*WARNING* Might be a trigger /animal abuse/child abuse*
I love cats. I share my house with a 11 year old cat and we absolutely adore each other. It has been healing to have seen him grow up from a tiny kitten into a strong grown-up cat. Still this couldn’t fix my trauma I have related to kittens. Whenever I saw kittens in the past it would trigger nausea, make me feel like I was choking and cause immense feelings of guilt.
Those 1 day old kittens and that brick wall. As a child I lived with my brother, mother and her new partner, I’ll call him Joe for now. Our cat kept getting pregnant and it was always such a joy. Whenever she had given birth to another litter I was asked to create a big drawing of cats with letters that said “Little kittens, free to pick up”. We would put the drawing up in the window and people would come around to have a look. After we’d taken care of them for 8 weeks each kitten would always find a new, loving home and it was just a beautiful experience for me. I just adored those little babies.
I can’t remember exactly what age I was but in that period between my 6th and 12th year Joe and I didn’t really get along naturally. He made me feel like I was never enough and every time I started developing more into the person I was at the core he smashed my confidence and put me down. It wasn’t a healthy environment to grow up in. (I finally ran away from home at age 12.)
Joe chose not to sterilize the cat which seems a bit lazy to me now, looking back at it. How hard can it be? At some point Joe must have gotten annoyed with the cat getting all these kittens all the time and he had another plan. No need for me to make a drawing or let anyone know that we had kittens again.
As is common with traumas the description that follows feels to me like a dream, like I was standing in a mist as the scene evolved. I am not sure what age I was but I would guess somewhere around 8 or 9 y/o. Joe carried the litter of kittens outside and I followed him to the back of our garage. I didn’t have a father figure and badly wanted him to like me, to be proud of me. I had also toughened myself up as a coping mechanism by that time and when I saw things that hurt me I would force myself to be strong and keep looking. Maybe I asked what he was doing. Maybe he answered that he was getting rid of the kittens. I don’t know.
The kittens were meowing with their high shrill voices, calling out for their mum who was still inside the house. I stood nailed to the ground as Joe threw each kitten against the brick garage wall. I tried to look casual, to not show my fear and to be strong but inside I was frozen and in shock. He threw the kittens with force but not all were dead instantly. He would pick up the ones that were still alive and threw them again until the meowing stopped altogether. I stood and watched. He let me stand there and watch. To me, in that moment, it was as much child abuse as animal abuse.
I don’t recall exactly, as it gets even more vague in my memory from that point on, but then there is me picking up a dead kitten and throwing it against the wall as well. I don’t know why I did that. I was already broken at such a young age and I think I wanted Joe’s approval or to show him I could be tough and maybe then he would like me.
It is a sad, sad tale and it happened. I could choose not to talk about it but it is still there. The guilt I have felt since then, towards all cats and animals in general, is very heavy on my shoulders. I am very aware of what we are all doing to our animals, bossing them around, using, caging, killing and eating them. I have a heightened awareness about the extreme suffering they go through and still I eat meat. This dualistic viewpoint tears me apart as I know I am hypocrite. Whenever I am confronted with stories, images or sounds of animals being tortured, slaughtered or animals who have survived an ordeal like this it is a massive trigger for me, and there’s a chance it would bring me straight back to my own trauma. In the past there was one occasion where I’ve had to be seen by an emergency psychiatrist as I was unable to get out of this trauma loop inside my head after I heard sounds of animal abuse on a radio show. Of course it also reminds me harshly of the fact that I am a victim of child abuse and all of this rolled into one sometimes makes the world feel like a very unsafe place for kind fragile creatures.
Recently I have started EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and the scenario above is one of the traumas that I am working on. The therapy works well for me, even if it can’t take away the memory or suddenly turn it into a happy view but the feelings of guilt have lessened and I am now more aware of the fact that I was only a child. A young child that should have been protected from seeing what I saw. Someone should have cared enough for me to make sure I wasn’t around when Joe decided he spend the afternoon killing kittens. I created this drawing in order to deal with what happened even more. It was hard drawing dead kittens as it makes it more visible. But it helps my brain to be kinder to the child that I was then. Cause that is all I was: a child.
All my life I have felt immense love for cats, like I want to worship them. Like I had to ‘apologize’ to every cat I came across. Whenever I meet a cat in the street I always say hi and a lot of the time they say hi back and/or they come to me for a quick cuddle. As a child I loved making drawings of cats and as a teenager I had posters on my walls of cats, exercise books with cats on the covers and so on. I really cherish these creatures. I’ve recently also painted a jeans blouse with a cat and its paws on it and only in the last EMDR session I realized how I’ve always surrounded myself with images of cats, honoring them in that way. I now cherish cats in the way that I should have been cherished as a child. All I can do now is learn to cherish and treasure myself even more. ♥