In praise of the Crazy Cat Lady.

a cat lady in the making
A Cat Lady in the Making


Mention a multi cat household and the vision of the house-mother is usually that of a lady of certain age, boobs racing to catch up with the stockings already swirling around her ankles.

Of course this is an unfair generalisation as although animal lovers, generally, are rather more concerned about the health and well-being of their charges than they are about trends and fashion, I know many animal rescuers who still manage to be very glamorous indeed. Well, maybe not many, I but certainly know a few!

What is for sure is that some of history’s most influential women could also have been known as Crazy Cat Ladies.

Let’s start with the Bronte sisters. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne not only shared a love of writing, but also of cats. Wuthering Heights may be Emily Bronte’s most famed work, but she also penned the French essay “Le Chat” (“The Cat”),  in which she defends cats against those that argue our feline friends are selfish and cruel. In Le Chat, Emily drew attention to the similarity between the dispositions of cats and humans, arguing that the self-reliance of cats is infinitely preferable to the hypocrisy of humanity. Hear, hear!

Louisa May Alcott once listed an “inordinate love of cats” among her vices and felines frequently featured in her writings. Her most well-known book, Little Women, includes a eulogy in The Pickwick Portfolio, the newspaper created by the March sisters. “A Lament to Mrs. S.B. Pat Paw” was contributed by Jo March, writing as Augustus Snodgrass, the newspaper’s editor.

The preceding ladies were undoubtedly ardent cat lovers, acknowledging the special place their feline friends held in their lives, but Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, is perhaps the one most deserving of the “Cat Lady” badge of honour.

When she returned from the Crimean War, Florence was in very poor health. A virtual invalid she rarely left her home.  None the less, she went on to author countless papers, pamphlets and books with her family of exquisite Persian cats to help her. Often working with a cat “tied in a knot around her neck” while the others would wander around in typical feline fashion, knocking over vases of flowers and upsetting her ink, leaving “unseemly blurs” on her papers. These “blurs”, still in evidence today on many of her letters and drafts, are an indelible testament to the many cats that were her constant companions .

So Crazy Cat Ladies unite! Historically, it’s not such a bad group of women to be lumped with, is it?


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