The Cat Lady: We've all heard that term, often preceded by the adjective "crazy," and we need to recognize it for what it is: an outdated stereotype. Sadly, that stereotype endures, embodied by an ill-conceived action figure called "Crazy Cat Lady." To the disgust of beautiful, successful, sexy and powerful women everywhere who love their cats, the slovenly 5" plastic action figure that sports a permanent bad hair day (dressed in a bathrobe and sandals-with-socks) is the antithesis of the sexy and powerful imagery of D.C. Comics' "Catwoman." Meow!
And yet, statistics show that the cat - not the dog! - is the number one most popular pet in America. We've come a long way since the cat was deified in ancient Egypt for protecting grain from marauding rodents: nowadays, we spend millions spilling grain for our cats' convenience - in the form of corn and wheat cat litter! The reason there are more pet cats than dogs (and tons of litter) is simple: most cat owners keep more than one cat. Being indoor pets that are smaller than dogs, it's somewhat easier to do this than it is to keep multiple dogs - but you have to be a multitasker.
We all know what gender the human multitaskers tend to be - and they don't tend to be slovenly or wear sandals-with-socks. They are more likely to be glamorous goddess types: think Kim Novak in the movie "Bell, Book and Candle," her feline familiar at her side. It's time to rethink what a female, cat-fancying action figure should look like. She would more accurately resemble Amber, who is tall and slender, with waist-length, flame-red hair. On weekdays Amber works as a designer for Michael Kors; her weekends are spent working to rehome the cats she rescues. Beautiful, stylish, with-it: this is no "cat lady."
So we at Ceslie.com would like to propose a radical pet-culture paradigm shift. We want to get you thinking about female feline owners as cat WOMEN instead.
Now picture a catsuited Halle Berry in the movie Catwoman. OK, so that film didn't leave much of an impression on critics. But the early scenes, in which a colony of cats rescues our heroine after her villainous employers attempt to murder her, are poetry to anyone who's ever admired a cat. As Halle lies there lifelessly, cats begin gingerly climbing on and around her - as cats so charmingly do - providing physical, moral, and even telepathic support. The cats succeed in reviving her. (The opening titles, with stunning Egyptothemes, were pretty neat too.)
In the movie, the character takes on certain feline attributes (and working long hours with those amazing movie animals inspired Halle Berry to adopt a shelter cat). In real life, women and cats have always shared certain traits, which is how they came to be so closely linked through history. Dogs are usually referred to as "he" and cats as "she," because while dogs were traditionally men's companions, cats belonged to women.
Cats' beauty and independence are timeless. "They are mysterious and sleek and sensual and wild," says Dr. Laurie Nadel, best-selling author of Sixth Sense and a longtime cat owner. "You can tame a dog but you can't control a cat. When it comes down to it, you can't put a cat on a leash. Ultimately a cat's going to do what she wants to do; she's calling the shots." Sound like anyone you know? Like, perhaps, a Momentum Woman? Meow!
Part of the "cat lady" stereotype holds that women who care for more than one cat are out-of-touch, social misfits. We beg to differ: Women who care about cats' welfare are very culturally and socially aware, deeply engaged in what's going on in their world and the world at large. These women are rock-chick-cool, like Nina Malkin, music critic, feral cat rescuer, and author of "An Unlikely Cat Lady."
The women across this country who make time in their busy lives to volunteer with cat rescue and trap-neuter-return are making a valuable contribution to their communities: they're doing what they can to help solve the feline overpopulation crisis. Homelessness happens to pets as well as people, and women who rescue cats are doing their part - however small - to help end suffering. Doris holds down an important job as a magazine editor and is a devoted single mother to a daughter she adopted in Africa. Her concern for feline foundlings helped her appreciate the need to adopt unwanted children.
That spirit of caring outreach can be felt as far away as Iraq, where a former soldier named Louise (who asked that her surname be withheld) has appointed herself a one-person feline rescue task force. Now a security consultant in Baghdad, Louise has made it her mission to help the region's homeless cats, doing hands-on rescue and resourcefully raising necessary funds by posting items on eBay. So far, Louise has sent several of her charges to permanent homes in her native England.
Of course, the media unanimously calls her the "Cat Lady of Baghdad." But we prefer to call her a global Cat Power.
Catwoman image © DC Comics