Alcoholism And Cat Ownership

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.

vodka bottles

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

Facebook Comments


Alcoholism And Cat Ownership — 26 Comments

  1. Alcoholics can’t look after themselves or their families when they are on a drinking bout, let alone look after a cat.
    I think the biggest danger to a cat would be if the alcoholic lived alone, there would be no one to feed and care for and protect the cat.
    But it’s the same with drug addicts, when people get out of their head on anything they change.
    It worries me how anyone can get a pet and treat him/her any old way behind closed doors, they need to be classed as living beings with rights, not as possessions.

    • Agreed, the problem is that heavy drinking is commonplace in the UK and what happens behind closed doors when as you say there is an individual person with a cat or cats? I feel concern for these cats but no one knows what is really happening and no one really knows how many suffer under these conditions.

      • I agree with what you both saying. I think though its hard to pinpoint. My sister has issues in that area she is a big dog Lover not as much a cat person. She treats her animals well but i worry sometimes.

  2. I think an Irish proverb…

    The man takes a drink, the drink takes a drink, the drink takes the man.

    Sometimes, alcoholism is so all consuming that there is no inclination to do anything but drink.
    Certainly, no time to care for pets.

    That’s not true for some ofcourse. I know several “functioning” alcoholics.

    • Nice comment. An alcoholic, when drinking, has a best friend, a number one boyfriend or girlfriend: a bottle of Vodka (I call him “Mr V”). Anyone else is next in line and the same goes for companion animals. This means potential neglect for anyone animal or human who expects something more.

      • This is not always true. Sometimes the cat or other beloved animal living in the household does actually come first, before the pint of vodka. I am an alcoholic, and my biggest concern with my drinking is for the safety and nurturing of my cat. His welfare is just as important as my own, which is why I do not drink and drive, preventative care as well as a healthy diet are tantamount, and I make sure that I am outside at night, when my cat and my housemate’s cats go out. I cannot go to bed until they come in with me. I do know that this is the exception though.

        • We are coming upon the 4th of July here in the USA, and the fireworks are already going off, even though illegal here until the 3rd of July. This, you can imagine is my biggest nightmare regarding the cats, because you just cannot let them out at all at night, which is their favorite time to spend a couple of hours outside. It causes me so much anxiety that it is best just to keep them in, even though they do not like having their routine changed. I so look forward to it being over.

            • I have learned to hate them as well. Sorry, this is a day late. My neighbor just reported the same thing. She can hardly stand the reports any longer. To think that we still have six, maybe seven days left.
              I am going down to the South for a get-together and funeral on the 4th. Sober. Might take a couple of airplane-bottles with me, though. 😉

  3. There was a family who lived near us a while ago and the husband, always a drinker, became an alcoholic. They had two cats and when inevitably they split up she kept the kids and one cat and he took the second cat to live in rented property. I don’t know what became of that cat but I know he has lived in several places and areas since and he has just about hit rock bottom for caring for himself and my instinct tells me the cat is long gone. Another victim of alcohol abuse.

    • I’d forgotten about him Babz! I was only thinking about Peter I worked with.
      Yes we were worried about poor little Cole and never could find out if he was OK or not.

  4. Alcohol is much worse than all other drugs pretty much for the simple reason that it has terrible effects on a person’s judgement. But the word ‘alcoholic’ is not clear.

    In my opinion, an alcoholic is somebody who drinks alcohol everyday, and if one day they didn’t, they wouldn’t get to sleep so quickly or easily as normal for a start. Addiction is not a bad thing if managed correctly but our society deems all addiction bad even thought it doesn’t go into things like television addiction or being mean to people addiction for example. Being addicted to something is just a negative way of looking at what is, in actual fact, just a habit. Habits are what makes life great. If you love coffee in the morning then good for you. If it’s hurting you then don’t do it.

    That’s why I think the addiction should be more specific and relate not to those who have normal habits, but those who are destructive with their habits and who can’t stop it. That’s addiction proper. But it’s very insulting to hear people who drink everyday tell you that they are not remotely hooked and that if you smoke a joint everday for example, that you are an addict. People here are clever enough to know that but you would be suprised the amount of people who either say that, but more often they insinuate it and they don’t even realise it either.

    Any kind of self destructive habit is bad for cat caretaking. Alcohol is particularly dangerous, that’s all. Just because of the judgement thing. It makes people take risks and makes them think they will be ok. That’s got to be about the worst thing possible a drug could do to you.

    The big irony is that THC makes people be too careful.

    • Agreed. My definition of an alcoholic is someone who has “crossed the wire” from habit to addiction and you can’t go back. There are functioning alcoholics who are probably decent cat caretakers (if they are anyway) but as you say it causes neglect and bad judgements. Throw in accidents and all the rest and the quality of cat caretaking takes a hammering. It is an individual thing. I should not stereotype.

      • I think the ‘experts” describe an alcoholic, not based on how much is consumed, but whether drinking negatively impacts the person’s life.

        A binge drinker (weekends only) might be classified an alcoholic if he strips down naked every Sunday morning and tries to board a plane to Alaska. And, where are and what has he done with his cats?

        • Dee, we had a small commuter set down close to Monterey, CA, exactly for this reason, I suspect. My daughter was only six at the time, and right next to me, sleeping on my arm.
          The well-dressed man, three rows in front of us was inebriated and giving the attendant a hard time. We stopped at a nearby city, just to get him off the plane. Just as you described. 😉

      • No, you should not. I think that the point you were trying to make needs a bit more though…

        “someone who has “crossed the wire” from habit to addiction and you can’t go back”

        • I think “crossing the wire” explains it nicely because on the outside a heavy or even regular drinker can look the same as an alcoholic but on the inside they are different. The latter may be close to the former but he can control his drinking, he stops at a certain point but alcoholics don’t know when to stop or can’t stop once started.

      • No, you should not, Michael, because what if that person takes a hammering from some individual who feels that they have the right to judge another? You are right, Michael, it is best if you choose not to stereotype.

    • Marc, acute alcohol withdrawal is more deadly than any other addiction, whether it be methamphetamine, heroin, painkillers. The involuntary shakes that come with prolonged heavy use lead to seizures, and if continued w/o treatment, coma and death. Addiction is now considered a disease, not a mental illness as M. stated in the above article. Although depression, anxiety and PTSD, etc. are underlying. And these DO lead to neglect.

  5. Yes i agree with what everyone has said. I think if your struggle with any alcohol or addiction. If its impacting your life so much that you cant live without it or its controlled you so much then its bad of the cat or Cats or especially if you cant cope with the care of the cats if its too much for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please only upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks.