We’ve all heard the “crazy cat lady” stereotype. You know the one. These women are often defined as “single” (oftentimes thought of as perpetually so) or “lonely” or “desperate.” The term, when applied to a woman with cats, means she’s got a clowder and they are her only company.
But au contraire. Not all women with cats (and I’d venture to say the majority) fit into that stereotype. Photographer BriAnne Wills aims to prove that in her Girls and Their Cats photo series on Instagram (@girlsandtheircats, naturally). So forget “crazy cat lady.” There are other terms that apply.
1. College Girl Cat Lady
Giacinta and Chairman Miao in Williamsburg for #girlsandtheircats @greycatwhite "One of the most difficult things about moving away for college was leaving my kitties behind. I was determined to get a cat of my own and finally, in 2007, the time was right. I went to the @ASPCA in Manhattan during an adoption event they were sponsoring. When I arrived, I realized the event was off site. They had taken many of the cats out of the shelter. Disappointed at first, I was shown the cats who were still there. Though they were all cute, none were right for me – until the last room. There were nine cats running around and playing and one sitting alone and with the biggest face I'd ever seen. I approached her and put out my hand. The first thing she did was give me a little kiss. That was exactly what my childhood cat had done when I first met her! I knew Mao was the one. I took her home and she's been my best friend ever since." All photos by BriAnne Wills #adoptdontshop #catlover #catmom #catsofinstagram #aspca #catlady
Giacinta and her kitty Chairman Miao are studying it up in New York.
2. Writer Cat Lady
Emily and Sullivan in Williamsburg for #girlsandtheircats @emmymarucci "Sully was born in north New Jersey, abandoned in a tiny well on a farm. He was 4 weeks old and I had to bottle feed him goats milk — now he's so huge — people are so shocked when they see him but I always think of him as a teeny lil spotted belly guy. Cats were always a constant in my life. My mom had a cat follow her home from a bar when she was young…she named the cat Gypsy and she lived for 20 years. My whole family has the word "gypsy" tattooed on us somewhere — she symbolized our family and how my parents always held us close but set us free — now all together our family has 4 cats. It would feel weird and unnatural not to have one around — it just makes sense to us. Where there's a home, there's a cat." Emily is a writer living in BK. All photos by BriAnne Wills #catlady #catlover #adoptdontshop #catsofinstagram #girls #tiger #interiors
Emily and Sullivan’s plot thickens.
3. Dog Person Cat Lady
Sarah with Lily and Phaedra in Bed-Stuy for #girlsandtheircats @staggerly "My boyfriend was pestering me about getting a cat after we got a place of our own. I grew up on a farm so I only knew cats as outside animals- defenders of the barn. I always saw myself as a "dog person". Boy, was I wrong. Two summers ago my boyfriend's coworker/friend Haley found a tiny baby kitten in Bushwick being chased by a bunch of drunk girls. Hayley fosters cats often and rescued Phaedra that night. The next day my boyfriend said he was getting me a kitten and it would be home when I get out of work. I thought he was kidding- but was enticed. Upon arriving home I found the tiniest black kitten sleeping in a hot pink lined guitar case. I fell in love immediately. Then the hell-bound kitten stage began. Since we lived in a studio, sleeping became difficult. Phaedra attacked our feet each night. She needed a friend. How serendipitous that Hayley found Lily stranded on a fire escape. Luckily a few neighbors let her in the yard which allowed for her to be rescued. Hayley took Lily ("Bubblegum" at the time) to Dr. Loos, the neighborhood vet, and got her set up for adoption. A week or so later my boyfriend showed me the post about "Bubblegum". We had to have her. "Lily of the Night" felt most suitable. She seemed so sad at first- grunting, and wouldn't let us pick her up. It took about four days for Lily and Phaedra to befriend each other. I clearly remember their first day spent together in the window. It's been about a year since- and I can say we've got the best of friends. <3" All photos by BriAnne Wills #catlady #catsofinstagram #adoptdontshop #catlover
Sarah had no intention of getting a cat, until her boyfriend brought home Phaedra.
