Under America’s diagnosis, I am a “crazy cat lady.” This is a judgment, an accusation, a scarlet “C” scratched into my forearm by one of my three cats. Google the phrase and you will find scores of women frantically defending their right to have cats without being branded as “crazy.”
Here’s a checklist I’m supposed to consider as I sit on my bed surrounded by three purring cats:
“Do you talk excessively about your cats and refer to them as your babies?” Of course – they are my babies.
“Do you bring up the most tedious details about your cats when socializing or at work?” My cat anecdotes are both interesting and humorous, thank you.
“Do you avoid social situations such as dating or having an evening with friends to be at home with the cats, fearing they’ll be lonely or sad without you?” They do love spending time with me . . .
Okay, I admit it. I adore cats. I’m thrilled that I could take these babies off of the streets and into a loving home. I like talking about my cats because each one has an adorably specific personality that amuses me every day. I show pictures because they’re cute enough to be cat models. (I really should look into that . . . ) I talk to my cats because they talk (or meow) back. I’m not their companion or roommate; I’m their mother. They look to me for more than sustenance. They follow me around the apartment, drink from my water glass even if it’s next to their own, attempt to eat my food, lick my hand in gratitude while being pet, wait for me at the front door when they hear me walking up the stairs and sleep with me at night. Maisy is typically curled into the bend in my knees, Piper at my hips and Deacon at my feet.
Why do single women get judged for having cats? Society has a bad habit of scrutinizing women for how we live and whom we love. Replace “cat” with “dog” in any of the above instances, and I’d be considered hot – a catch even! – rather than crazy. If I were in a relationship, I’d be one half of a cute animal-loving couple.
And if I were a man, I’d be a magnet for women. What does America call a man with three cats? He’s just a man. Women are held to a different standard than men, and cats to a different standard than dogs. A dog is stereotypically more easygoing and outgoing, a masculine companion. A cat is moody, anxious, even spiteful (the very definition of “catty”), and are therefore seen as more feminine.
Women and cats have been pigeonholed together for centuries. During the Inquisition, the Catholic Church published a guidebook for identifying and burning witches (women) and the cats they kept. Propagandists in the anti-suffrage movement used postcards of cats dressed like suffragettes to portray female activists as incompetent and unfit for the political arena. The term “crazy cat lady” was cemented in American popular culture with “The Simpsons” character Eleanor Abernathy, a cat-hoarding spinster.
What does it matter if I talk about my cats and take pictures of them? I don’t judge you for hovering over your BMW or lining up your hundreds of troll dolls. I won’t dub you a “foodie” just because your Instagram account is an anthology of tacos. If you have a house full of reptiles, I’m not coming over, but I’m also not going to start blogging about meeting a “crazy reptile man” (or woman, let’s be fair).
Everyone is enthusiastic about something – cats, football, bacon. Everyone takes care of something, even if it’s only an iPhone. If loving and providing for an animal makes me crazy and undesirable because that animal is a cat, our society has some serious growing up to do. In the meantime, maybe I’ll start a hashtag, #CatLoverNotCatLady. Go ahead. Tweet that.