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I met with Cats Protection to discuss how it is supporting victim-survivors flee domestic abuse.

The charity’s Lifeline service provides free and confidential cat fostering to enable owners to escape domestic abuse.

Research shows that 78% of domestic abuse professionals surveyed had encountered cases where cats were targeted by abusers – often to control or coerce a partner or family member and to stop them leaving.

Because most refuges are unable to take pets, cat owners face the agonising choice of remaining with their abuser or fleeing without their pet, knowing it may come to harm. Horrifyingly, the survey also revealed that 39% of domestic abuse professionals have encountered cases where a cat or kitten has been killed by a perpetrator of domestic abuse.

Perpetrators of domestic abuse will use their partner or family member’s love for their cat as a tool to coerce and control them. Cat Protection has highlighted cases of perpetrators physically abusing the family’s pet cat as well as controlling the owner’s access to finances and vet care, meaning that many cats are left with untreated injuries and health conditions.

Such use of a pet 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 who have experienced economic abuse and 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 is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity and has helped an average of 157,000 cats and kittens a year over the last five years through its national network of 210 volunteer-run branches and 34 centres and it is working to expand its Lifeline service – a free and confidential cat fostering service - to enable owners to escape domestic abuse.

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