Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Custody Battle Over The Pet Requires Special Considerations

Dear Tazi:

You are a cat and your Mommie that you often speak of is a cat owner, so I am writing for your opinion on a very upsetting matter. My wife, "Monica" has decided that our marriage of eight years is no longer worth fighting for and she has left me. She has told me I can keep the apartment, but she wants to take the cat with her. I absolutely refuse to allow her to take "Boots" from me. I was the one who brought Boots home from the litter, so even though he is the family cat I feel that I have that claim on him. Plus, my wife is the one leaving; why should Boots suffer the stress of being uprooted from the only home he has ever known?

"Monica" thinks I am being a jerk (what else is new) and is demanding custody of Boots, saying that he loves her best and would want to come with her; that if he could say anything other than "meow" he would say he wants to live with her. She claims to know this because she has a "psychic connection" with Boots.

In order to keep Monica from stealing Boots, I have informed the landlord that she has moved off the property, and taken her name off of the lease. This is something she needed to do anyway, in order to attain a new lease on a new apartment, so I wasn't being a [censored] as she claims. She was also required to turn in her keys, but I know that she had a secret spare set. When I informed the landlord of this, he changed the locks so she could not enter the property when I am not home. I will not have her kidnapping Boots!

Monica has discovered that the locks were changed and is throwing a fit. I KNEW she would try to steal Boots; she claims she was stopping by to see if she had mail and that I was wrong to change the locks and to accuse her of attempted catnapping. She is threatening to sue me for both a divorce and custody of Boots.

Tazi, Boots is very close to the both of us. It has only been two weeks since Monica left, and we both miss her so much. Boots has been looking for extra affection during this time, so I am starting to wonder if sending him to live with Monica would be best for him. Do you think a shared custody arrangement would work? All I want is what is best for my cat. Monica and I have no children, so Boots is all I have now. Do you think I could win custody in a court battle?

Bootsie's Poppy

Dear Bootsie's Poppy:

Is Boots a show cat of some kind? Or is he an American Short Hair, like me? This distinction is what the court systems in most states look at when deciding who gets the pets in a divorce. Sadly, we are seen as nothing more than property; if our cash value is negligible the courts will usually refuse to rule on the matter. Of course, cash value means nothing when it comes to the love between a pet and its human companion; there is no way to put a price on something like that!

I realize that both you and Monica love Boots and can understand the need for extra snuggles during this period of adjustment. Perhaps you could allow Monica to have supervised visitation until you decide how to handle full-time custody of Boots? Paw to God, I know one couple that worked out their marital woes this way because neither one wanted to give up custody of their cat, "Baby". Lucky kitty! He didn't have to move!

If there is one thing cats hate more than anything it is moving. A human can simply pick up their stuff and go; for a cat, it is not that simple, not to mention most humans refuse to pack our treasured belongings. (When I moved, you should have seen the look on my Mommie's face when I asked her to pack the decomposing chipmunk I had been saving in the crawl space!) A cat's home is its territory. A cat knows all the secret places where he can hide (like the aforementioned crawl space); has a favorite napping place (the crawlspace); and has an understanding with the other cats in the area about where his territory ends and where theirs begins. Even an indoor cat has a certain outdoor radius that they consider theirs (generally several feet from their favorite window, in either direction).

Nobody likes to be the new kid on the block, and cats don't make new friends very easily; so moving them from this carefully balanced system can stress them in ways that can take weeks or even months to fully recover. Because of this, I would ask Monica to please consider Boots' needs and to put them before her own. If she insists on a court custody battle, please advocate for Boots and not yourself. That is the sign of the true love a human has for his or her four-legged companion.

Snuggles to you and Boots,

P.S. If Monica insists on taking Boots with her before custody can be legally decided, pack all of his things in order to make the move easier on him. Be sure to include his favorite napping blankets, his kitty bed, his feeding dishes, and the rotting animal he probably has hidden under your bed. Something tells me you will especially enjoy packing that one. --T.K.

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.


  1. It's really sad that if pet owners separate ways, their pet either ends up in the pound or is forced to live in either one of the couples. If this happens, I hope the owners become civil enough to allow each other to visit their pets at the very least. Better yet, one of them could just get another pet. Why not, right?

  2. To some people, a pet is just a pet. To others, it is a family member. Some go to the extreme and call the pet their "child". Mommie once turned down a beautiful apartment because the landlord wanted me declawed.