In "The Black Cat" why did the narrator initially restrain himself from maltreating the cat while maltreating the other animals?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is strange that he begins maltreating any of the animals at all, because in the beginning of the story he goest to great lengths to explain that he was "especially fond of animals...With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them."  However, later, he says that he develops a fondness for alcohol, and it altered his behavior for the worse.  He states that he starts behaving badly towards his wife, even using "personal violence" against her.  Then, he starts abusing the animals.  Initially, Pluto, his cat, is spared this abuse.  The narrator states, "For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way."  So what keeps the narrator from maltreating the cat-at first-was that he cared for the cat too much; he still had "sufficient regard" for him.  In the end however, even that affection was not enough to keep the cat from being the victim of the narrator's awful abuse.