Here is a non-inclusive list of things you should know about Kyle the cat:
So, Kyle’s clearly a cat who’s led a far from average life — and we think it’s about time to honor him as an official Catster Hero. That being so, let’s pass this over to his owner, Jen, to recount his story.
Catster: How did Kyle come into your life?
Jen: Kyle was an afterthought — a necessary solution to our lonely cat, Mer. After living with Mer for close to a year, we (naively) became convinced he was lonely because he was always begging for attention. We started casually browsing PetFinder.com for another Persian-like cat — we liked Persians because they looked funny and were known to have great personalities — when my husband spotted this ridiculous-looking cat with a perfectly shaped mustache. He flipped out and insisted that we immediately drive to this no-kill rescue, three hours away, in our unreliable car.
What were your first impressions of Kyle?
When we arrived at the shelter, we found this mustachioed feline was even more amazing in person. He wheezed when he breathed, had crazy whiskers, and was desperate for attention but shy at the same time.
But wait, there’s more: Just as we were falling in love, the rescue told us he had “witnessed a murder”! It was a ridiculous-sounding backstory for a ridiculous-looking cat.
Did the rescue tell you much more about the murder Kyle witnessed?
For the first four years we had him, we would always mention that Kyle “witnessed a murder.” But it wasn’t until fall of 2014, when he started gaining popularity on Instagram, that I decided to do some digging into his backstory. It turns out Kyle had witnessed a domestic violence fatality in which a husband had killed his wife. It brought a sobering aspect to Kyle’s crazy image — but it also alerted us to the very important issue that there is a dire need for animal-friendly domestic violence shelters.
What should people know about the issue of cats and domestic violence shelters?
We started the #CatsAgainstDV campaign to bring attention to the dire need for animal-friendly domestic violence (DV) shelters. Up to 45 percent of women stay in abusive relationships out of concern for their pets’ safety — yet it is estimated that less than 5 percent of DV shelters in the U.S. can accept pets.
We hope to raise awareness around the reasons it’s important to co-shelter DV victims and their and pets together as well bring attention to organizations like Red Rover, who provide funding to help existing DV shelters start co-sheltering programs.
There is currently an amazing pilot program being run by the Urban Resource Institute (URI) in New York City called URIPALS – URI People and Animals Living Safely – which has demonstrated how valuable a co-sheltering program can be. It is currently the only program in NYC that offers co-sheltering for DV victims and their pets.
What’s the biggest problem for victims of domestic violence who own pets?
Most pet owners would agree that their pets are part of their family, their children even. The reality is, it’s hard to leave your pets behind, even if your life is in danger. Sometimes, even when victims find the courage to leave their pets behind, their abuser uses the pet to manipulate the victim into coming back to the abusive home. On top of all this, pets can also be threatened, hurt, or even killed.
If victims could seek shelter — pet in tow — it would encourage pet-owning victims to leave their life-threatening situations. Additionally, enabling the survivors to keep their pets with them will reduce the added emotional stress brought on by having to leave their pet behind, which can be especially important if children are involved and emotionally connected with the pet. Furthermore, pets provide therapeutic benefits to help survivors heal.
With Kyle having grown up in a domestic violence household, do you know whether any of his medical ailments came from being around that situation? And how do you think the experience has affected him?
We have a suspicion Kyle’s crooked ear might have been the result of abuse. Our veterinarian noted there was extensive scar tissue inside his ear, suggesting it may have suffered a trauma. However, we will never know for sure.
And yes, Kyle still carries some mental scars. Six years after owning him, Kyle still flinches when you go to pick him up. However, he’s the biggest lover, and once he is in your arms he immediately starts purring.
Let’s go back to the murder Kyle witnessed. How much do you know about it?
The important facts we know are:
The rescue even provided a copy of the evidence record in Kyle’s adoption file. At the bottom, “Investigation Hold” is in big, bold letters. Then it reads, “This animal is a male, black and white Persian. This animal came in to the shelter on [date] as a confiscate. Intake Type: Confiscate Owner Died.”
We can’t say for sure whether he actually witnessed the actual murder — Kyle is forced to hold on to that secret himself — but we are fairly confident he observed, and perhaps suffered from, some abuse in his former life.
Do you think Kyle would make a good detective cat?
Kyle would make a great detective cat. He would be able to use his lengthy and high-reaching whiskers to scan surfaces for pawprints and footprints. He could use his expert agility skills to evade criminals if he were ever to be spotted spying, and he could use the power of laps — Kyle loves to snuggle up on laps! — to seduce witnesses into sharing information they might otherwise be scared to share.
Finally, does Kyle seem to have any idea about how brilliantly ridiculous his mustache and whiskers look?
I didn’t used to think so. However, I have noticed he seems to be more welcoming to the camera these days!
Read about more Catster Heroes: