This adorable little bottle of love was once upon a time my baby. He was a momma’s boy. More than this, he was the only trace of love that could be eked from the prison I was forced into midway through the chaos. He was offered up to me as a way to try to get me to silence my mouth about Kevin’s penchant for running the streets. It did not work.
However, having this little guy was the one bright spot in my life. Everywhere I went in the apartment, he would follow close behind. He would watch me eagerly, head tilted to the right, as I cleaned, did laundry, and cooked. When I would come in from the store, he would rush into the kitchen in urgent expectation of what he could find in the bags as he wiggled his head carefully in the plastic sack, making as much noise as possible while using his head to open the bag enough to see what was in each one. He inspected every bag before I put everything away. And when I would open the small snack drawer in the refrigerator, he would run into the kitchen, prop his front legs up on the bottom and meow with delight, for he knew this is where I kept his special treats.
In the morning, he would follow me down the stairs into the kitchen where he loudly announced it was time to feed him, or he would protest by feigning a hairball attack. (Drama queen!) He had to have his food mixed a certain way or he refused to eat it. While I was at the counter next to the sink preparing his morning meal, he would jump on his hind legs, meow, and pounce against the one cupboard in the kitchen that would not close all the way, jostling it back and forth in protest of my being too slow for his taste. When he was desperately hungry, he would prop his front legs on my thigh and knead my leg without using his claws.
When he entered a room, he would stop and look at me and meow to let me know he was there. And he would wait for me to respond to him before moving on. He would curl up on my lap when I watched TV and sleep. Even when he was so long that he could hardly fit. He would sleep curled up next to my feet at the foot of the bed. When Kevin wasn’t home, he would curl up next to my stomach, cuddle up next to me, and fall asleep in the strangest positions.
He loved to play. When he was a kitten, stalking my hand from the other side of the couch was his favorite thing to do. He would hide on the other side of the couch and pop his head up like a jack-in-the-box, eyes crossed, ears pulled back, his little head quivering in intense concentration of his impending attack.
He was too smart to be occupied long with a toy. As soon as he figured out how the mouse moved, that the string was pulling the toy across the floor, that the red spot on the floor was coming from the laser, I had to come up with new ways to entertain him. You could look at his face know that he was thinking but I could never know how he worked things out in his head. He got out of the house once, and I baited him in with food. The next time he ran out after a stray, and I couldn’t get him in, I rigged the laundry basket using a stick tied to a string as a prop and placed a plate of food underneath. I only caught him once. The next time he went chasing a stray and I tried to do this, I watched him through the glass of the front door. He sauntered up to the basket, examined it a little, looked at the stick, and followed the string all the way under the door. He then pulled his ears back, made a big arc to the back of the basket where the food was, and stuck his paws through the holes and pulled the food out little by little and ran when I opened the door.
Kevin liked him until he realized that I had bonded with him. He began to get jealous of the cat, and after I started working again, the cat began acting out. I had him for well over a year, never had him neutered, but I also never had a problem with him spraying. One day at work, I get a call from him screaming about the cat spraying in the office. My first reaction was to ask what he did to the cat. Over time, as I saw things Kevin began to do to him, I knew in my heart that he was acting out because he was being hurt when I was not there. The trouble with animals is they cannot talk, so I had no way to know what was being done to him, but I knew my cat, and something was wrong.
If you suspect the person abusing you is also abusing your pet when you are not around, here are changes in behavior I noticed in my cat:
- He suddenly started yowling when I left him downstairs (or upstairs) alone.
- He had to be with me everywhere, including the bathroom.
- He started to run and hide when the front door opened.
- Loud noises began to scare him.
- He began vomiting for “no reason.”
- He began spraying after I went back to work.
- If Kevin walked up to me while I was holding the cat, he began burying his head between my arm and side.
- He refused to go downstairs in the middle of the night to use the litter box unless I was with him.
- He started having accidents upstairs.
