This article is not directed at any one person and it does not state that an alcoholic is unable to be a good cat caretaker. There must be many people with a drink problem who are excellent cat caretakers. I wish to make that point absolutely clear at the beginning because I am very sensitive towards people who have any sort of mental health condition and alcoholism is a form of illness. I also wish to state quite categorically that I am not myself an alcoholic although I like the odd drink but I do know a bit about alcoholism, in fact quite a lot.
Today I read a very short news article in an online newspaper called The Telegraph. The story was once again rather sad, unfortunately, because lots of cat news items are about cruelty and this is another example with a slight twist to it.
A lady living in Wood River, which is just outside St Louis, Missouri, faces animal cruelty charges. The lady is Virginia Puff. She is 43 years of age and has a live-in boyfriend. Her boyfriend saw her allegedly drop a frozen jug of water on her cat’s head. Her boyfriend called the police. When officers arrived they found the cat’s body. Both Virginia and her boyfriend were irate. She claimed it was an accident. Interviews with the boyfriend indicated something else and rather tellingly the police officer says,
“Alcohol may have played a role in the incident.”
How many times do you think alcohol plays a role in abuse of the domestic cat behind closed doors either directly or indirectly, either through negligence or a positive directed act as allegedly occurred in the story I have quoted above?
If there is cat abuse within the home of an alcoholic it will most likely be caused through neglect. What I mean is that the alcoholic will neglect to feed his or her cat properly or fail to provide water. In a hot climate this sort of neglect can obviously have serious consequences for the health of a domestic cat.
Another aspect of alcoholism is that it often leads to arguments between co-habitees which can lead to violence between the parties. This sort of behaviour creates a hostile environment for domestic cat; the exact opposite that a cat enjoys. A cat is likely to become fearful in this sort of environment.
Sometimes, as illustrated, a cat owner who is ambivalent on the issue of keeping a cat may, under the influence of alcohol, behave aggressively towards his cat. The person may shout at his cat. He may kick his cat. He may throw his cat out of the house and leave him outside for a long time. The possibilities are endless.
Alcoholism can also cause a cat owner to harm themselves through an accident. Many alcoholics injure themselves when under the influence of alcohol by, for example, falling over. They end up in hospital either through injury or simply because of alcohol poisoning. If the hospital stay is a number of days, perhaps going into a week or two, a cat’s health and life may be in jeopardy because the alcoholic will probably have failed to make any arrangements. He or she may have been taken to hospital in an ambulance while badly drunk and his/her cat may be hiding or outside so the alcoholic failed to give instructions to anybody about feeding and looking after her cat. What if the cat was hiding in the property and it is locked up with no cat flap (cat door) providing access to the outside?
As I said, I’m sympathetic towards people with drink problems but it does raise the question whether they are able to satisfactorily look after a domestic cat and I wonder how many people there are with a drink problem, or hard alcoholics, who struggle to look after their domestic cat companion.
Photo (modified by me) by Scorpions and Centaurs