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  1. Anne
    Anne July 17, 2009 at 5:05 pm |

    I feel the same way. The fact is, single women are already marginalized and treated as less than, cats or not. The Cat Lady stereotype just gives people a handy way to convince themselves we deserve to be demeaned: we’re crazy! It is very, very hard not to internalize the message that there is something wrong with you if you don’t have a romantic partner. So when people accuse us of being Cat Ladies, of course we get mad! We get mad because we’re sick of being expected to try to catch the bouquet at weddings, because we’re sick of being excluded from “couples only” social events, because we’re sick of hearing “no wonder she’s single” said about every single woman who has the nerve to be a little bit unpleasant sometimes. And we get mad because part of us *does* worry that there *is* something wrong with us.
    I also feel like there is a little bit of anti-animal welfare sentiment in this stereotype as well. As if people who care about animals, who love them and see them as individuals, are inherently worth less than people who believe that animals are here for people to take, use, eat, and wear. Because we are willing to give up the privilege of apathy towards abused and neglected animals, we are therefore making ourselves less human. Fuck that.

  2. Maggie
    Maggie July 17, 2009 at 5:28 pm |

    I love kittehs and will rejoice the day I finally get one of my own
    what a fucking asshole. and by the way, you has a great response. I don’t think I would’ve been able to think that fast on my feet.

  3. Tiktaalik
    Tiktaalik July 17, 2009 at 5:53 pm |

    I also feel like there is a little bit of anti-animal welfare sentiment in this stereotype as well. As if people who care about animals, who love them and see them as individuals, are inherently worth less than people who believe that animals are here for people to take, use, eat, and wear. Because we are willing to give up the privilege of apathy towards abused and neglected animals, we are therefore making ourselves less human. Fuck that.

    There’s a difference between “owning cats” and “hoarding cats”, and the Crazy Cat Lady stereotype falls much closer to the latter. And cat hoarders usually help no one, especially not the cats (you ever watch Animal Cops? Hoarders’ homes are often hellish places nothing should have to live in)…

  4. inookshook
    inookshook July 17, 2009 at 6:42 pm |

    I like to think my cat helps me weed out the men I shouldn’t bother with in the first place.
    He doesn’t like cats? Big warning sign to me, I don’t want anyone in my life who doesn’t love animals.
    My cat doesn’t like him? WTF is wrong with him then? My cat likes most people, he’s a good judge of character.

  5. Eghead
    Eghead July 17, 2009 at 7:55 pm |

    I’m out to reclaim the ‘cat lady’ label… spin it as a single progressive-minded woman who channels her energy into helping other people AND animals.

    The cat is on its way. Now all I need to do is age, and I seem to be getting better at that ever day =)

  6. beth
    beth July 17, 2009 at 8:25 pm |

    its interesting how we equate interest in animals with interest in babies. As a kid i was animal crazy, and my mum and others always thought it would change into wanting lots of babies once i grew up. So far it hasn’t, and i don’t think it will. Also when people see others behaving a certain way towards their pets (making lots of fuss over them etc) they often respond with the idea that ‘someone needs a baby’. I wonder why we have so much difficulty as a society with seeing caring about animals and caring about babies/children.

  7. J.
    J. July 17, 2009 at 9:28 pm |

    Mmm. Yeah, that’s kind of a jerk thing to say to somebody you don’t know that well. You should’ve been like, “Actually, I keep skunks and porcupines.”

    And I have to add that I hear even my feminist friends making dumb remarks like “I just know you’ll be a good mother when you have a baby from the way you treat your pets.”, etc., which is all cutesy and shit, and which we know is stupid anyway because babies are FAR more work than pets, but it still annoys the shit out of me.

    I love my cats for the companionship, of course, but I also like the feeling that, in all this fucked-up world, with all the pain animals and human beings suffer needlessly elsewhere, at least I’m able to shelter and care for two little (animal) lives, and give them the basic things I wish every creature had, to make up for all the horrible things that happen that I have no control over and that I can’t really do much about. I don’t know why I feel that.

