Crazy Cat Lady: An [Incomplete] History

In my last post, I Love Online Dating, I slipped in a joke about receiving an offer for cat food when my profile was compatible with zero matches. That’s right. ZERO. So of course that’s where my mind went: Single woman = cat woman.  Seemed like a natural progression of thought.

And then a few days later I got to thinking about that joke and the stereotype in general. What are the origins? Who decided that a single woman with one or two feline companions is crazy? Why is it limited to cats and not dogs or birds or guinea pigs? What about women who own snakes? Snakes! If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.

So I decided to do a little research.

I began by consulting two very reliable internet sources: Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia.

There are twelve definitions for the term cat lady on Urban Dictionary. My favorite by far is this:

“A lady who suffers from a horrible childhood, with nobody to love, besides stray cats that dig in the family’s garbage. Soon discovers cats are her friends and she enjoys talking, petting, and going to the movies with these cats. …Tends to have many wrinkles. And unwashed grease ball hair. And love to eat potatoes.”

(Let me just say, if loving to eat potatoes makes me a cat lady, then a cat lady I shall be.)

Wikipedia echoes the same sentiments but in a slightly more polite manner:

 “…women who own cats have long been associated with the concept of spinsterhood. In more recent decades, the concept of a cat lady has been associated with “romance-challenged (often career-oriented) women.”

Neither of these were much help.

So I turned to Google and found this little gem of an article: Woman-as-Cat in Anti-Suffrage Propaganda.

“Cats represented the domestic sphere, and anti-suffrage postcards often used them to reference female activists. The intent was to portray suffragettes as silly, infantile, incompetent, and ill-suited to political engagement…oftentimes, unhappy cats were portrayed in these scenes as symbols of a threatened traditional home in need of woman’s care and attention.”

Let’s review. Women with only the vote on their minds + cat themed propaganda = threat to traditional home = anti-marriage = spinster = single women = single women with cats = crazy cat lady.

The actual article explains it much better, plus it has some great pictures of anti-voting cats. Who doesn’t love that? Check it out here.

And apparently there is some scientific proof that exposure to cats can make you crazy. A Czech biologist, Jaroslav Flegr, has studied the parasite toxoplasma gondii, a tricky little pest that “jumps” from one cat to another and sometimes lands on humans by way of litter box contact, contaminated waters, and undercooked meat. There’s a lot of scientificy-mumble-jumble that you’re more than welcome to read for yourself here. But to sum it up, toxo can manipulate the way our brains act and cause some “crazy” reactions.

Seems like a stretch, but he’s a man. And probably a Socialist.

Further Googling yielded little else: The pros and cons of being a cat lady. How do you know if you’re a cat lady? Bio information for Simpsons character Eleanor Abernathy. And the 2009 documentary, Cat Ladies which has a surprisingly high rating on IMDb.com.

So where does that leave us, the unmarried and childless females of a certain age who, coincidentally, also have cats? Here are my thoughts:

  1. Cats are badass. So to be associated with cats is NOT the worst thing in the world. They take crap from no one. They don’t perform silly tricks for treats. They make their own rules. And then they break them because they can. Dogs will wag their tales in obedience, eager to please. Cats be like… Human, please. If they could roll their eyes, they would.
  2. It’s OK if you talk to your cats. Chances are, you’d be talking to yourself if they weren’t there. And that’s the kind of crazy you should worry about.
  3. There are few things in life more wonderful than a group of cats and a laser pointer.
  4.  We don’t have to worry about mice and rats chewing up our cereal boxes. Or bunnies chewing up our vegetable gardens. Or lizards or spiders. Or song birds. Because cats have a superiority complex and if they can kill it, they will. They will, however, make friends with possums so they aren’t completely bloodthirsty. (For the record, the number of slain sparrows does make me sad.)
  5. This list.
  6. And finally, there are plenty of non-cat owning people who are bat-crap crazy. Lindsey Lohan. Miley Cyrus. Charles Manson. Need I go on?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and a movie. The cats have been dying to watch Finding Nemo.

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2 Comments

  1. The Bookworm July 31, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    So if women with cats are spinsters, then are single men with cats gay?

    Reply
    1. Jenny August 1, 2014 at 12:21 am

      I don’t know about gay, but there should definitely be a way to identify them. If we are crazy cat ladies maybe they should be called creepy cat men.

      Reply

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