What is it about cats and the association with crazy ladies? I mean you don’t hear about crazy dog ladies or crazy fish ladies, do you? Not only that, but who ever heard of a crazy cat gentleman?
Even when I first started typing up my notes for this article on my phone, auto suggestion was already on my wavelength.
What does it mean to you? What images does your mind conjure as I say crazy cat lady? Do you think you are one… and if so, do you care?
Let’s be honest, you only have to type it into Google to see the stereotype of a scruffy older woman living alone covered in cats and associated detritus, or even worse a lonely woman with mental health problems, her cats her only friends.
When I tell people I have 10 cats – yes, you did read that right – I can’t stop myself quickly following that with “and a husband and two kids”. It seems I feel the need to say, “I’m not sad and lonely. I really am just like you!” But in reality I’m probably not just like you, I do have 10 cats after all.
Does the fact that I want to explain my circumstances mean that I too have actually bought into the whole crazy cat lady thing?
So do I mind this label? Actually it doesn’t bother me, but I know plenty of people it does. I do wonder if it doesn’t bother me as I don’t live alone. Perhaps if it was just me and my feline ‘tribe’ I would feel very different about potentially being judged in this way.
As a trustee of a local cats’ shelter, I come into contact with many people who fill their homes with cats in need, whether they are passing through or permanent fixtures. They don’t do it because they are crazy, they do it out of love and an overwhelming desire to care for animals cast aside by others.
So, to put myself to the test, am I crazy about cats?
Let’s look at the evidence:
1. Ok, maybe the cat theme at my wedding to my second husband didn’t help my cause. But I was aiming for something a little different. Crazy or just fun? How many weddings have you been to where you have the opportunity to win a sock cat?
2. Going from one cat to 10 in the space of six years is, erm… Actually, maybe that bit is a bit crazy. But then two of them were supposed to only be on short term foster.
3. The two metre high by two metre wide cat tree in my front bay window? Not crazy, just giving my babies something to scratch instead of the furniture. I have to admit, though, it was fun watching the neighbours point and stare. Many settled on the idea it was a sculpture.
4. Calling them my babies? Don’t we all coo over our pets whatever they are? They become part of our family.
5. Most items I receive as gifts follow a distinctly catty theme. The latest, a black cat kitchen roll holder, is proudly in use. Well why not? It doesn’t clash and it’s functional, what’s not to like?
Don’t let a stereotype put you off
So why are single women of a certain age expected to sit at home surrounded by a feline army? Come to think of it, what actually is the problem with living alone with a cat or cats? Surely it’s a choice like anything else? Does this stereotype of a sad, lonely woman with cats as her only friends actually prevent single people from getting a cat? Now that would be sad.
The reality is cats, and many other animals for that matter, can offer something to any age group or household. Cats in particular can be perfect for busy people who are out a lot during the day. As long as they have access to food, water and somewhere to do their ‘business’ they can be pretty self sufficient.
As a beloved family pet, they can teach children about responsibility and how to care for something.
They can give joy, love and companionship in equal measure alongside hairballs, accidents on the carpet and pulled curtains. Well, nobody’s perfect.
So if you want a cat, get a cat; get two cats, get as many cats as you want. The important thing is not to be defined by this or any stereotype. We are women; mothers, sisters, daughters. Employed, self employed, unemployed, retired. Whatever you feel defines you, let it be your choice.