This is not my cat. I wish it were.

I’m A Crazy Cat Lady

I fear this is going to change things between us, but full disclosure: I’m a cat lover.  It’s not something I’d announce at a dinner party, so you know, if you want to take the bottle of wine you brought and go, I understand.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that my personal preference, while completely harmless, sees me firmly in one of the most openly hated groups of society, although cat hatred makes no sense to me.  I mean, there are people on the ‘Net who say they’re in a loving relationship with their car (yes, love of an adult nature), so the cat owning 23% of Australia really isn’t that odd.

As a feminist, I am more irritated by that most judgmental of stereotypes  – the Crazy Cat Lady.  We’ve all seen her on A Current Affair.  Dramatic male promo voiceover: “Surrounded by 17 cats, she’s single, scary, sad, and smells funny.  And her hair is made of kittens”.

It’s a mythology that is mistaken and misogynist.  Instead, couldn’t she be kind, nurturing and broad-minded?  Someone for whom, practically speaking, cats make a more manageable pet because she lives in a small flat, and she likes to go away on weekend winery retreats to drink her body weight in Pinot.

And if older single women are drawn to cats, couldn’t it be because she relates to the way the creature loves?  Wary of giving itself too freely, but giving it’s all once trust is gained.  And to the way the creature lives: a self-sufficient and sociable animal, that retreats from the world to its private spaces when it suits, both within a little flat, and its own head.

I don’t understand why that makes you Crazy, even if you house a biblical plague of them.  And why is there no male equivalent?  Why isn’t the love between a guy and Man’s Best Friend ever considered unstable?

I live with a canine lover who could easily qualify for a Deranged Dog Man.   Spooning our Labrador on HER bed, kissing her on the LIPS, despite knowing SHE EATS CAT POO!! Then there’s the guy I see on our train station who keeps his Chihuahua under his hat.  Or Paris Hilton with her stupid rat of a puppy in her handbag.

I could go on, but let’s suspend judgment, because, in the great tradition of the oppressed reclaiming the oppressive terminology, let me own that I am a Crazy Cat Lady.

My husband introduced me to my first cat, Coco, soon after we were married and within days of her arriving, I was obsessed.  I loved everything about the species.  The intelligence.  The independence.  Their stillness, as they bliss out in the sun, lost in their own thoughts, or perhaps receiving messages from the Mother Ship (I was always suspicious).

I slept with her.  Under the doona, in my arms, with her head on my pillow.  I talked to her, and she talked back.  Not in English, obviously, that’s ridiculous.  It was in kind of a meow-lish.  She learnt to use our toilet.  Aside from her very flexible way of cleaning herself, we were pretty much equals.

My friends were predicting my future.  Fast forward 20 years and I’d be single and alone, having driven off my husband with too many cats in the cradle.  I’d be unkempt, unhinged, under inspection from the council, and keeping all my worldly possessions in a shopping trolley.

But then Coco went missing.  She just disappeared, and it would be safe to say I went hella crazy.  I searched for her for SIX months, visiting the same 3 cat shelters twice a week, until the volunteers there refused to see me anymore.  I letter dropped almost all the way to Sydney.  I even visited a psychic, who told me Coco was happy with another family now.

I hoped it was true.  I imagined Coco’s 6-month journey.  Lost and alone, she falls into the wrong crowd.  They show her the streets, get her hooked on catnip, she starts doing tricks (she’s great with a ball of yarn).  She’s feral and starving, till a charitable family take her in, teaching her to love again.

You call that unhinged.  I call it an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

One that had a sequel when last year our cat Kenny went missing.  This time, I searched for only a month.  I have a human baby now, and I’m not so mad as to get my priorities confused.

Unbelievably, though, there was a happy ending.  Five months after he disappeared, Kenny was returned.  He’d been living under a golf club house 40 minutes drive from our house for almost that whole time.  A kind persistent lady (crazy no doubt) finally managed to lure him out, and took him to the vet where his microchip led him back to us for a joyous reunion.

In response to both Kenny’s return, and the loss of Coco, I did what all sane people do.  Got a tattoo of a cat on my ankle.  It is a reminder that it is OK to love on your terms.  That loss shapes you, but miracles do happen too.  And that labels, even if appropriate, cannot define you.

Anyway, I hope you’ll still come to my dinner party.  That’s if you’re not allergic, and don’t mind dining with a cat at the head of the table.

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