What do you think of when you hear the term “crazy cat lady?” Maybe you think of that cat urine-reeking woman at the grocery store buying cases and cases of the cheapest cat food available. Or maybe you think of the crazy cat lady on The Simpsons or the Crazy Cat Lady action figure. And, of course, if you’re a female cat lover who happens to be single and have more than one cat, you’ve probably been derisively referred to as a crazy cat lady, too.
So, when World’s Best Cat Litter launched its #ImACrazyCatLady contest and initiated its first “#IMACRAZYCATLADY Day,” I’m not the only cat lover who give the brand a big stink-eye.
World’s Best Cat Litter says in its press release that “their newly invented holiday officially marks the emergence of a wide cross-section of the cat-owners who are proud to say #IMACRAZYCATLADY.”
“There was a time when being crazy about cats conjured up a certain somewhat-negative image,” said Jean Broders, Brand Manager of World’s Best Cat Litter. “Today’s cat lover is much more diverse than that and cat owners are proud to share their love for felines.”
Yes, we cat lovers are proud to show our love of cats, that’s for sure. And, sure, having loads of young, sexy people sharing their feline-adorned selfies on Instagram may be a fab way to show that not all cat lovers are mentally ill, piss-smelling bag ladies, but seriously? Using the term “crazy cat lady” to generate buzz? I’m not impressed.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about reclaiming pejorative terms. I’m a lesbian and I often call myself queer (in fact, that’s my preferred term for describing my sexual orientation). Or I refer to myself as a dyke because it has real significance to me to reclaim words that were used to put me down and bully me.
I also understand that a lot of people have been hurt by being referred to as crazy cat ladies, but I guess for me it’s a matter of perspective. I’m pretty sure nobody’s going to beat the crap out of you for being a cat lover. I’m also quite sure your family’s not going to disown you and you’re not going to get fired from your job for being a cat lover. I’m sure that cat lovers — even those who have lots of cats and spend most of their spare time and money helping cats — are legally allowed to marry in all 50 U.S. states.
There was once a time when I liked the term “crazy cat lady” and found it a cute and funny way to describe myself. I found an organization called the Crazy Cat Ladies’ Society (and Gentlemen’s Auxiliary) on the Internet and even bought a Crazy Cat Ladies’ Society bumper sticker to put on my car.
Later on, I began to give my use of this self-descriptor some second thoughts. I was starting to feel like a “real” cat writer and cat advocate as my blog gained readers and I began to go to pet bloggers’ conferences. I decided that describing myself as a crazy cat lady was an easy way to not get myself taken seriously. When someone calls me a crazy cat lady, I tell them, “No, I’m a sane cat lady.”
The best way to dispel the stereotype of the crazy cat lady is to be responsible about caring for your cats, no matter how many or how few you have. Instead of embracing a term that’s an instant ticket to being taken lightly, why not just do your work in the community and show the world that having cats doesn’t mean you’ve lost all hope of ever having relationships or smelling good or maintaining a clean house?
Instead of Instagramming your cats and minivan windows with 18 stick figure cats on it, be an articulate and intelligent advocate for cats. Keep a cool head while you speak on behalf of TNR programs for feral cats, for that local declawing ban, or on behalf of the cat shelter you love. Don’t create or perpetuate drama in the cat community. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And while you’re at it, why not use the hashtag #ImNOTaCrazyCatLady when you describe your efforts?
What do you think? Am I taking this too seriously and being too sensitive? Or does this #IMACRAZYCATLADY thing bother you, too? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.