Her name was Midnight, but Miss H. called her the “cat from hell.” Hiding atop cabinets and under the sofa, she’d hiss and scratch at anyone who disturbed her.
Still, when her drug-addicted sister threatened to take the antisocial feline to the ASPCA, Miss H. told her Midnight was family, and “You don’t abandon family.”
From then on, Miss H. became Midnight’s friend and protector. And, later, the cat would return the favor, transforming from demon to guardian angel. She became a critical component of Miss H.’s healing process through the program called People and Animals Living Safely, or PALS.
Miss H. first fled from a violent relationship with her second son’s father, seeking refuge at her mother’s house in Manhattan. There she would face even more physical abuse, this time at the hands of her own sister.
“By the second week, she attacked me with a knife in front of my boys,” says Miss H. “I never expected it from her. I sent my oldest to his father and I stayed with the little one because his father was the abuser.”
With help from the police, Miss H. eventually found her way to URI’s emergency shelter in Brooklyn. Midnight stayed behind at her mother’s house. But soon, her mother fled too, after Miss H.’s sister attacked her with a knife. Miss H. and her sister took turns going to the house to feed Midnight.
Then, one day, on her younger son’s birthday, the unthinkable happened. Miss H. received a threatening phone call from a drug dealer looking for her sister. Terrified, she waited several more days to go check on the cat. When she got to the house, she encountered police tape and pure chaos – upended furniture and smashed doors. She thought, “Oh my God, they’ve killed the cat.” For three days, she looked everywhere for Midnight.
With help from URIPALS coordinator Ann Michitsch, Miss H. eventually went to the city animal control facility on 110th Street. Walking among the aisles of cages, she screamed, “Midnight, are you here?”
“Then I heard this meow. ‘Meow. Meow. Meow.’ And she’s letting me touch her. She had to be so frightened. She recognized me immediately, it was wonderful. I was in tears,” recalls Miss H.
The shelter released the cat to her custody, but she still had no place for her. Michitsch arranged for temporary boarding through the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. Four weeks later, a PALS unit opened up at the shelter for Miss H. and Midnight.
Just a day after Midnight’s arrival, Miss H. faced a new heartache, as her father became seriously ill and soon died. “She was my teddy bear and support,” she says of the cat she refers to as, “My daughter.”
Midnight, now a loving animal, is thriving in the safe environment of her new home, says Michitsch. The cat has helped Miss H. through repeated bouts of depression and painful sciatica. “She always finds a way to cheer me up,” says Miss H.
Like many other victims of abuse, Miss H. says she surely would’ve endured an unsafe situation to care for her pet. “If it wasn’t for the PALS program,” she says, “who knows what would’ve happened?”