Last week, PEOPLEPets.com associate editor Helin Jung caught a special segment on ABC devoted to so-called cat ladies, a term she came to question as she watched. See what Jung (the proud owner of a 9-year-old Maltese named Ethel) has to say, and join in on the discussion!
20/20 ran a special last week called, "Cat Ladies: Why Do They Do It?" It was a feature about director Christie Callan-Jones's new documentary, Cat Ladies, which follows the lives of four women "whose lives and self-worth have become intractably linked to cats." Any of this feeling inappropriate yet? How about this: 20/20 conducted an interview with one of Callan-Jones's subjects, with the subject sitting in her bed under the covers.
A friend of mine in her mid-20s has a standard refrain she uses after a break-up: "I'm doomed, and I'm going to end up a crazy cat lady." Everything about that sentiment is absurd, not to mention the fact that she's allergic to cats. When I adopted a shelter cat, the first thing all of my friends did was to warn me against adopting any more because I was going to, yes, turn into a crazy cat lady. Which brings us to this notion of crazy cat ladies — women who are loveless, alone in the world and totally batty.
Bella DePaulo of Psychology Today wrote a scathing column about both the documentary and the TV segment, criticizing both for creating "a gratuitous link between being single and being a crazy cat lady."
So what is a cat lady, exactly? The film synopsis takes a stab at it: "It's not the number of cats that defines someone as a "cat lady," but rather their attachment, or non-attachment, to human beings. They create a world with their cats in which they are accepted and in control - a world where they ultimately have value."
Apart from the documentary's inherently condescending view of these women, it perpetuates an inaccurate stereotype of cat people as a freak show that only encourages the cultural bullying that cat owners (and female ones, especially) have to deal with. Then we end up with tongue-in-cheek novelty items such as the Crazy Cat Lady Board Game ("Assuming you still have human friends, the aim of this 2-4 player game is to collect as many cats as you can") and the Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure (She "has a wild look in her eye and comes with six cats"). And, maybe the crazy cat lady character on The Simpsons is funny, but in general, we're over it.