Cat lady

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A cat lady is a single woman, often a stock character, who owns many pet cats. The term is usually considered pejorative,[1] though it is sometimes embraced.[2]

Usage and association[edit]

Women who have 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".[1]

A cat lady may also be an animal hoarder who keeps large numbers of cats without having the ability to properly house or care for them.[3] They may be ignorant about their situation.

Some writers, celebrities, and artists have challenged the gender based "Crazy Cat Lady" stereotype, and embraced the term to mean an animal lover or rescuer who cares for one or multiple cats, and who is psychologically healthy.[4][5][6]

Cat Ladies documentary[edit]

The documentary Cat Ladies (2009) tells the stories of four women whose lives have become dedicated to their cats. The film was directed by Christie Callan-Jones and produced by Chocolate Box Entertainment, originally for TVOntario. It was an official selection at the 2009 Hot Docs Festival, Silverdocs Festival, and San Francisco's DocFest.[7][8]

Naftali Berrill, Ph.D., Director of the New York Center for Neuropsychology and Forensic Behavioral Science told AOL Health, "These may be people who have a very hard time expressing themselves to other people. They may find the human need for affection is met most easily through a relationship with a pet." This devotion can sometimes signal mental or emotional issues such as depression.[9]

Toxoplasma gondii[edit]

Recent research indicates a link between the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which sexually reproduces exclusively in cats, and numerous psychiatric conditions, including OCD.[10] The compulsive hoarding of cats, a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), has long been associated with "crazy cat ladies".[11] Mass media has drawn on this stereotype to coin the term Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome to refer to the association between T. gondii and psychiatric conditions.[10]

Famous cat ladies and their cats[edit]

  • Florence Nightingale had many cats named after famous public figures such as Gladstone and Bismarck.[12]
  • Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale had many cats living with them in their decrepit home Grey Gardens. Reportedly, some 30 cats lived in the house by the time Little Edie sold it in 1979.[13]
  • Bertha Rand was Winnipeg's notorious Cat Lady, who for years battled her neighbours and city hall to save her dozens of cats. Even years after her death, she still holds a place in Canadian popular culture. Maureen Hunter's play The Queen of Queen Street is based on Rand's life.[14]
  • Susan Ashworth in The Cat Lady computer game, who battled with depression and owned many cats.

In popular culture[edit]

Cat ladies in popular culture include:


  • In a key scene in the A Clockwork Orange (1971), the violent sociopath Alex DeLarge murders a paranoid cat lady, for which he is convicted and sentenced to a prison term during which he undergoes behavioral training to become a vastly different person.
  • In The LEGO Movie (2014), Mrs. Scratchen-Post is a cat lady minifigure who is one of Emmet Brickowski's neighbors.
  • In black comedy The End (1978), Sally Field plays Burt Reynolds' distracted cat lady girlfriend Mary Ellen, who is too absorbed in her feline pets to react to Burt's news that he is dying.



  • The Cat Lady (2012) is a psychological horror graphic adventure game developed by Remigiusz Michalski.


  • CatCon LA[15] an event described as "like ComicCon, for cat people" debunked the cat lady myth with panels featuring actress Mayim Bialik[16] and Cat Lady Chic author Diane Lovejoy.[17]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kiri Blakeley (15 Oct 2009), "Crazy Cat Ladies", Forbes 
  2. ^ Mark Ramirez (5 Aug 2009), "Do you believe in the Crazy Cat Lady?", 
  3. ^ Davis, Susan; Flaherty (illus), Jake (2002), "Prosecuting Animal Hoarders is like Herding Cats" (PDF), California Lawyer (September): 26, 28, 29, 67, retrieved June 26, 2011 
  4. ^ Beth Ostronsky Stern: I Am A Crazy Cat Lady, New York Daily News, September 15, 2015
  5. ^ Moss, Laura, It's Time to Smash the Crazy Cat Lady Stereotype, Mother Nature Network, November 12, 2015
  6. ^ Williams, David, Meet The Men Proud to Be Crazy Cat Ladies, ABC News, Retrieved November 12, 2015
  7. ^ Jeannette Loakman. "Cat Ladies - the Documentary". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Cat Ladies at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ Huso, Deborah (November 2009). "Some Live Among Hundreds of Cats". AOL Health. Retrieved November 2009. [dead link]
  10. ^ a b "How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy - Kathleen McAuliffe". The Atlantic. 2012-02-06. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  11. ^ D.J. Moran and Jennifer L. Patterson (2011-06-16). "When More Isn't Enough". Psychology Today. 
  12. ^ Celebrity cat lovers
  13. ^ Sally Quinn on life in Grey Gardens, W magazine, April 8, 2009
  14. ^ "Signature Editions". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  15. ^ "CatCon LA". Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  16. ^ "CatConLA Shows the "Crazy Cat Lady" Stereotype Is Completely Wrong". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  17. ^ "Here's the Official Schedule For Next Month's Cat Lady Heaven, CatCon LA". Racked LA. Retrieved 2015-11-21.