“The Kitten Killer of Hangzhou”


A man in North Carolina opened a crate of goods just arrived on a freighter from China and was surprised to see a cat inside. The cat had chewed through one of the boxes before it left Shanghai this past April 3, and spent at least 35 days without food or water, on the ship inside the container packed with motorcycle gear.

The man saw the cat cowering in a corner, visibly weak, but still alive. He called for assistance from his municipalities animal services agency when the frightened cat would not let him near. The cat was retrieved and given care and was immediately spoken for in adoption. A happy story. The rest is not.

Above – Chinese Stop Animal Cruelty effort poster in very limited circulation. This small, but growing effort is, for the most part, confined to the Internet. Those in support know awareness is the first step.

Above – “Gainmas,” “The Kitten Killer of Hangzhou”


Above – Left, dogs sold for food in Shanghai market. Right, cats prepared for meal.

Previously, a handful of concerned people in China were searching for a glamorously dressed woman who has been photographed crushing a kitten to death with her stiletto heels. Gruesome pictures, naturally, first popped up on an Internet website, where they were later reproduced over astonishment in some Chinese newspapers. In one picture, the woman, wearing a cocktail dress with a leopard-print top and black skirt, caresses a tortoiseshell kitten lovingly. Then she puts it on the ground, looks at it – and lowers a stiletto heel on to its head, ending the kitten’s life. The remaining images are graphic and deeply disturbing. The last photograph shows the woman staring into the distance with a puzzled look on her face.

The location for the photographs was identified from a narrow stretch of water in the background as being Hangzhou, a city south-west of Shanghai. A “WHOIS” type Internet trace on the website led to this location, and the mystery woman was dubbed simply, “The Kitten Killer of Hangzhou.” From here, clues began linking the pictures to an international community of animal sadists and fetishists. One website said the sequence was well-known in Japan, where it began as a dark advertisement for a brand of stiletto shoes modeled by “The Kitten Killer.”

Hitting a dead-end, the search returned to China when an Internet surfer came across a picture of a 37-year-old woman from Hubei province with the Internet nickname “Gainmas,” she had registered on a website in Hangzhou, China. More sleuthing produced evidence she had recently bought a pair of stilettoes on eBay. “Gainmas” was also registered with “QQ,” a popular Chinese messaging service, where she included the “About Me” profile; “I furiously crush everything to do with you and me.”

Realizing she had been discovered, her QQ address went dead, but not before several messages had been recorded. In one, she is smug, saying “So what?” when asked if the pictures are of her, and then, when asked again, replying; “In theory.”

Subsequently, she was physically located by a reporter and questioned, and defensively said; “Suddenly hundreds of people are on my QQ and cursing me. What’s the problem if I crush cats? It’s a type of experience. You wouldn’t understand.”

She’s right, I don’t understand. What I do know is that what we consider violent and criminal behavior toward animals is rarely covered, and taboo as to pictures in China’s press. You see, there are no regulations preventing cruelty to animals in China. As a result, “Gainmas” is left free to her desires without fear of prosecution.

This story and the photographs (I decided to pull before posting this) would have never seen the surface if not for the Internet, the only real resource of hope for the slow, but growing social conscience of some in China. Though efforts continue to censure the Internet, the Chinese government is finding it virtually impossible to stop, the “virtual.” Good news, bad news. Wouldn’t you know that because of the “publicity,” copycat (sorry, no pun) kitten killers are popping up on the Internet in China, the latest in Xinhau. Same “MO,” pictures more grotesque.

What’s going on here is maybe more than can be imagined and can be splintered into endless topical permutations, way far beyond where I’m prepared to go today. Those who care about animal welfare, do not lose the fundamental premise here; animal cruelty is a crime whether or not punishable by law, which is not the case in China. Misunderstandings over SARS, avian flu and rabies have led to mass extinction of chickens and other fowl in China. Some feel these very killings brought “the wrath of God,” who repayed with yet more disease. Dogs and cats are a big source of food in China, notably Shanghai.

Is animal S&M a growing entertainment fad in China? Is government control over the media in the face of an economic boom leading to other outlets of self-expression? Is Google selling your identity to the Chinese in payment for entry to a market of kitten killers? Are we receiving poisoned pet food from China as some form of economic punishment? Who knows, and see what I mean? Endless. “Gainmas” said it; “you wouldn’t understand.” As sick as I perceive her mind by my standards, shared or not, the infamous “Gainmas” knows something.

I’ve been trying to get in touch with that man in North Carolina who found the cat, to commend him for his efforts. I came to find out they named the cat “China.” For my own arrogant reasons, I wanted to persuade him to rethink naming the cat to my choice; “Gainmas,” the mysterious cat that knew something, and also got away.