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Feline fallout: Court grants divorce to retiree whose wife became obsessed with cats

SINGAPORE — A woman’s sudden obsession with cats, which attracted complaints from neighbours and ended up driving her husband out of their home, has become grounds for divorce at a family court here.

Feline fallout: Court grants divorce to retiree whose wife became obsessed with cats

The husband said that his wife developed an obsession with cats after her late mother appeared in her dreams, telling her to be kind to them.

SINGAPORE — A woman’s sudden obsession with cats, which attracted complaints from neighbours and ended up driving her husband out of their home, has become grounds for divorce at a family court here. 

In his decision issued on May 21, District Judge Sheik Mustafa Abu Hassan found that the couple’s 45-year marriage had broken down due to unreasonable behaviour and separation. 

The wife had contested her husband’s divorce application as she did not want their matrimonial home — a two-storey terrace house — to be divided.

She is now appealing against the court’s decision.

The man, now aged 70, married the woman, now 67, in 1975 but moved out of their home in 2006 when one of the cats urinated on him while he was asleep. 

That incident was the final straw for the retiree, after he had put up with the creatures for nearly a decade. Court papers did not state how many cats the woman had. 

The couple were not named in court documents. They have three adult children.

Court documents also did not state why the husband filed for divorce more than a decade after leaving their home.

Aside from the issues with the cats, the wife had withdrawn about S$200,000 from their joint savings accounts without her husband’s consent to buy a car for their son, a van and other items. The money was part of a S$500,000 pension he had received after retiring as a teacher.

Their constant quarrels about the missing funds made their “already bad relationship become worse”, District Judge Mustafa noted.

The wife, who discharged her lawyers halfway through the case, did not dispute withdrawing the money. She said she believed that she was entitled to it after consulting a lawyer, who advised her that she would be entitled to half of her husband’s Central Provident Fund savings if she divorced him.

The husband was represented by Ms Dew Wong Li-Yen, who was assigned by the Director of Legal Aid.

BED WAS ‘CONSTANTLY DEFILED’

In his grounds, the judge laid out the problems the couple had faced since 1997.

The husband said that his wife developed an obsession with cats at the time after her late mother appeared in her dreams, telling her to be kind to them.

The wife began believing that looking after them was her only way to “cross into Paradise”. She started going around feeding stray cats and adopted some of them, taking them into their home. Their youngest son also took a kitten home.

The judge noted: “This feline collection created quite a nuisance. The cats roamed around the home freely. They were not toilet-trained and would urinate and defecate indiscriminately.

“There was a stench of cat faeces and urine emanating from the matrimonial home, which led to numerous complaints by neighbours. The police and other authorities turned up and warned the wife. Nevertheless, she did not cease her feline collection.”

No longer able to sleep in their bed which was “constantly defiled”, the husband began sleeping on a mat on the floor instead. 

But by 2003, he could not tolerate this any longer and called the police to show them the conditions in which he lived. The officers told him it was a domestic issue and left it at that. 

He then began avoiding his wife as much as possible.

After he retired in 2004 and used part of his pension to settle their outstanding mortgage, the rest was deposited into five joint accounts as suggested by his wife.

In 2005, he discovered that there were only two accounts in his name containing S$100,000. He immediately closed them and moved the cash to a new account solely in his name.

Their marriage deteriorated further and he eventually left to live with his brother-in-law. He has not returned since 2007 and has stopped contacting the woman.

The husband also claimed that his wife stopped him from seeing their children, even preventing him from visiting their son in an intensive care unit. No further details were given.

He submitted a newspaper report that showed that their daughter was fined in the State Courts for failing to pay her domestic worker. The helper had looked after the cats in the couple’s matrimonial home and in a rented house in Johor Baru, Malaysia.

His wife was made bankrupt after being ordered to pay costs for legal proceedings over a lawsuit she filed against the domestic worker’s employment agency. She had alleged that the helper had killed 40 of the cats.

District Judge Mustafa said that he did not rely on these articles, as they did not prove or corroborate why the man left home.

He added: “I considered the possibility of reconciliation. I find that there is none. The parties’ attitudes are utterly not compromising; the husband is insistent on ending the marriage, and the wife is in vehement refusal to end the marriage. 

“The couple have been consciously estranged from each other for 15 years. That is a long period of time by any measure. There is no ember of love or affection left to rekindle.”

He also ordered the wife to pay the Director of Legal Aid S$3,000 in costs.

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