals, and many of them had been stolen or caught on the streets. Because of the large demand in Guangdong, cats are being imported from other provinces such as Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi and Hunan. An employee of a cat stall said some people now earned a living by catching stray cats on the streets and selling them for five yuan (HK$4.70) each. Cat lovers in Shenzhen have launched a campaign to stop the inhumane treatment of the animals. Some newspapers in Guangdong have printed interviews with doctors who have warned the public to stop eating cats as they carry the deadly feline spongiform encephalopathy disease, the cat-borne variety of mad-cow disease, as well as parasites.