Hi. My name is Kaila and I have a cat. Her name is Lilly and she is really cute. Would you like to see a picture? Wow. I should probably stop there. I don’t want people to think that I am a “crazy cat lady.”
I used to periodically post pictures of my cat on facebook until a friend of mine joked that I was on the path to becoming a crazy cat lady. My first reaction was to take offense. I am nothing like that cat-obsessed woman who lived down the street from me growing up!
I decided to take a break from posting cat-related content online, but, alas, I could not escape my cat lady reputation! Friends continued to post funny cat videos and photos on my facebook wall. I also fell back into my old ways, posting cute pictures of Lilly from time to time. The crazy cat lady comments continued. Over the summer a co-worker told me that he had heard I was weirdly obsessed with cats and that he hoped I wouldn’t become a crazy cat lady.
This got me thinking: What is a crazy cat lady and why is it such a bad thing to like cats? An Urban Dictionary entry defines the term as “a woman, usually middle-aged or older, who lives alone with no husband or boyfriend, and fills the empty lonely void in her life with as many cats as she can collect in one place.”
The association between females owning cats and loneliness is highlighted in this fake e-harmony dating profile:
The crazy cat lady is also generally depicted as unattractive to men and lacking social skills, as seen in this meme found under the tags "cat lady," "cats," and "sad."
Luckily for women, there are helpful guides to teach us how to own cats without society designating us as crazy. For example, we should avoid talking about our cats. We should also remember that our cats are not human.
All joking aside, pet ownership is accompanied by various sexist assumptions. Cats are often linked to women, while dogs are “man’s best friend.” The problem lies in that fact that dogs are generally associated with positive qualities such as loyalty, while cats are seen as aloof.
For example, in the movie Homeward Bound, one of the male dogs, Shadow, is extremely loyal. The other male dog, Chance, is comical and fun-loving. In contrast, Sassy, the female cat, is prissy and whined the entire journey home. The movie Cats & Dogs also emphasizes positive attitudes toward dogs and negative attitudes towards cats, as a group of lovable dogs save the world from evil felines. Finally, the infamous character of Cat Woman drives home the negative connotations related to cats and the association between females and cats.
While I have focused on the plight of the crazy cat lady, sexist assumptions regarding pet ownership also negatively affects men. Most people would not think twice about men (or women) owning dogs. Yet, men who own cats are somehow seen as less masculine. At the end of the day, I believe that the underlying issue is that sex-based stereotyping is harmful, even if it is only stereotyping a person based on his or her pet.
The single woman down the street who owns a couple cats is most likely not crazy. And the fact that she owns a cat should not suggest that she is trying to fill the void created by not having a man. Although I hope society’s attitude toward women owning cats evolves, I have decided to embrace my crazy cat lady persona for the time being. After all, how can I not brag about my relationship with this little cutie?