  8. KL
    KL July 17, 2009 at 9:42 pm |

    I second Beth on the love of animals equaling lack of babies to be maternal toward. I’ve always loved animals, love adopting them, love buying them things, love watching videos of them on youtube. I actively have to make sure I don’t get more than I can take care of (which is a terribly small amount).

    Yet, I don’t like kids. Never have. Don’t know how to behave around them. I wax nostalgic about my childhood but don’t really want to participate in anyone else’s. I think this has to do with my very particular mental setup, but it still perplexes so many people my parents’ age. I think it seems to them a disconnect, being able to be affectionate toward all small cuddly things -except- children. I mean, if I was someone who didn’t like kids shouldn’t I be frigid? Maybe more of a “bitch,” or otherwise damaged?

    I find it so funny that so many personal choices that are so fraught in American society (childlessness, pet ownership and the baggage it can carry, sexual orientation, etc.) wouldn’t be at all meaningful if it weren’t for other people. I could go about that for pages.

  9. J.
    J. July 17, 2009 at 9:43 pm |

    As if people who care about animals, who love them and see them as individuals, are inherently worth less than people who believe that animals are here for people to take, use, eat, and wear.

    I think you’re definitely right about that. i.e., I get upset sometimes over dead animals on the road. For some reason it’s just an especially powerful and tragic symbol to me of these monstrous destructive machines people created, mindlessly plowing over everything, live and dead, in their path. In any case, I can’t imagine expressing this sentiment to anyone for fear of the mockery I’d get. I try to be practical about animals – I support deer hunting because, again, if they’re not shot, they just starve or get hit by cars – but you’re right that people who otherwise express compassion for animals are mocked. This is surely part of the reason vegans/vegetarians are often made fun of.

  10. Azalea
    Azalea July 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm |

    Rude wouldn’t begin to describe this persons remarks. Plenty of people children or no have cats and anyone with any pet should be respected as a person who gave another being a loving and hopefully happy home.

  11. Jadelyn
    Jadelyn July 17, 2009 at 11:17 pm |

    its interesting how we equate interest in animals with interest in babies.
    Beth, that is SO TRUE. For me, in fact, it’s kind of the opposite. I love animals because they’re NOT kids. Not because they’re so similar. I don’t like kids. I like animals. I make such a fuss over my animal companions and dote on them the way I do because they ARE my “children”.

    Anywho, yeah, my mom’s totally reclaiming the “Cat Lady” label. She has two cats now that my brother and I are moved out, and my she’s divorced (my dad is allergic to cats so we could never have them before) AND she’s a witch, and she’s in her 50′s, so she gets the cat lady accusation all the time. And she smiles and says “Why yes, I am.”

  12. Pega
    Pega July 17, 2009 at 11:21 pm |

    Can I be a cat lady even though my kids (and grandkids) are still living with me? I like the cats better most of the time, and I have more of them. (7 cats, only 3 kids still at home and 1 grandbaby).

  13. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl July 17, 2009 at 11:51 pm |

    Hell, I have a cat INSTEAD of kids. Because my high-maintenance cat is a hell of a lot lower-maintenance than even the mellowest child. One of these days when my life is slightly less crazy, I’ll make the massive commitment leap and get a dog. Dogs are a lot higher maintenance than cats, but still way lower-maintenance than kids.

    P.S. You could always tell him that yes you ARE a crazy cat lady, just like this one:

  14. Dana
    Dana July 18, 2009 at 1:50 am |

    its interesting how we equate interest in animals with interest in babies.
    Beth, that is SO TRUE. For me, in fact, it’s kind of the opposite. I love animals because they’re NOT kids. Not because they’re so similar. I don’t like kids. I like animals. I make such a fuss over my animal companions and dote on them the way I do because they ARE my “children”.

    Bingo! Now, I actually like kids a lot, but have low tolerance for obnoxious ones and babies make me downright squeamish. Not their fault, I’m just terrified of their parents trying to fob them off onto me. Noo, I don’t like babies!

    I take a perverse pleasure confusing people – I am a crazy cat lady! My partner and I have 8 cats. But then… we have 3 dogs! *gasp* Am I a cat lady or dog lady? Oh and we have 9 rats? How will you put me in a box?

