One blogger poses some excellent questions with respect to the crazy-cat-lady archetype: "Why always cats? Why always ladies?" Some say these kooky felinophiles just want babies — but we think they're in it for the ego boost.
Diane Mapes of The Body Odd (via MSNBC) writes that "one reason women may hoard animals more often is because we're biologically hardwired to take care of things." She quotes Dr. Christiana Bratiotis, project director of the Hoarding Research Project at Boston University's School of Social Work (bet they have a lot of paper clips): "According to a 2002 study, 75 percent or more of animal hoarders are women who are middle age or older, usually unmarried and often socially isolated from family and friends." So, crazy cat ladies. Dr. Bratiotis explains,
Animal hoarders label themselves as rescuers. And when you think about the connotation of that word, that seems to fit in with the gender role of women in this society. We're rescuers and caregivers and care providers.
Of course, maternal instinct does not a hoarder make — as Bratiotis points out, you also need a dash of mental illness. But according to an article at OneIndia, even average "women have started treating their pets as their babies." According to a survey by insurer Petplan, "75 percent of Scottish women treat their pets with expensive gifts and food items on special occasions like Christmas, and on these pets' birthday. While 82 percent feeds their pet with food that human beings eat. Like cheese, cake and crisps." Dude, don't give your cat cake — it will just vomit in your bed.
By way of analysis, OneIndia claims pets can "train [women] for motherhood" and "these women attain summit of satisfaction when they treat their pet as their child." I have to confess being a little icked out when people refer to themselves as their pets' "parents," or when they coddle their furry loved ones excessively. After all, once they get out of the puppy/kitten stage (when some baby-talk is pretty unavoidable), these animals are grownups, and deserve to be treated as such. More accurately, they are like drunk grownups, who will throw up and pee everywhere unless you give them food and water and take them for a walk to clear their heads. Women are a bit more likely, in my experience, to give their pets the kid treatment, but probably only because it's more acceptable for them to do so. And if men were under as much pressure to be caretakers as women are, they might start racking up animals too.
But none of this answers the question, "why cats?" Mapes says hoarding can go well beyond a few felines into menageries of reptiles, birds, horses, and goats (if you hoard goats, are you a goathoard?). But Bratiotis says kitties are one of the most popular hoarding choices. She chalks this up to their sheer availability — a horse is unlikely to wander into your house and insist that you feed it, whereas I can't tell you the number of times this has happened to me with cats (okay, like three). But I think there's more at play. Dogs, especially female dogs, are kind of sexist — if you don't believe me, raise one in a mixed-gender household and watch her totally love the dudes best every time. Cats, however, know no gender, and hate most people, except for those few upon whom they bestow their grudging respect. Get a cat to like you, and you feel like the one worthy human being in world of jerks and losers. And if that's not a justification for hoarding the motherfuckers, I don't know what is.
Image via AresT/Shutterstock.com.