I may be a lady with cats — but there’s nothing wrong with my purrsonality.
It’s sweet vindication for cat owners everywhere: A new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal is putting an end to the offensive “crazy cat lady” stereotype.
“We found no evidence to support the ‘cat lady’ stereotype: cat-owners did not differ from others on self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety or their experiences in close relationships,” say UCLA researchers, who analyzed more than 500 pet owners. “Our findings, therefore, do not fit with the notion of cat-owners as more depressed, anxious or alone.”
This report supports a 2017 study by the University College London who also found no association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms, particularly those allegedly caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which many cats carry. While the infection can do harm to unborn children in rare cases, researchers confirmed that “there is no evidence that cats pose a risk to … mental health,” in children or adults.
Take me, for example: At 31 years old, I’ve lived with and cared for more than a dozen felines throughout my lifetime, along with a handful of pups — and even a couple gerbils. Meanwhile, I have a career, a fiancé and a credit score of 810 (thank you very much). My apartment is bright, tidy and doesn’t stink, so much so that you might not realize I live with two cats, Damien and Vincent. Well, that is, if you happen to catch me at a rare moment when I am not talking to them.
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But that’s not crazy, either, as studies show cats do respond to their owner’s voice.
So, why should cat lovers be suspect, anyway? Cats are, in essence, the ideal pet.
A “pet” is defined as “a domesticated animal kept for pleasure of companionship.” Yes, they can be very pleasing: affectionate, playful and so soft! But it’s the second distinction that makes the difference. For those who actually get cats — and indeed there are those who have no business keeping charge over them — we understand that our feline friends are companions in the truest sense of the word.
They are, in many ways, our animal equal. Cat owners are not impressed by doting dogs who wait on their masters with a Stockholm syndrome-like obedience. We value independent thought and action, their subtly unique personalities, and, above all, their self-sufficiency. We wish our cats to have freedom to roam as much as we want that for ourselves.
Sometimes the cat and owner do not bond as well as others. Most likely, the pair will simply allow each other space — rendering your cat, at worst, an intriguing fixture in your home, a fascinating link to the natural world. But they’re still low-key, low-maintenance, and may even help keep pests at bay.
Some critics argue that while a human can love cats, their cats don’t love them back — which is absurd. To this, I offer this photo evidence to the contrary:
Dear reader, does that look like the face of a cat being held against their will? Anyone who’s had a cat nuzzle their cheek, or kitten crawl up their chest to snuggle in their hair knows these signs of affection aren’t just ploys for pets. If a cat doesn’t reciprocate affections, I promise they’ll let you know.
The greater underlying truth revealed in this study, however, was not that cat people aren’t as coo-coo as we assumed — but that, perhaps, we’re all a little coo-coo.
“We found no differences between cat-owners and [non-owners] on any of the self-report measures of anxiety, depression or experiences in relationships,” the study concludes. “We suggest that our findings are, therefore, not consistent with a description of cat-owners as depressed, anxious or as having difficulty with human relationships.”