I’ve written before about how much I don’t like the crazy cat lady stereotype but until now I haven’t addressed the most important reason this stereotype needs to go away: it’s bad for cats.
Think about it. Who wants to be that dowdy lady in the bathrobe and curlers, living in a smelly house and surrounded by a bunch of mangy, flea-bitten cats? Okay, some of us may opt for the latter part, as long as we are busy helping the cats get over their mange and fleas, but the rest? No way. Every time I see a meme on social media, like the one I ran across on Facebook the other day that shows a clowder of cats in a doorway, saying, “I hear you are 40 and single,” I don’t just cringe — I get angry. I get angry because there is someone out there (in fact, a lot of someones) who won’t adopt a cat because they associate it with being that person.
There are millions of people out there who don’t like cats – and who have never spent quality time with one, which means they are just going by what they have heard, not by what they know. And as long as the crazy cat lady stereotype exists, they have a ready reason to avoid cats: only icky, lonely, socially backwards people like them. As a cat lover, you know that is a lie. In fact, the majority of passionately cat-loving people I know – I mean, not just like cats but really advocate for them on blogs or as writers — are married or in longterm, committed relationships. They dress in a variety of ways that suit their personalities, from emo rocker outfits to designer duds and just about everything in between except dowdy. They range in age from late 20s/ early 30s to 70s-plus. They’re intelligent, social people who are easy to talk to. Oh, and some of them are guys. Would I want to be any of them? Well, I’d rather be me, but I do think they are awesome examples of human beings and would love to be grouped with them, just not as “crazy cat ladies.” Because none of them are crazy, and some of them are not even ladies.
Often people who only envision cat lovers as lonely, housebound misfits see cats as an extension of that, and far too many people actually believe having a cat in your life inevitably puts you on the path of becoming one of “those people.” No wonder these people don’t like cats! No wonder potentially cat-loving people never even learn how special cats are. I wouldn’t want to be (or become) that person either. And sadly, a lot of people who feel this way pass by the cat section in adoption centers and animal control facilities, never realizing what they are missing. They never give cats a chance, and the cats suffer for it.
People who want to deny the crazy cat lady stereotype by trying to embrace it and make it their own are missing the point. When people believe that only crazy, unappealing people love cats, they are less likely to adopt them because they don’t want to be perceived in a bad light. Cats languish in shelters, cat die because of the crazy cat lady stereotype. That’s not an exaggeration.
Can you describe a crazy dog lady? No, there’s no stereotype, even though they do exist. There is no stigma about loving dogs passionately. In fact, except for hoarders, loving dogs is seen as a positive, caring, life-affirming thing. Only when the same can be said for cat lovers and they are no longer seen as crazy will I stop fighting this fight.