Should a mentally ill person be allowed to keep a cat? I don’t think that this question has been asked before. I think it is a reasonable question. But please don’t misunderstand me. A cat companion to a person who has mental health issues and who is perhaps vulnerable from a mental health standpoint, may receive great benefit from looking after a domestic cat. That is the upside; that is the good aspect of this story.
And the story is that a British woman, 23 years of age, living near Barnsley in the North of England, with a history of mental health problems including being sectioned under the Mental Health Act 20 times, placed her cat in a microwave and turned it on for 5 minutes because she claims that her cat attacked her goldfish.
Her name is Laura Cunliffe and her cat was a 4-month-old kitten that she had named Mowgli. Laura was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Her cat died 90 minutes after being removed from the microwave. We can only imagine the hellish pain that this kitten went through. It is a clear case of horrific cat cruelty. She was sentenced to 14 weeks in jail.
There are many people who would argue that the sentence is far too short. She has also, incidentally, been banned from keeping animals for life and she cannot appeal the court judgement for at least 5 years.
Someone in the gallery in the court shouted out, “she doesn’t know what’s happening–she hasn’t a clue”. And there is the problem. Should Laura, in the first place, have had the opportunity to look after a cat? Clearly not, must be the response.
The answer to the question in the title to this article is that some mentally ill people should not be allowed to look after a cat. We don’t allow some mentally ill mothers to look after their newborn baby. The baby is taken into care immediately upon birth. This happens routinely in the United Kingdom.
Clearly, we do not treat, in this country, the cat companion, from a legal standpoint in the same way that we treat a human companion and that has to be accepted and acknowledged. However, many families treat their cat companion as a member of the family and I think a little more respect is due in the form of protection for the domestic cat.
The only way to exercise that sort of protection would be to register cat ownership on a central database and then cross reference that with any person who has been recorded as having mental health issues. Most people won’t approve that and politicians will not create the law. I am sure that there are databases that contain information regarding the mental health of people and whether they are a danger to themselves and others. Cross-referencing, as suggested, would, I propose, help project a cat that was as vulnerable as Mowgli. May he rest in peace.
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- I respect and am tender towards all people with mental health issues.