Some women give their lives to rescuing and looking after cats who need help. Why do they do this?
I don’t believe that long term, dedicated cat rescue is exclusively the domain of women but there is no doubt that there are many more women than men involved. Why is this?
The main reason is the obvious one:
“[Women] have a stronger nurturing instinct than men”, Dr Roger Mugford, animal psychologist at the Animal Behavior Centre.
That is rather a simplistic answer because most women are not involved in dedicating their lives to saving cats. So what marks out the nurturing woman who wants to save cats?
Firstly there are personal, inherited characteristics but Pat, a pensioner, provides an nice insight. She has been sensitised to the abused creatures of the world because she has seen animal abuse and she has received personal abuse in her earlier life. Most particularly she saw kittens being abuse when a child.
If a person is sensitised to animal abuse they will be motivated to stop it. Add to that the natural nurturing nature of women plus the steady stream of cats needing help and you have the equation that results in a woman devoting her life to helping cats.
So what happened to Pat? She is drawn to sick and unwanted cats. This really is a reflection on a person who is empathising with vulnerable cats.
Pat’s own words sums up where her sensitivity to vulnerable cats comes from:
“I don’t know why I love animals so much. Perhaps it was my upbringing. My dad was a bully… bullied my mum and he used to drown kittens,” says the 71-year-old from Dagenham, east London.
“I used to have to watch – I was only a tot looking over the sink and all these kittens were going in a cocoa tin. I never forgave him for it.”
“The last bloke was a drug addict, he used to beat me to a pulp. Maybe that’s why I like animals. I feel so sad because people are so cruel [and] don’t think animals have feelings.”
The caring approach towards cats has no brakes. It usually lacks a practical and pragmatic method which can lead to acquiring too many cats, mess, high expense and chaos. This happened to Pat and she felt trapped and stressed by the situation she had created. But then the situation that she had created was born out of her emotions not out of practicalities or for financial reasons. Emotions don’t have boundaries.
Cats Protection said that over the period 2006-2010, 25,510 rescue cats were adopted by women out of a total of 35,335 cats.
Sometimes women who dedicate their lives to saving cats adopt a practical approach and formalise that love of animal rescue by creating a rescue organisation. One such lady is the former top photographic model, Celia Hammond who created Celia Hammond Animal Trust.
Although she managed to avoid becoming a stressed cat hoarder, she has paid a price; she has ended up on her own because her work has taken up so much time that she neglected her relationships (as at late 2010).
A lot of devoted cat rescuers are alone with their cats. They don’t mind. It is a price they are prepared to pay.
“It’s very hard to do this job and have a normal life. Relationships just fall apart, I’ve had three main ones and I neglected all of them which is why I’m on my own,”
“In a way the whole thing was upsetting, but it was also a relief because I didn’t have to answer to anybody anymore. The thought of being alone when time goes on is a little bit scary sometimes, but not really.” (Celia Hammond)
Can we throw into the mix a conscious decision by women who devote their lives to saving cats to form relationships with cats in preference to men? Possibly yes, on occasion, and this may reflect personal early life experiences as demonstrated by Pat.
The ideas here are mine. They are not necessarily correct and they are not supported by research. The quotes come from a BBC article of 2010.