Today’s question comes from Shannon Sutcliffe of Mason Reese, Missouri. Shannon asks, “How many cats can you own before people think you’re crazy?”
Shannon, and I’m not sure whether you’re a man or a woman as I have known both a man and a woman to have that first name and not that it matters of course, but on second thought, perhaps it does, because when it comes to owning several cats, gender may play a role in the public perception of who’s a lover of animals and who should be strapped to a recliner during their waking hours and monitored through a closed circuit television system.
When I received your question, my immediate mental “word association” response to the words “crazy” and “cats” was “cat woman”. An instant later, and in a bit of a panic, I realized I meant “cat lady” because Cat Woman (played by Julie Newmar) is the one villain that I remember quite fondly from the television series “Batman,” and for a moment, I was afraid that your question was going to forever erase my vision of Ms. Newmar dressed in that — I don’t know what her costume was made of, I just remember wondering how she could breathe while wearing it — and replace her with an image of an elderly woman with a shock of white, gravity defying hair and the rheumy eyes of Zero Mostel, dressed in a tattered housecoat and gleefully sharing her bowl of cereal with a bakers dozen of mangy cats scrambling all over a formica kitchen table, while several more recline upon her shoulders and lap and one inadequately taxidermied specimen perches regally upon the top of her head, attached with bobby pins.
If you’ll indulge me a moment and as a precaution, allow me to back up or reboot the Cat Woman image that hopefully still resides in my Brain/Memories/Pre Adolescent Fantasy folder located somewhere in my cerebral cortex, the character was played by both Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar. While Eartha Kitt is nothing to sneeze at, I am firmly entrenched in the Julie Newmar camp. Since the age of seven, God, and let’s just say an other wordly connection, has always left a soft spot in my heart for the beautiful, evocative, leather, vinyl or Spandex laden Julie Newmar and while her character was indeed evil, she alone instilled in me, even to this very day, the need to show compassion and understanding for those who commit crimes and a willingness to forgive and personally reform people who make mistakes and break the law. And by people, I mean specifically, Julie Newmar. The rest of them get what they deserve.
So getting back to gender, we do hear about kookie cat ladies much more than kookie cat men. In fact, I can’t recall a single instance in which a man was categorized as being mentally unstable as a result of possessing multiple pets. Furthermore, I would expect that a man with 12 cats might be perceived to be a gentle spirit, a compassionate, empathetic man in touch with his feminine side. I would even go so far as to say that a man in possession of a dozen cats might experience an increase in the level of interest and attraction he receives from potential mates. Conversely, a woman with a dozen cats would most likely be shunned by all with the possible exception of her veterinarian, assuming her checks clear.
I believe there is a bias that exists in our society where women are judged more harshly than men in the cat department and while I would like to do what I can to right that wrong, to break through the glass ceiling of cat ownership, to either designate any man or woman who has 12 cats crazy as a loon or a guiding light for compassion toward one of God’s few self cleaning creatures, the truth is, I’m not a cat person. The only way you’d get me out of bed for a cat was if one of them broke into my house and was trying to get at my sea monkeys.
So while I am vehemently opposed to and gravely disappointed by these gender inequities, the best I can do is advise you based on where society stands today on the issue. If you are a man and you like cats but do not want to be considered crazy, you may safely own and care for three cats if residing in an apartment, six if living in a home and 27 if you live on a property of 3/4 of an acre or more. If you are a woman and you like cats but do not want to be considered crazy, you can own two but that’s the limit no matter where you live. Unless you’re married to a man. And you tell everybody their his.
© 2013 The Monkey Bellhop and John Hartnett