Helping the Cats Heal from Abuse

Right before bed last night, Patrick used a phrase that I hadn’t heard for years. In fact, it had been so long since I heard it that I had mostly forgotten about how it was used in my life.

I was in abusive relationships with three different men from 2007-2013. All of the men were in AA, and all of them were very much the typical dominant white male. I also suspect that they may have been narcissists.

My ex’s seemed to attempt to gain power and control over me in any way that they could. They particularly did so by targeting my cats. But, I never knew until the last six months or so that their behavior had long lasting effects on Patrick and Lucy.

Last night I learned of another way that they had influenced the cats. It turns out that Patrick and Lucy may have adopted some of their misogynistic language.What I’m about to tell you in terms of what a cat might say sounds unrealistic, but it is actually what Patrick said. Remember that we were in domestic violence for years, and that everyone can pick up strange ideas and/or phrases from such a situation.

Patrick had issues eating his dinner at 8:30. When this happens we will feed him again right before bed and in a room by himself, as having space from the other cats seems to help him to eat. Patrick did end up eating about half his food at 11 pm or so. Afterwards, I picked him up in order to praise him for eating. We walked up to David, who was on his computer. I said to Patrick and David “Patrick’s getting a lot of attention right now because he ate half of his food!” Then out of the blue Patrick said “I want it from David. He’s the man of the house.”

I was like, what? I exclaimed “Patrick! That’s not how we talk!”. But the phrase sounded familiar. I tried to think of where Patrick had learned this from and I realized that a couple of my ex’s had commonly used that phrase in a very negative way when speaking of their role in our household.

The two men who I dated before David were very much conservative, domineering white men. They were narcissistic and also treated me like dirt because I’m a woman. On top of this, they felt like my two male cats were competition to them (which when you think about it is absolutely ludicrous). One of the men would get upset at my many Facebook posts about the cats because he felt like he was being “left out”. He also would put me down for loving my cats as much as I did and was obviously jealous of them.

One way this ex would put the cats down was through teasing them about their names. My cats have both shared with me that they aren’t sure that they like their names even today because they were teased so harshly about them by my ex-boyfriends and their friends. Lucifer is actually quite upset about his name because he was teased so viciously about it. He has asked us to change his name but David and I reassure him that there is nothing wrong with his name and that those people were just mean. When I look back at this teasing, though, I see that the boyfriend(s) who did it were being incredibly malicious. This has had long term effects on the cats.

My most recent ex-boyfriend didn’t just tease the cats, but he would complain all of the time about how it seemed like I loved my cats more than him. Honestly, he was abusive, so of course I did. But still, the way he went about lamenting about how much I love my cats in comparison to him was just flat out immature. It reminded me of a 5 year old.

When he first met Lucy, he complained about how Lucy didn’t like him. I told him that this is how Lucy is. He is pretty aloof. But this boyfriend took it personally that Lucy didn’t immediately bow down to him. I also told this boyfriend that Lucy is the dominant male cat in the house so he may just be reacting to having him around (I didn’t say though that it was due to the boyfriend’s domineering nature). Little did I know that this ex would capitalize on what I said.

This ex was very adamant about talking about how he was the dominant male in the house, not my cats. He would use the man of the house phrase to get his way. This ex would also get upset if I was giving attention to Patrick and Lucy when he wanted attention or affection. He disliked Patrick because I babied him so much but claimed that it was because Patrick was too noisy, and would kick at him sometimes when they walked past each other.

He also would get upset and jealous when Patrick gave me kisses on the face. I had this little saying that I would say to Patrick to praise him for giving mommy kisses. I would say, “Patrick gives the best kisses ever!” One day, my ex decided to “speak up” about how this made him feel. He told me that it wasn’t okay for me to say that to Patrick because he felt like it put him down. He said that it wasn’t fair to him to say that my cat gives better kisses than he does, and that I’m making him jealous. Then, he actually told me never to say that again, and that if I did he would break up with me! After that, I only used this phrase with Patrick in private, and of course the relationship didn’t last.

This most recent ex also found ways to try to put the cats down and to basically punish them simply out of jealousy. He scared Patrick so much that he was afraid to sleep in bed with me, and used other little fear tactics to scare them. By the end of our relationship Lucy was so stressed that he had licked all of the fur off of his belly.

Looking back, I see that these ex boyfriends are really pretty weak, insecure guys. The fact that they tried to have a dominance war with cats is pretty absurd and childish.

The truth is, though, that I never expected my cats to pick up on any of their language. So I was pretty shocked when Patrick used the “Man of the House” phrase in the way that he did. I felt hurt too. So I decided to have a conversation with Patrick about this. When I started asking him about what that phrase means, he let me know right away that he wanted to be the man of the house. I sense that part of this is just typical cat behavior, and part of this is that he is still reacting to being put down so much in the past. And, he probably saw David as dominant because of my ex-boyfriends influence on him. Still, though, I wanted to edge him away from using that comment when it comes to David and help him to understand that David doesn’t have to be the dominant one in the household.

I also could feel that even though Patrick was expressing his need for dominance through the “Man of the House” phrase, that he really didn’t like using this particular phrase anyways. It’s just what he knew. So I explained to him that there is no man of the house in our house. We are all equal. Then I asked him if we can come up with a different way to think about David. He looked straight at me with wide, adorable eyes and said, “David is my friend.”

After this he talked some time about how everyone is his friend. He even looked at me and said, “Mommy is my friend.” Patrick had made a complete turn around in his thinking and language very quickly. Most people who had these sorts of experiences with domineering or bullying people would take time to heal from those kinds of messages and to get them out of their head. But for a cat, it only took a half of an hour. I believe that this speaks to the fact that animals, especially cats, are predisposed to be loving and accepting beings. They really are amazing creatures!

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more stories on my rather interesting life.

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