- He began to scratch and bite people when they tried to pet him on the head.
- He began trying to get out of the house.
I began trying to find someone to take him, because I could no longer trust him with the cat when I was not there. No one in my family would take him. Friends who wanted him lived where pets weren’t allowed. Shelters were full. Kennels wouldn’t house him because I had no money to pay. So instead of throwing him out the door, I trained him to hide in the one place his tormentor could not fit: under the stairs in the closet. I would snap my fingers and point at him, and he would take off and run and hide; he would stay there until I got him out.
He started running away to escape the house. First a few hours, then a day, then a few days.. He worked his way up to a few weeks at a time before he finally disappeared. I had given up on him coming back when one night, he hissed up the stairs at me at 1 in the morning “Your cat’s out here. Come get him since you love him so much.” But the cat had seen him at the door and wouldn’t come near the house. I poked my head out and called him. He looked up at me, eyes glittering for a moment, and then he saw Kevin behind me, and something in his eyes changed. He was afraid. As he turned to run, I saw a huge circular wound on his neck that looked like a burn. And that was the last time I ever saw him. I searched for him for days, desperately hoping I could find him and take him to get the wound cleaned. My search was futile.
I cried when we were evicted, because I kept thinking of this little guy making his way back home and could not stop picturing him in my head, whining and begging at the door to get back in. And I know nothing that happened to him was accidental. I will always feel sadness in my heart every time I think about the last night I saw him, because I know how torn he was over wanting to be around me but desperately fearing his attacker.
What did abuse against this beautiful little creature look like?
- He would threaten to kill the cat and cook it and then try to laugh it off like it was a joke.
- He threatened to throw the cat outside and not allow me to even so much as feed him.
- He would not feed the cat and got angry at me, because I disobeyed and fed him anyway.
- He would lock the cat in the bedroom for hours on end so he couldn’t eat, drink, or use the litter box.
- He would lock the cat in the bathroom for several days as punishment for ridiculous things.
- He would throw the cat in the shower and dump several pails of cold water on him and then let him sit in the tub.
- He would repeatedly hit the cat with a rolled magazine for hiding under the bed.
- He would disappear with the cat and I would hear him screaming at him in the bathroom.
- He would threaten to break the cat’s neck.
- He would bring other cats in the apartment and try to get them to fight.
- He would punish my cat for protesting him bringing other cats into his territory.
- He would hit the cat if he got scratched or bit when he was too rough.
- He would shock the cat with the lighting mechanism he took out of an empty lighter.
- He threatened to put the cat in a pillowcase and hit his head with a rock.
- He bragged about putting his cat that he has as a child in the washer.
- He bragged about shooting someone’s pet at the request of a dealer in exchange for free drugs.
From the American Humane Association’s Facts About Animal Abuse & Domestic Violence, here are some important things to know about the risks of animals being abused in abusive relationships:
In association with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Why it Matters
- 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals.
- 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them.
- 13% of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.
- Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock should they leave.
- Pets may suffer unexplained injuries, health problems, permanent disabilities at the hands of abusers, or disappear from home.
- Abusers kill, harm, or threaten children’s pets to coerce them into sexual abuse or to force them to remain silent about abuse. Disturbed children kill or harm animals to emulate their parents’ conduct, to prevent the abuser from killing the pet, or to take out their aggressions on another victim.
- In one study, 70% of animal abusers also had records for other crimes. Domestic violence victims whose animals were abused saw the animal cruelty as one more violent episode in a long history of indiscriminate violence aimed at them and their vulnerability.
- Investigation of animal abuse is often the first point of social services intervention for a family in trouble.
- For many battered women, pets are sources of comfort providing strong emotional support: 98% of Americans consider pets to be companions or members of the family.
- Animal cruelty problems are people problems. When animals are abused, people are at risk.
For additional background information on the correlation between Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse, please visit the American Humane Association’s Understanding the Link page.