In her documentary Cat Ladies, Christie Callan-Jones unravels the stories behind the cultural stereotype of single women "whose lives and self-worth have become intractably linked to cats." Last Friday, Callan-Jones appeared on 20/20 to discuss what makes cat ladies "crazy."
Callan-Jones tells Elizabeth Vargas that the difference between "cat ladies" and "crazy cat ladies" is when women stop taking care of themselves and dedicate all of their time to taking care of their cats. Diane, one of the women profiled in the documentary, has 123 cats, which she began collecting after she was forced into early retirement. She spends $3,000 a month on cat supplies, and sleeps on the sofa in a room with her feline friends, but never gets a straight eight hours, but wakes up every few hours during the night to change the litter boxes and replenish the dry food. She accepts the title of "crazy cat lady," because she is aware that her obsession of collecting cats is draining her bank account, her energy, and her ability to have fulfilling relationships with other people. She seems ready to change her entire life around.
Sigi can't even count all of her cats, but it's somewhere in the hundreds. She spends her day—in a muumuu and running shoes—trapping stray cats in the wild, considering it her mission to save their lives. Her house has been virtually destroyed by the animals, and her neighbors don't appreciate Sigi's cat passion, since the strong smell emanates beyond her property. Her furniture was removed by the health department due to contamination, and she now sleeps on a lawn chair. (Her home resembles Grey Gardens, right down to the filthy cats, actual poop spray stains, and the pale blue paint on the walls.) She sees nothing wrong with her lifestyle, and doesn't consider herself to be a crazy cat lady. Callan-Jones suggests that Sigi identifies herself with thrown-away cats, because she feels like society has discarded her.
Jenny, a successful sales agent in her mid-30s, has 16 cats. She feels as though she's on the cusp of becoming a crazy cat lady, and thinks that if she gets one more cat, it'll just automatically happen, and she'll lose all hope. Callan-Jones says that each woman in her film has experienced some kind of trauma that triggered their relationships with cats. Some of them have just accepted this lifestyle and see nothing wrong with it, while others are clearly depressed over their inability to have relationships with people.