    That guy made a pretty spectacular twat of himself. O_o

  15. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. July 18, 2009 at 9:00 am |

    I personally look forward to becoming the crazy cat lady. I also look forward to becoming the old crone and spinster. There isn’t anything wrong with being those things. The stereotypes are nothing other than sexist bullshit beliefs intended to ensure women dedicate their lives to serving men instead of themselves or anyone else.

  16. Napalm Nacey
    Napalm Nacey July 18, 2009 at 9:06 am |

    I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I’m a “Cat Lady”. I did a post about it at my journal and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to be ashamed of having three wonderful furry friends that loved me. No douchebag guy can make me ashamed of my blessing.

    It doesn’t matter what we do, if it’s something a woman does, then sexist people will denigrate it, unfortunately. :(

  17. Ginjoint
    Ginjoint July 18, 2009 at 10:14 am |

    Anne and Faith, I loved your posts.

  18. UnFit
    UnFit July 18, 2009 at 10:30 am |

    Most importantly, cats don’t grow up to ask uncomfortable questions…

  19. oldlady
    oldlady July 18, 2009 at 10:38 am |

    Sorry, but I am a Cat Woman and damned glad of it! Maybe this guy meant it pejoratively–he sounds like a stupid, rude jerk–but there are many, many women of ALL ages who love and respect cats and have them as companions. And being identified with witches, wise old women who threatened authority and were feared for that reason–hey, I’ll go for that also. Thousands of women were tortured and burned because they lived alone and kept cats and some of them even read books and knew things about herbs and their very existece threatened the norms of society. Count me on their side. –and this time sign me Cat Woman.

  20. amandaw
    amandaw July 18, 2009 at 10:41 am |

    Pasha is gorgeous. A shorthair ragdoll mix — ragdolls really are some of the most beautiful cats…

    My mom was The Cat Lady. She was mentally ill, had social trouble, physically disabled, isolated, took in more cats than she knew what to do with. I grew up being The Cat Lady’s daughter. And you know what — I am grateful for it, because she taught me compassion by showing it. Even as she would say “Too many cats, never going to take another one in” etc., she showed me her actual spirit inside by her actions afterward.

    It is another maligned feminine trait, one that society is uncomfortable with. A woman putting her nurturing instinct into anything other than a male partner or human children — that is transgressive, in a way. It scares people. They don’t know how to deal with that kind of caring spirit — one which sees value in all sorts of life.

  21. amandaw
    amandaw July 18, 2009 at 10:49 am |

    I have to add: it is especially so because cats are perceived as being unloyal, aloof, and so forth. They aren’t “caring” creatures according to the stereotype; they exist for themselves, not for others.

    (This is all bull; I’ve raised enough cats to know that you can raise them to not scratch or bite, to be friendly and playful and affectionate. If you raise a cat with respect, they will return it to you. It is the very people who raise cats abusively who get abuse in return; they then blame this on the cat’s nature.)

    For a woman to put her energies into this creature seems to be a betrayal of the rest of society — she exists for everyone else — if she were to care for a creature that were not seen as so independent, it wouldn’t be seen as “taking away from the rest of us” — the weirdest decision a woman can ever make (and very closely related to why childless-by-choice women recieve such harassment).

  22. elle
    elle July 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm |

    He doesn’t like cats? Big warning sign to me, I don’t want anyone in my life who doesn’t love animals.

    There are plenty of people who are allergic, ya know. I understand if this is a deal breaker for someone who you’re considering living with, but if someone doesn’t like cats because they feel physically ill around them, that doesn’t make them a jerk.

  23. Tiktaalik
    Tiktaalik July 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm |

    “He doesn’t like cats? Big warning sign to me, I don’t want anyone in my life who doesn’t love animals.”
    There *is* a difference between not liking cats and not liking animals. It’s completely possible to dislike cats but like dogs, say (as my father does)…

  24. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines July 18, 2009 at 4:02 pm |

    This dislike of the ‘Cat Lady’ and women who are deemed to love animals too much, comes from the bizarre concept that love is finite. As if we can only produce so much and then it runs out. So if you really love your cats, you can’t love anyone else.

