This is a story from New Zealand about domestic violence and cats. Domestic violence is a worldwide phenomenon. It is normally men being violent towards women but not always. Normally women in the partnership are the ones who are the primary carers of the family cat or cats. The reason why women sometimes stay despite domestic violence against them is multifaceted. One reason is that they don’t want to leave their companion cats behind. It is estimated that there has been a 20 percent increase in domestic violence due to coronavirus lockdowns. This appears to be due to the fact that families are forced together exacerbating what might already be an underlying dysfunctionality and occasional domestic violence.
New Zealand story
In this story, a woman was married to a man for 15 years. He wasn’t violent at first but over time he changed and became more controlling. She wasn’t allowed to go and visit friends and he belittled her. He threatened her to keep her quiet about the violence. He kept a loaded gun at his bedside. Perhaps this was another way of terrifying and controlling her.
He treated her cats badly. They were a nuisance to him. He never patted them or accept them on his lap. If they were in the way he would kick them. She would walk along and protect them. She loved them tremendously. She would rather that he hurt her than her cats.
She couldn’t go to a refuge because at the time none of them would take her cats. Matters came to a head when he threatened to kill her cats. She knew the time had come to do something. In her own words, “It was beyond anything I could bear any more”. Her dad said that if he is threatening the cats then what might he do to her. She told him everything and it appears that she decided to leave and move in with her dad.
On the day that she left she drove her husband to work. He sensed that something was wrong and when she got to his workplace he “pushed me hard up against a workplace door and put his hands around my neck and said, ‘If you don’t get back by 2 o’clock today I’ll kill you'”.
She didn’t go back and she took her cats with her. She is alive and well as far as I can tell and she prays that her story has inspired other women to tell their story and to seek help.
She also says that, in her country, they are building a shelter for abused women where they can take their pets as well. It is called “Pet Refuge”. The story tells us that cat companions can be a catalyst for change. What motivated this lady at the end of the day was a desire to protect cats more than herself.
Below is a BBC video on the subject. One interesting aspect is that in Ramallah on the West Bank, women tap on pots and pans from their windows as a signal to women who are abused that they can come and stay with them if they want to. I thought that was very impressive.
Sometimes videos stop working. It is beyond my control. If it has happened I apologise.
Some more on domestic violence and cats