Single women growing old with cats - this imagery is reinforced every now and then in numerous sitcoms and films. The stereotype of a spinster with a horde of cats- we have all heard of this. Frankly, this stereotype seems ridiculous and is definitely misogynistic. So, let's find out how we can shed it, based on a new study which debunks the myth that 'cat people' are "not more unstable" than other pet owners.
Out of the plethora of stereotypes for single women, the crazy cat lady takes the cake. The history is cumbersome and laced with innumerable stereotypes of unconventional and progressive women labelled as witches and cats as their sidekick in evil.
The misconception of the Cat Lady Stereotype in Pop Culture
The stereotype of female cat owners is defined as ‘women who are eccentric, single and neurotic’. We have all pictured how a crazy cat lady looks, thanks to their depiction in pop culture like Angela in The Office, Susan in the 1938 film Bringing Up Baby, Crazy Cat Lady in The Simpsons, and many more.
Still, for argument’s sake, let us imagine the stereotype together- a woman with unkempt hair, a dressing gown, slippers, who lives alone. Are we right (or are we right)?
A crazy cat lady’s story is based on a satirical account of fiction, but people have believed it to be real for decades.
We have seen pop culture cling on to this trope, most notably in the show, The Simpsons. Eleanor Abernathy is shown to have a promising career in medicine and law, deals with burnout, and starts drinking; she ends up with a cat later on. We watch the character speaking gibberish and looking dishevelled.
Robert De Niro’s went on to bonker the elderly Christmas cat lady skit in Saturday Night Live in 2004, where the description said, “She had dreams but was kicked by a horse and now has cats, the end!”
Why does the Cat Lady blot exists - a trip down the history lane
To understand why this phenomenon exists, let us rewind to the earliest perceptions of women. The earliest women who were considered cat ladies were the witches, of course.
In Malleus Maleficarum, a medieval treatise on witchcraft where the story is recounted, three witches turned themselves into cats, attacked a man on the street, and accused him of assault showing marks on their skin.
That is essentially where the story began of how witches were believed to be similar to cats. Cats are perceived as ‘Satanic’ (big words) because they literally just come and go. They refuse to obey and are nocturnal.
The modern-day Crazy Cat Lady
A modern ‘crazy cat lady’ is perceived as a woman with more than a few cats, a mental illness, and an alcohol problem. It is a pejorative term for judging women who aren’t leading a traditional role in society.
Taylor Swift and Katy Perry have shown off their adoration for their feline cats, attempting to change the crazy cat lady’s negative perception. The Brooklyn-based fashion photographer BriAnne Wills dismantles the stereotype by mentioning how ‘cat ladies’ are independent, calm, career-driven who love their cats.
The negative stereotype hurts sentiments, and women are tired of defending themselves for having a cat.
Here is a fun fact
Cat-Woman’s creator explained his creation that women are feline creatures; they are cool, detached, and reliable. Cats are as hard to conjecture as women are. This tells us a lot about how women are perceived in general.
Crazy Cat Lady Trope is a myth
A group of researchers looked up more than 500 pet owners and have concluded that any factual basis for the idea of ‘crazy cat lady’ does not exist. This is proved by a study published in the journal of Royal Society Open Science. The researchers were from UCLA, the University of Oxford, and Aarhus University in Denmark.
They looked at emotional responses and report how pet owners deal with anxiety, depression, or other close relationships. The research was also an off-shoot to research on parenting behaviour. Experts have noted that psychological responses to puppies were similar to psychological reactions to human babies, according to Christine Parsons, the study’s co-author.
Academic studies have demystified the Cat Lady Stereotype
The authors of the study mentioned that they did not find any evidence that supported the stereotype. Cat owners do not differ from others on self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any other experiences in close relationships. According to CNN, the researchers found that pet owners and non-pet owners faced depression and anxiety at similar rates.
Parson explained to Insider how cats and dogs are familiar and have healthy relationships between them. Pet owners are likely to be saddened by the distress sounds from cats and dogs. It is very natural for the sounds to capture our attention. It was predicted that cat owners were more upset when their feline cried when compared to dog owners.
She further explained how they initially decided to debunk the cat lady myth. Still, the research evolved into looking at mental health patterns among pet owners who have access to information.
Affinity towards animals is a pretty human trait, not a stereotype
According to the researchers, it is discovered that whines and whimpers of dogs in distress are compared to the crying of babies. They believe that dogs have evolved to get our attention as they depend on us for survival. They figured out that people had developed a sensitivity to the particular needs of furry friends.
The study noted that people’s negative characterisation with an affinity for cats is not a recent phenomenon. Additionally, they discovered that those who own cats or dogs are more likely to respond to animal distress calls emotionally. Hearing a cat meow or a dog’s whimper prompts sad feelings in pet owners.
Conclusion - There is no link between cat ownership and the psychosis of a person
This study is added to the previous review of the U.K., which concluded that there is no link between cat ownership and psychosis of a person. According to the American Pet Products Association, 42.7 million American households have a cat. Pet owners contribute a lot to their pets each year. The APPA estimated that pet owners spent $75.38 billion this year.
It is not uncommon to assume that loneliness is the primary motive for having a cat. Here is the real tea- single or not, we all require affection and comfort. We have a dog or cat does not matter or should be a criterion to judge someone.
The misconception needs to stop. Being single is in no way connected to being independent or not. So, adopt a cat and snuggle with it, carefree!