In Defense Of Being A “Cat Lady”

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You don’t have to be a detective or even a particularly perceptive person to understand that people — and specifically men — have certain ideas when it comes to women and cats.

“Cats?” a guy will say as he stirs his drink casually while on a date with you. You can read his thoughts like they’re being spelled out in ticker tape on his forehead. They go something like this: Dear God, she’s one of those. And she looked normal. Her place must stink. What is it with women and cats? If she had one, that might be okay, but she said cat plural. How many does she have? She’s probably like the women in that Drew Barrymore movie, the one with the mother and daughter who were related to the Kennedys and had cats running around everywhere. What the hell was that called?!

You can only do so much about this thought flow. You can joke. I have. When the guy asks how many, I’ve smiled and said, “Six.” Or “Twelve.” Or “Fourteen.” Then I pause and say, “Actually, just two.” Sometimes this gets a laugh. Other times it gets a frozen smile. Still other times, I start hearing about allergies — about swollen eyes and sneezes and horribly catastrophic occurrences at the sight or smell or sound or touch of a cat. I’ll admit that I’m not overwhelming sympathetic when I hear about said allergies. As someone who’s not allergic to anything, I tend to think of these as a sign of weakness at best and a serious character deficiency at worst. This is not fair, of course. But neither is the rap about women with cats! And as soon as allergies get mentioned, I usually start wondering if I can think of a reason to leave.

I have dated allergic men, of course. I dated a guy who was so allergic that he never actually stepped foot in my apartment. But the truth is, I have no future with a man who’s allergic to cats. The girls (that’s them, top left) are here to stay; much of the time, in fact, I feel like I’m merely a guest in their living space. The point is that I don’t see much of a point in spending much intimate time with anyone where that’s going to be a problem. As my friend Lara says, “I like to think of myself as someone who might bend on that but the truth is, I would lose respect for that girl.”

The truth is, I have no future with a man who’s allergic to cats. The girls are here to stay.

Some believe the notion of the “crazy cat lady” came about because of good, old-fashioned Christianity and the fact that women who were considered witches used to be burned at the stake with their cats. And somehow that evolved into the idea that women who love cats are weird, or at the very least unsexy, while women who love dogs are rustic, athletic and adventurous.

But women with cats should not cower in shame. We should be loud and proud, and, in the process, disprove whatever faulty assumptions people out there may have about us. Look, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore are both supposedly really into their cats. Do you hear that, men? We can be active and fun and successful and even sexy. So stop picturing the dilapidated house with the 86 unneutered felines scampering around every which way when we mention our cats. Don’t look so freaked out if we perhaps show you a photo of one of them popping out of a cardboard box which we happen to have on our phone. We’re sharing this with you because we like you.

But we love our cats. So if you want us to love you, you might have to learn to, as well.

Anna David is the author of the new Kindle Single Animal Attraction, which is about how her relationship with her cats impacts her relationships with men. She’s also the author of the novels Party Girl (HarperCollins, 2007) and Bought (HarperCollins, 2009) and the memoir Falling for Me (HarperCollins, 2011). She conceived of and edited the anthology Reality Matters (HarperCollins, 2010), is the Executive Editor of addiction and recovery website The Fix, and has written for The New York Times, The LA Times, Vanity Fair, Cosmo, People, Premiere, Us Weekly, Details, Playboy, Redbook, Self, and Women’s Health, among many other publications. She appears on NBC, Fox News, CNN, and other networks discussing either relationships or addiction. Her next book, which she’s writing on the actor Tom Sizemore, will be released in 2013 by Simon & Schuster.