    Again this is part of society defining certain types of love as being more important then others, with heterosexual romantic love being privileged above all others.

    This is nonsense and I say this as someone who loves my baby and the cats in my life very much. I don’t them in the same way, but then I don’t love my husband or parents in the same way either.

    1. amandaw
      amandaw July 18, 2009 at 4:28 pm |

      It is perfectly legitimate for a woman who likes cats to limit her dating prospects to men who can deal with cats. It’s, yknow, her choice and all.

      My cats are important enough to me that I just would not be happy if I had to live the entire rest of my life without them. Period. It doesn’t make men-who-don’t-want-cats jerks or undatable, it would just make them not a good prospect for me.

      I do think the way my husband learned to act around cats, as our relationship progressed, told me a lot about him as a person. Doesn’t mean that if he was allergic or if cats just weren’t his thing, it meant he was a Bad Person automatically. You don’t need to impose a dichotomy where nobody implied one.

      1. amandaw
        amandaw July 18, 2009 at 4:33 pm |

        I mean, you could say the same thing about a love for Neitzsche or hiking or wine tasting. A person has a right to look for a person who fits well in her own damn life. I really think this comes out of our assumption to the right to control women’s lives, our assumption that her choices are not hers to make, on behalf of herself, but society’s to make on behalf of the privileged. If a non-cat-loving man can’t date one woman who loves cats, phooey for him. He doesn’t have a RIGHT to her.

        That’s not what the commenters were meaning to say. I know that. But it rubbed me the wrong way.

  25. Rosemary Riveter
    Rosemary Riveter July 18, 2009 at 5:29 pm |

    What a jackass.

    Reminds me of a State Trooper who came to interview my boss as a character reference for a former student. My boss was an attractive junior professor working in HIV research, married but no wedding band, and was dressed up in a linen suit for another event later that day. This guy commented to her face that he was surprised by her appearance, since he’d expected a woman professor to be “a severe old lady in Birkenstocks and a muumuu”, then called back half an hour after their interview to ask her out. My take on it was “Hi, I’m a sexist ignoramus who thinks intellectual women are bound to be ugly and unpleasant, but you’re, like, totally hot and stuff, so I will deign to ask you out”. She did not return his call.

  26. Harumph
    Harumph July 18, 2009 at 11:20 pm |

    I resent the general assumption that chicks = cats.

    I am a female-bodied person.

    I hate cats… (this is a dangerous place to say this?)

    Give me dogs and reptiles anyday.

  27. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl July 19, 2009 at 2:25 am |

    Not dangerous at all around here to be a cat hater. I’m a cat owner who hates her own cat (although I hate him less since the vet put him on tranquilizers).

    Many people are bipetual, and manage to have and adore both dogs and cats. I am deeply sad at not having a dog, and being unable to have one until the damn psychotic cat croaks (because I actually LIKE dogs and wouldn’t subject one to my cat, given all the two grand in vet bills my mother’s poor dog racked up after my cat attacked her). Other people are dogpetual only, and while I’m not dogpetual myself, I have dear friends who love dogs and have no use for cats. I secretly think they’re very strange people, but I try not to discriminate against them.

  28. Maria P.
    Maria P. July 19, 2009 at 9:36 am |

    And how come there’s no such thing as a cat man, hmm? Isn’t it telling that everybody comes down hard on women who love cats but that a man who loves and rescues them, like my dear dad, is just seen as uncommonly warm-hearted?

    Actually, there was a funny scene in my office a few days ago. A guy from the lower office came to woo the unabashed cat lady who works across from me. The conclusion was that if he couldn’t accept the 14 cats that she lived with, he wasn’t a possibility. (I suggested later that he bring her a basket of kittens next time. Wouldn’t that be nicer than flowers, if you were prepared to welcome them into your home?)

  29. Unree
    Unree July 19, 2009 at 10:43 am |

    Anecdata here: Partnered but not cohabiting, hetero, no children, fond of children, have never had a cat or dog. I’m not into household companion animals, probably in part because I’ve internalized the negative stereotype about single women with cats.

