The curious study was published in a 1987 edition of Behavioral Sciences and the Law and includes three extended case studies of defendants charged with aggressive crimes who had “psychotic perceptions and delusions involving their pet animals”.
Several weeks before the alleged killing, Mr. A’s cat appeared to be pregnant, so he made a nesting box for it. He said his wife disliked his cat because of its grey color. One day Mr. A dropped a jar of molasses, thereby spilling the contents. He lamented to himself that he no longer had control over picking up and holding objects. Upon seeing the cat’s strange green eyes, he concluded that voodoo was being perpetrated against him through the cat as a medium, and the cat was therefore responsible for his loss of control. It occurred to him that Cleopatra and the ancient Egyptians were surrounded by cats. He associated cats with the ancient past and evil spirits. He decided to shoot the cat in order to “break the spell” against him. However, killing his cat failed to dispel his sense of being fragmented and persecuted.
From the time he shot his cat until his wife was mortally shot several days later, Mr. A’s psychosis worsened; his thinking became more disorganized and lacking in reality adherence. Time seemed to have stopped. He perceived a striking deterioration in his wife’s appearance. “She looked so grey (her criticism of the cat), like a craven image… she looked sick.”
The author notes that the first description of this phenomenon was actually in the Edgar Allen Poe short story The Black Cat where the narrator develops delusions about his cat and eventually kills his wife.
Many thanks to Keith Laws for finding this unusual footnote in the forensic psychiatry literature.