A survey of over 400 professionals conducted by Cats Protection shows that 78% encountered cases where felines were targeted by abusers, often described as a way to control and coerce a partner or family member and used as a method to stop them from leaving.
However, as most refuges are unable to take pets, cat owners face the agonising choice of remaining with their abuser or fleeing without their beloved pet.
Nine out of ten domestic abuse professionals say the pet cat can effectively become a barrier to getting to safety.
These findings are being highlighted in a Cats Protection campaign, Together, that promotes the charity’s free Lifeline service, which looks after cats in complete confidence and secrecy, reuniting them with their owner once they have reached a place of safety.
“It’s currently only available in certain parts of the UK and Cats Protection needs more funds and volunteer cat fosterers to turn it into a UK-wide service.
“Sadly, perpetrators of domestic abuse will use their partner or family member’s love for their cat as a tool to coerce and control them,” says Amy Hyde, National Lifeline Manager for Cats Protection
“We’ve worked on cases where a perpetrator has physically abused the cat as well as controlled the owner’s access to finances and vet care, meaning that many cats are left with untreated injuries and medical conditions.
“Using a beloved cat as a tool for coercive control can have a huge impact on those experiencing domestic abuse, and makes it even more challenging for them to leave if they are worried about what will happen to their cat if left behind.
“This is especially the case for those are financially dependent on the perpetrator, as well as those who have been isolated from friends and family and have limited other options to keep their cat safe.
“Cats Protection’s Lifeline service can offer people experiencing domestic abuse and their cats a much-needed way out. We’ve fostered around 250 cats this year, enabling over 150 owners to get to safety, and if people give generously and sign up to foster then we will be able to support many more.”
Sarah and her cat Domino (not their real names) were recently helped by the Lifeline service.
Sarah said: “The situation was getting so out of hand with the abuse I was experiencing. He was throwing things at me, putting holes in walls and breaking things.
“I think Domino was definitely aware of what was happening at the time, especially when things were being broken and it got physical.
“When I found Lifeline I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Knowing that our little baby (Domino) was okay was worth its weight in gold. I couldn’t believe there were so many nice, kind people that you don’t know are there because I’d been shut off from the world for so long.
“I don’t know what I would’ve done without Lifeline. I couldn’t bear the thought of him going anywhere else, and I would never ever get rid of him.”
The Together campaign includes a television advert which will be shown throughout November including during the breaks of The Great British Bake Off and Gogglebox on Channel Four.
It tells the story of a young girl called Ava, her mum Emily, and their pet cat, Mr Biggles (fictional names) and is inspired by several cases supported by Cats Protection Lifeline.
For further details of Cats Protection’s Together campaign, including how to make a donation or become a Lifeline fosterer please visit www.cats.org.uk/lifelineservice
Cats Protection would also like to thank the Pets Foundation for their kind support in helping the charity to expand its Lifeline service across the UK.