Buffy the cat at centre of ‘custody’ row

Buffy the cat at centre of ‘custody’ row


Pretoria – Buffy, the 12-year-old chinchilla cat, not only has an airplane named after her, but she also has a “dad” who buys her favourite food in Europe.

He even turned to the court to prevent her from spending a few “stressful” days in a cattery.

Mark Leathers, a Durban attorney, sees Buffy as the child he and his now former wife never had.

So when he got wind that his former wife, Lisa Vissers-Leathers, wanted to take Buffy to a cattery to see how she would cope in the event she had to go away for work, Leathers refused point blank.

He turned to the Durban High Court to interdict his former wife from sending the cat to the cattery. The court, however, struck the matter from the roll due to a lack of urgency.

Leathers told the Pretoria News that all ended well, as the cattery refused to take Buffy when they heard about the legal wrangle.

On a positive note, the divorced couple agreed that the husband would visit Buffy on either a Saturday or Sunday at his wife’s home.

The couple divorced last year and while Leathers said he was the primary caregiver, it was decided that he would leave the cat in their communal home when he moved out.

They got Buffy in 2009 as a kitten, as they could not have children.

“Buffy very quickly became attached especially to me and me to her, and from being a kitten up to when I left the marital home, I am the one who has catered to her every whim, ensured that she received her breakfast when she wanted it at 4am each day.

“I sat and played with her, constantly sought out new toys, even had air conditioners with remote wi-fi control installed to enable monitoring of the ambient temperature in the house while we were at work to ensure Buffy remains comfortable,” Leathers said in an affidavit to the court.

When they discovered she liked a particular cat food, only obtainable in Europe, they ensured that she always had it.

“Until February 2020, I was Buffy’s primary caregiver … I have been asked many times by friends, if I had to save one person from a fire, who would it be, and my answer has always been (Buffy).”

Leathers said while he dearly wanted to take her with him after the divorce, he knew she would be safer and happier at her familiar home.

“Buffy is the closest I will ever have to a human child,” he told the judge.

Thus it came as a shock to him when he heard Buffy was heading to a cattery. He undertook to rush home within 24 hours from wherever he was in the world, to take care of the cat if his former wife had to go away.

Leathers said a cattery would be too stressful and unsafe for the cat, especially with people who did not know her quirks. He obtained an affidavit from an animal behaviourist, who agreed.

He questioned why Buffy should endure this while he was available to look after her.

He also did not take kindly to his former wife’s statement that Buffy was a moving asset, thus she could take her to the cattery.

The former wife said there was no doubt that Buffy was and would always be hers. She said she and Leathers had been separated since February last year and any attachment he had to the cat was superficial.

According to Vissers-leathers, when they divorced, her husband never demanded visitation rights until recently. She denied that her ex ever doted on the cat and said that over the years, she and Buffy had become closer.

She said when she had to go away, she had to obtain a safe place for her. According to her, her husband was constantly abroad at his various properties across the globe.

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