    And I think over the years I have received exactly as much shit over the years for NOT being a cat lady. Guys have pressured me to get a dog, and if not a dog, well why don’t I have a cat? What’s wrong with her? Shouldn’t she yearn to nurture?

    This judgment to me makes more sense than deriding women for living with cats, and it’s just as negative. So I say, set up your home the way you want and don’t worry about fitting a stereotype. Some people out there will hate you for being a woman no matter what life you choose.

  30. Anne
    Anne July 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  31. Ishtar
    Ishtar July 20, 2009 at 6:21 am |

    Ooh! ooh! I’m a cat lady and just a little bit crazy. I agree that the term carries with it several negative connotations but I decided to claim the lable with pride. So what I do is I say it before anyone else can, with a beaming smile and a smug note of pride. I’ve even had people who claimed to dislike cats wonder if they should consider getting one because I gain so much pleasure from mine.

    And I’m with Faith about Spinster and Crone. :-)

    I’m 37, single and childless. I have strong maternal instincts and I unleash those on my hordes of nieces and nephews and…yes…on my cat too. But Daisy (said cat) and I have a more-or-less equal relationship, in cat terms anyway. I worship her and do whatever she wants and she affectionately tolerates me. It works for us. :-)

  32. Jemima
    Jemima July 20, 2009 at 12:35 pm |

    I’m a crazy cat lady. Mind, not a crazy lady with cats but rather a lady with crazy cats. Well, and a boyfriend, I do have one of those as well, though he gets to compete with the cats for the best spot on the bed, but then again, so do I.

    And when comes down to I probably am crazy myself as well.

  33. Chickpea
    Chickpea July 20, 2009 at 1:58 pm |

    First time perusing this website, had to read this entry.
    Lots of great comments here. I really liked AmandaW’s comments, and totally agree that cats’ assessment as having such negative traits are perpetuated by people who don’t know how to care for them.

    My live-in partner and I have 2 rescued cats, one from a shelter, and one former feral who was behind our building and is now a frequent belly rub and snuggle monster. I had cats and dogs growing up and really enjoy the love, companionship, and fun of having pets. I’m fond of most kids as well (except for little seeds of the devil, like my mom’s neighbour’s kid), but I don’t necessarily equate love of pets with automatically wanting children.

    It’s ridiculous that having/rescuing animals is sometimes seen as a negative trait, as several people here have said. Cats are treated like crap so often, I feel sad just thinking about all the strays and ferals that roam around starving or freezing, because people abandon their pets and/or don’t have them spayed/neutered. I think some of the negativity of having cats as a single person, or a woman, stems from an attitude of it’s “uncool” to like cats, but awesome to like dogs. I prefer cats to dogs personally, but would love to have a houseful of both someday. They and other species are just really cool to learn about and have a strong connection with.

    Having a companion animal is a lifetime commitment in my view, it’s sad Pasha had to be given to strangers like that. Hope she is okay and happy, but who knows? Perhaps that couple decided their lives were more important than the cat’s also. I’m sorry if this comes off totally pissy, but as a shelter volunteer, I’ve just seen way too many once loved pets abandoned either in the street or dropped off in a box on a cold winter day at the shelter door, and it takes a toll on multiple levels, human and non-human.

  34. karak
    karak July 21, 2009 at 1:26 am |

    I ALWAYS tell people that I planned to be a cat lady when I grow up. I’m in my early 20s and I say that with a completely serious face, regardless of my relationship status or career path. Being self-sufficient, surrounded by animals I have rescued, living in my own home… what’s NOT to like about being a cat lady?

    Not an insult, screw that guy.

  35. katrina
    katrina July 21, 2009 at 9:40 am |

    “The wife would occasionally send me pictures of Pasha getting used to her new surroundings”.

    That’s so sweet!

  36. V for Vegan: » Blog Archive » Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 5

    [...] Nichole @ Feministe: Cat Lady [...]

  37. gail
    gail August 4, 2009 at 7:04 pm |

    Nichole, do not pay attention to the critical remarks. You thought carefully about what Pasha needed and you did what was best for your cat, not what would assuage your own sense of guilt. You did the right thing. I wish more people would try to see things from the cat’s point of view.

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