Article Retiree, 70, divorces wife of 45 years over her cat obsession

Retiree, 70, divorces wife of 45 years over her cat obsession
Judge rules man cannot be expected to live with his wife and cats, one of which urinated on his face

Jun 01, 2020 06:00 am

A retiree divorced his wife of 45 years because of the cats she kept, one of which had urinated on his face.

A district judge ordered the marriage dissolved after hearing both sides and, despite the wife's objections, ruled that the man, now 70 years old, cannot reasonably be expected to live with his wife after she developed an obsession with cats.

In judgment grounds issued on May 21, District Judge Sheik Mustafa said: "This feline collection created quite a nuisance. The cats roamed the home freely. They were not toilet-trained and would urinate and defecate indiscriminately."

He noted the stench of cat faeces and urine from the matrimonial home led to numerous complaints from neighbours, causing the police and other authorities to show up and warn the wife, now 67 years old.

"Nevertheless, she did not cease her feline collection," the judge added.

The "last straw" for the husband was in 2006 when one of the cats urinated on him while he was asleep. He left the home to live with his brother-in-law after a bout of arguments.

Twice, he tried to return home but was chased away by the wife. The couple have not lived together since.

The husband, a teacher of 38 years who retired in 2004, and his wife, a housewife, were married in May 1975. The couple, who have three children, lived in a two-storey terrace house.

All names were redacted in the judgment.

The marital storm started in 1997 when she woke up "one day and told him that her late mother had appeared to her in dreams, telling her to be kind to cats".

She believed that doing so was the way to paradise and also to protect her family.

She developed an obsession with cats and went around feeding strays. After her younger son brought home a kitten, she would keep stray cats at home.

The husband urged her to re-home the cats elsewhere, but she refused until he could no longer sleep on the marital bed as "it was constantly defiled".

Instead, he slept on a mat on the floor to maintain personal hygiene. The wife became "progressively more hostile and irritable".

The husband's $500,000 retirement pension, received in 2004, also became a source of friction. The judge noted that the wife admitted withdrawing a large sum from the fund.

She also had a maid look after the cats in the matrimonial home as well as a rented house in Johor Baru, based on media reports produced by the husband.

The couple's daughter, who employed the maid, was fined in the State Courts for not paying her for more than a year and for putting her to work in the house in Johor Baru.

The authorities had also taken action against the wife because of the cats, and she was eventually declared bankrupt on account of her debt to the Attorney-General.

The husband produced the articles about his daughter to show that his wife had sought to contest the divorce to avoid accounting to the Official Assignee her share of their home.

As she was a bankrupt, she had to account for all monies received.

The wife, who discharged her lawyers halfway through the case, defended herself. The husband was represented by Ms Dew Wong Li-Yen as assigned by the director of legal aid.

The court noted that the wife did not confirm nor deny the specific incident leading to the husband's departure.

The judge found that on a balance of probabilities, the wife did behave as alleged by the husband, including withdrawing about half of his retirement savings without his consent.

She had also created an unsanitary living environment by keeping a large number of cats in the home.

The judge made clear that he did not rely on the media reports cited by the husband.

He found the marriage had broken down irretrievably due to the wife's behaviour and their separation.

"There is no possibility of reconciliation. There are no minor children. For these reasons, it is just and reasonable to grant a judgment to dissolve the marriage," said the judge.

The wife is appealing against the judgment.