Dear Annie: I am 28 years old, and recently celebrated my second wedding anniversary.
I have been with my husband, Tom, for a total of five years, but due to immigration trials and tribulations, we have only been living together full time for two-and-a-half years (first in the United States and now in the United Kingdom).
My issue is my husband's relationship with my beloved 9-year-old cat, Whiskers.
When Tom first began to visit me, prior to our engagement, and then live with me in the United States, he had no issue with Whiskers -- loving him and accompanying him outside into the garden when we had a short-fenced yard at a rental property and Whiskers was not allowed outside alone.
This continued until about a year ago, when Tom began to dislike Whiskers.
It started with purring.
Whiskers is large and loud, and his purring is certainly noticeable, but I have always thought of this as a "happy noise."
Now, Tom will leave the room in a huff if Whiskers starts purring, and he is not allowed on the bed, even though the dogs are when we are not sleeping.
My husband is hostile toward the cat, and I have confronted Tom about my suspicions that he is abusive toward Whiskers when I am not around.
The cat now avoids him and will run upstairs when Tom gets home.
He has denied it, but his actions when he thinks I am not looking make me disbelieve him.
I received Whiskers as a kitten from my mother when my 5-month-old daughter passed away suddenly and I was in the depths of the darkest grief, desperately needing something to take care of.
Whiskers means the world to me. To be frank, if Tom had acted this way toward Whiskers in the beginning, I would not have pursued a life with him.
I have told Tom how hurtful I find his treatment of Whiskers and reminded him of how important that silly cat is to me.
Nothing seems to make a difference.
Why is it so hard for him to love, or just pretend to tolerate, and be kind to this part of my life that is so important to me?
Am I asking too much?
What should I do? -- Depressed and Confused
Dear Depressed and Confused: It sounds like Tom might be jealous of your close relationship with sweet Whiskers, and he is acting horribly because of it.
If he treats your innocent 9-year-old cat this way, I hate to think how he would treat other things that are important to you.
You are certainly not asking too much of Tom.
In fact, you are not asking enough.
The beginning is always the honeymoon phase, and it sounds like Tom was on his best behavior and pretending to like the cat.
Now that you are married and he is feeling more comfortable, his true colors are showing.
I am sorry to say this, but those colors are ugly.
The fact that the cat runs away from him, and that you suspect abuse, is very telling.
I would speak firmly to Tom and say that you believe that he is hurting Whiskers.
Plus, there is nothing silly about a cat.
This animal has brought you great comfort during some of the saddest days of your life.
Now you owe it to Whiskers to provide him comfort and safety.
How someone treats animals says a lot about how they would treat children and other people.
Tom needs counseling for his treatment of Whiskers.
The fact that he changed his behavior is even worse.
If he is unwilling to go to therapy and talk about his aggressive behavior, seriously consider grabbing Whiskers --and perhaps your other pets as well -- and walking out the door.
Thank you for writing, and I hope your next husband respects all living creatures as much as you do.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.