My allergies to cats were threatening to flare up just watching Cat Ladies, a verite documentary by Christie Callan-Jones following four women who fall under the stereotype of being single women with cats. Although I’m not a fan of cats, I was intrigued by what makes someone a cat lady. The film goes into the reasoning, by pulling back the layers on these women to unveil deeper issues about loneliness, family issues and hoarding.
Things start simple enough, with the introduction of Margot, a woman with three cats. Owning three cats seems reasonable, but Cat Ladies demonstrates that it doesn’t matter how many felines live in your home, you can still be a “cat lady.” For instance, Margot confesses to once having a dream where she was breastfeeding her cats.
Things begin to escalate with the introduction of Jenny, who lives alone with her 16 cats. Both Margot and Jenny share the same kind of relationship with their felines. They love their cats probably more than they love people, which is clearly a problem when the cats are masking the lack of social interactions and romances. The director explores the family experiences both women had growing up, creating a connection between unhappy childhoods and cats filling a companionship role. “The cats were always there,” Jenny reflects. Similarly, Margot says that cats loved her and accepted her for who she was. If cats are there for a lonely kid, then a line is drawn to cats being the go-to support in adulthood.
On the other end of the spectrum are cat rescuers Diane and Sigi. Diane has a packed house of 123 cats. She sleeps only three hours a night because of a heavy schedule of cat maintenance, which includes an awful lot of cleaning out cat litter. No cat number is given for Sigi, but her feline tally must be in the hundreds. Despite the fact that Sigi’s house is overrun with cats, she sees no problem with the repercussions, which include the Humane Society making her remove her bed because it’s a source of contamination. She now sleeps on a lounge chair.
While Diane has come to accept that her cat tally has gotten out of control, Sigi is unapologetic about the good she believes she is doing, calling herself the Mother Teresa of cats.
Cat Ladies gave me insight into what is usually the subject of a bad joke, or a nightmare scenario to single women. Christie Callan-Jones gives a sympathetic look at women who wanted to become less lonely and unintentionally alienated themselves even more so with their multiple pets.