4. Website Cofounder Cat Lady
Christene and Phoebe in Brooklyn Heights for #girlsandtheircats @christenebarberich (2/2) "They took us into a small visitor's room where they do potential pet-parent meet-and-greets. A few moments later, the door cracked open, and in popped this tiny, tiger-striped head—her bigs eyes were so wide and curious. She was so small but so elegant. She hopped in and I watched her look up at both of us, pensively, and then curl around Kevin's ankle. He scooped her up with one hand and just looked at me, like, "Let's get out of here." And that was it. We brought her home. She hid out in her furry little cat house that she'd lived in at the shelter, until she gradually got used to roaming the apartment and finding new spots to claim as her own. It's obvious she's deeply devoted to Kevin, likes to hide around corners and pounce on his feet and ankles. But with me, she's more soulful and sturdy. She sleeps between my legs and then, at some point during the night, she sneaks up alongside my chest and purrs until we both fall asleep again. I still don't have a baby of my own. But Phoebe reminded me of how good it feels to love something, to really care for it and need that simple love in return. To feel like destiny had intervened and she had found her rightful home, too. Phoebe taught me it wasn't all my fault that I couldn't have a baby, and helped me find the courage to write about what all that loss was like in an essay on the website I co-founded, @Refinery29. The constant love and presence of a soul like Phoebe, reminded me that life does go on. That through heartbreak and failure and so much regret, comes other kinds of love and nurturing that you're not always expecting, but that feeds you just the same. Very simply, Phoebe opened my heart again. And, she made me believe in myself, too, maybe in a way I never had before. " All photos by BriAnne Wills #therealpheebs #catlady #catsofinstagram #catlover #cats #christenebarberich #adoptdontshop
Christene not only cofounded Refinery29, she also has a cat she loves named Phoebe.
5. Mother Cat Lady
Valentina, Bianca and Emilia in Bushwick for #girlsandtheircats. @valenteeny_x "I adopted Emilia as a rescue in 2008 from a shelter in the East Village. She was very young and had already been neutered, which may explain why her belly hair never really grew back. She's been my companion since then- getting through life with me. In 2012 I got pregnant. I was on my own at the time and I decided to move back to Italy to be with family for a while. Emilia flew back with me and we became even more inseparable. She used to sleep on my pregnant belly and that's when she established her bond with my daughter Bianca. The night I went into labor she was sleeping in Bianca's crib for the first time. As if she new the baby was coming and she was keeping the bed warm for her. The three of us are my family. We weren't complete until we brought Emilia back with us to NYC. The bed is our nest- our quiet time together. Emilia is very patient with Bianca and they are getting better with each other every day. Bianca calls her "my sister". A cats energy is calming and reinvigorating for my body and soul. I am blessed to be the mom of these two." All photos by BriAnne Wills #caturday #cats #moms #catsofinstagram #adoptdontshop #bushwick #catmom #childhood
Valentina’s cat, Emilia, is very protective of her daughter, Bianca.
6. Afraid Of Cats Cat Lady
Hollie and Beetle in Williamsburg for #girlsandtheircats @black_beetle_nyc "I had a very serious fear of cats my entire life. Until one of my friend's cats changed my mind, and I became a full on cat lady. I made the decision to adopt one and spent countless hours trying to find my perfect kitten. I finally found "the one" and my sister and I drove 2.5 hours to a small town in Pennsylvania to get him. We pulled up to a dilapidated trailer in the woods and were greeted by a toothless woman who had her power shut off for not paying her bill. She was harboring sick animals that she said she "bred" herself. Against our better judgment we took a look at the perfect little kitten from the website who, as it turned out, was not the cat we saw sick and hiding in a cardboard box on the kitchen floor. She claimed that she was a certified breeder and that the kitten was bred from two "award winning show cats," who were nowhere to be found. I wanted to get out of there, but I looked at this kitten and knew he would die if I left him. After a few attempts and several scratches later, I picked up the feral kitten and I gave the woman her money and left. I called animal control and informed them of the situation. We immediately bought and applied flea medication and by the time we got home there was a ring of dead fleas next to him. He was also treated for ringworm, tapeworms and roundworms. He was extremely feral and wouldn't let anyone touch him. I was so upset with the whole situation, but I knew I had to take care of him. After a few weeks of treatment, he started to get stronger and he was eating and slowly I could start to pet him. I realized that I was the only mom he ever had, and I think he did too. From then on we were completely inseparable. He makes everyone fall in love with him the second they see him and he has the most amazing personality. He will be 7 in May. He is the most perfect and precious thing in the world to me, and he has made me so happy over the years. Beetle will always be my one and only." All photos by BriAnne Wills #catlady #catlover #cats #catsofinstagram #blackcats #beetle #book
Sometimes the best way to overcome your fears is to face them head on… which of course meant Hollie needed to get a cat.
7. Step Cat Lady
Amanda and Cat in East Williamsburg for #girlsandtheircats ???????????? "Cat was a package deal with my husband David. The first night I spent at David’s place Cat woke me up by chomping down on my hand. He’s still a total bite monster! No hand, toe, shoelace, houseplant, basket, book corner, etc is safe from his tiny teeth. Once he even ate (and barfed) a large chunk of a yoga mat. Oral fixation aside he has started mellowing out into a very sweet lap cat in his old age. It’s easy to forget how annoyingly destructive he is when he’s purring in your lap or cuddling up to you in bed. Sometimes he even “hugs” me when I pick him by putting one paw on each shoulder. Despite his predatory instincts he’s a real sweetheart." @diamonddustvintage All photos by BriAnne Wills #catlady #gingercat #orangecat #catmom #catsofinstagram #vintagestyle
Cat happened to be a package deal with Amanda’s husband. Despite Cat’s biting, Amanda never looked back.