Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

The Myth of the Crazy Cat Lady April 11, 2010

Filed under: The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes,Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 12:01 am

I like to tease my nieces and nephews by telling them that if they’re not nice to me, I’m going to leave my (u-hum) millions to a home for cats. But how far from reality is the stereotype of the childless woman filling her home with feline companions? Do we women really need some small helpless creature to nurture in order to satisfy our natural instincts? I’ve been told by more than one person that instead of having children I should just get a dog instead, and during my time cruising the infertility websites, I came across countless references to fur-babies, the pets we childless women supposedly use to substitute for our offspring.

I have a cat. There, I admit it, but I have a cat because I love cats and I never had a cat growing up, so as soon I had a stable place of my own, I adopted a kitten and I’ve always had one since. Do I treat my cat as a substitute for a child? Of course not; I would never let a child get away with the things my cat does. Carve up my new couch? Climb up on the table during dinner? Throw up on the carpet without making some effort to get to the bathroom? All these actions from a child would deserve some kind of response, ranging from a stiff talking to, to being grounded for a week. But punishing a cat is cruel and pointless. She’s a cat; she’d put back her ears, give me a dirty look, then just go and do it again. But do I talk to her? Do I hold her like a baby? Do I blow raspberries on her stomach? Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean she’s a substitute for a child.

So, do we need to fulfill some in-built need to nurture? Can the need be satisfied with a relationship with an animal? Does nurturing a career or our creativity or a dream suffice? What do you think? Let us know.


4 Responses to “The Myth of the Crazy Cat Lady”

  1. Therese Says:

    It depends on who you are. I used to have a cat, but my husband is allergic so we had to give her to my folks. We will be getting a dog when we move. I have had pets because I like animals. But I do not like kids, therefore I don’t have any in my house. Also, I live in Chicago, which is a very dog friendly city. I have heard from dog owners that having a dog is an easy way to make new friends and since I have recently relocated to a city where I don’t really know anyone, that would be an added bonus.

    If a person gets a pet to substitute for a child, they have a problem. But it never ceases to amaze me that there are so many people who don’t like children, but have them anyway because it’s “what you do” or the “next step”. And they end up wanting to do anything but spend time with them. You rarely meet a dog-owner that tries so hard to opt out of the responsibilities involved with having a dog. Think about it.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Therese, great point, although I do think that dog owners (and cat owners) run the gamut from the irresponsible to fanatical, just like parents. I do agree though that most pet owners make a conscious decision to get a dog or cat, whereas many parents never really make the choice, it just happens. Hope your cat is happy in her new home.

  2. Aimee Says:

    I have three cats but I definitely don’t treat them like children. If anything they are more like grown, adult roommates. I do talk to them but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. I have them because they’re good, low-maintenance company and I love catitude.

    If I wanted something to strap to my chest or push around in a stroller I guess a kid would be a good choice. A cat is a good choice when you have a break from what you’re doing and feel like petting something or tossing the milk ring around, then when you’re sick of it you can quit. They are great companions but they don’t like being on my lap or anything. They do their things and I do mine. We have a great pet/human and human/pet relationship.

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