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Cat lady

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A woman feeding cats in Rome

A cat lady is a cultural archetype or stock character, most often depicted as a middle-aged or elderly spinster or widow, who has many cats. The term may be pejorative, or it may be affectionately embraced.

Usage and association[edit]

"The old woman and her cats", 1811

Women who have cats have long been associated with the concept of spinsterhood, widowhood or even witchcraft. 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.[2] They may be ignorant about their situation, or generally unaware of their situation. People who are aware of it are not normally considered cat ladies.

Depending on context, the ordinarily pejorative word "crazy" may be prepended to "cat lady" to indicate either a pejorative[1] or a humorous and affectionate label.[3] 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]


The documentary Cat Ladies (2009) tells the stories of four women whose lives became 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][citation needed]

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.[8]

Toxoplasma gondii[edit]

Some studies indicate a link between the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which sexually reproduces exclusively in cats, and numerous psychiatric conditions, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia,[9][10] whereas other studies have showed that T. gondii is not a causative factor in later psychoses.[11][12]

The compulsive hoarding of cats, a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), has long been associated with "crazy cat ladies".[13]

Crazy cat-lady syndrome is a term coined by news organizations to describe scientific findings that link Toxoplasma gondii to several mental disorders and behavioral problems.[9][14]

Notable examples[edit]

Cultural references[edit]

Cat ladies in popular culture include:


  • Catwoman: A recurring supervillain or anti-hero character that most often appears in the Batman franchise in comics, films and television. She is often depicted as having many cats in her home.


  • CatCon,[18] an event described as "The convention with cattitude", hosted seminars featuring actor Ian Somerhalder[19] and actress Mayim Bialik,[20] meet and greets with celebrity cats Lil BUB[21] and Nala,[22] and an adoption village where visitors can meet and adopt a cat or kitten.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Blakeley, Kiri (15 October 2009). "Crazy Cat Ladies". Forbes.
  2. ^ Davis, Susan; Flaherty (illus.), Jake (September 2002). "Prosecuting Animal Hoarders is like Herding Cats" (PDF). California Lawyer: 26, 28, 29, 67. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
  3. ^ Ramirez, Mark (5 August 2009). "Do you believe in the Crazy Cat Lady?". TimesUnion.com. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  4. ^ Gostin, Nicki (15 September 2015). "Beth Ostrosky Stern: I am a crazy cat lady... and I'm proud of it". NYDailyNews.com.
  5. ^ "It's time to smash the 'crazy cat lady' stereotype". MNN - Mother Nature Network.
  6. ^ Williams, David. "Meet the Men Proud to Be Crazy Cat Ladies". ABC News. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  7. ^ Loakman, Jeannette. "Cat Ladies – the Documentary". Archived from the original on 25 February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  8. ^ Huso, Deborah (November 2009). "Some Live Among Hundreds of Cats". AOL Health. Archived from the original on 19 November 2009.
  9. ^ a b McAuliffe, Kathleen (6 February 2012). "How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  10. ^ Webster, Joanne P.; Kaushik, Maya; Bristow, Greg C.; McConkey, Glenn A. (1 January 2013). "Toxoplasma gondii infection, from predation to schizophrenia: Can animal behaviour help us understand human behaviour?". The Journal of Experimental Biology. 216 (1): 99–112. doi:10.1242/jeb.074716. ISSN 0022-0949. PMC 3515034. PMID 23225872.
  11. ^ Gatewood, Johanzynn (22 February 2017). "Cat ownership not linked to mental health problems, study says". CNN.
  12. ^ Solmi, F.; Hayes, J. F.; Lewis, G.; Kirkbride, J. B. (31 July 2017). "Curiosity killed the cat: No evidence of an association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at ages 13 and 18 years in a UK general population cohort". Psychological Medicine. 47 (9): 1659–1667. doi:10.1017/S0033291717000125. PMC 5939988. PMID 28222824.
  13. ^ Moran, D.J.; Patterson, Jennifer L. (16 June 2011). "When More Isn't Enough". Psychology Today.
  14. ^ Skloot, Rebecca (9 December 2007). "'Cat Lady' Conundrum". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 January 2017.
  15. ^ Quinn, Sally; Solway, Diane (8 April 2009). "Weditor's Blog: Sally Quinn on Life in Grey Gardens". W magazine. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011.
  16. ^ From the CBC archives: Winnipeg's cat lady Bertha Rand
  17. ^ "The Queen of Queen Street". Signature Editions. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  18. ^ "CatCon". CatConWorldwide.com. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  19. ^ Somerhalder, Ian; Kelk, Lindsey. "Ian Somerhalder: 'If I didn't have an infant, Nikki & I would open a cat café'". Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  20. ^ "CatConLA Shows the 'Crazy Cat Lady' Stereotype Is Completely Wrong". L.A. Weekly. 8 June 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  21. ^ "The Cutest Cats and Humans We Saw at CatCon 2017". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Cute cats, cat wine and cat-print dresses: Inside the cat lover's paradise that is CatCon 2017". Archived from the original on 18 May 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018.