How often have you heard the same tired myths and stereotypes about life with felines? They're nothing new: Remember those pesky Salem Witch trials, and decades of whispers about cats sucking the breath out of babies? Please. Cat people, unite. Let's flip these myths. Who needs to pin on a polite smile every time someone lectures that "Oh, you have two cats, you better be careful or you'll become a hoarder!"And the phrase "crazy cat lady" has become a part of the language -- prompting a board game and action figure with that theme. Just who's supposed to find these entertaining? Paging the marketing department: Your genius idea belongs in the litter box.
Right now is the time to tackle those cat people clichés. Shred them. Or have your cats do it. The myths say that cat people are...
10: Overwhelmingly female
Men who are owned by cats are always amused by this myth. Ask them, when they're in the vet's waiting room holding a carrier that contains a cranky tabby or two, or volunteering at a cat adoption day. If the men and their spouses share a home with a feline, what does that do to the myth? Like children, cats are a joint venture between both parties in a marriage or relationship. Population totals do give women an edge. More women are taking up space on the planet, including on corporate boards and even in Washington, D.C. So by the numbers, more women have cats. But the idea that men have dogs, women have cats belongs out to pasture with a herd of retired jackasses.
Is that in cat years? Even the government won't use this inflammatory word. Retirement age, or Social-Security-eligible are the euphemisms. And the forever-young lifestyle experts tell us age is just a number. That makes old a judgment call, something a cat itself never makes. Ask a high-school sophomore what old is, and she'll label a 30-something old (50 would be antique or prehistoric). To a 40-year-old, the magic number is closer to 99. If cat people are all old, they're pretty hip geezers, constantly uploading all those cute cat videos to YouTube and spending pension money on premium cat food. Maybe they're not old, just mature -- meaning responsible. Tell the preteen who's raising a pair of orphaned kittens that he's old. He'll be oh-so pleased.
The word creaks with the rust of ages, and is a vintage description of a never-married woman. This myth is a spin-off, so to speak, of the overwhelmingly-female-cat-people assumption. And it's one that sets all the married-with-cats people hissing sarcastically. Not to mention the single-and-loving-it people. What about the divorced cat people, who go to court over cat custody? The original definition of "spinster" was one who spins, as in, turning raw wool into pliable fiber. True spinsters of the 21st century include alpaca and llama farmers. They're so focused on their fuzzy-wuzzy fleece producers, they're hardly herding cats.
The cats themselves must have spread this myth, in hopes of keeping visitors from stopping by to swipe their toys or treats, or spiriting away their people for an evening of fun. Cats' only social engagements in the outside world tend to be visits to the vet, and what fun is that? Cats love their territorial home-sweet-home life, and want their human companions to do the same. But party on, cat people, you know you're dining out with friends, checking out the newest box office sensation and dancing under the stars. Anyone who doubts it needs to look a little closer: You're the one whose party clothes always include a telltale touch of cat hair.
6: Living in houses full of cat hair and catnip mice
Absolutely not true. Some of them live in apartments, condos, trailers, houseboats, RVs or lighthouses full of cat hair and catnip mice. Cats do shed, but don't let loose clouds of fur year-round, as dogs do. Ever see the home of an Old English sheepdog? You can't see it: That overlay of gray and white fur blurs everything. Vacuum cleaner companies aggressively promote their latest, greatest pet hair picker-uppers, and cat people lust for the deluxe professional version. Catnip mice have a finite lifespan because catnip loses its magic. Retired catnip mice are routinely replaced with fresh ones, as required by the cats. Any home full of catnip mice would soon be emptied by every cat in the county, coming by to seek even a stale catnip fix.
5: Babying their pets instead of having children
Oh, you mean like those who have dogs instead of children? Cats aren't the ones letting themselves be fawned over and photographed while accompanying celebrities to red carpet events. Just about all critters who share their homes with humans bask in the affection and attention of their people, some of whom speak baby-talk to them. If those people choose not to -- or physically cannot -- add a child to their family circle, every good citizen should alert the media! A crime of omission has been committed. Maybe child protective services can force a human child into those pet-centric homes -- and let him share a bed with a calico or rottweiler.
4: Not as Friendly or Nice as Dog People
Remember this the next time your friendly neighbor's Lab pees on your new shoes, or when the nice woman walking four yapping fur balls, all minus leashes, insists, "They're just playing" as they dig up the new tulip bulbs in your garden. This myth is reinforced by dogs' needing to be walked, forcing their people to see and be seen more often than a cat owner living in the same neighborhood. A dog's approval-seeking nature amps up that friendly vibe. Don't see a cat person? They must be snobby and mean, right? If cats are so independent, their people must be, too. Cat people can easily correct this misperception. Start walking imaginary dogs on fake leashes around the neighborhood, smiling and greeting everyone in your path. They'll soon know you're friendly, nice -- and crazy.
3: Animal Hoarders
A secret well-known among cat people: cats don't readily welcome newcomers, especially lots of newcomers. They prefer to keep their numbers exclusive. Most cats yearn to be the only cat, the better to enjoy unlimited pampering. A single resident cat may eventually, reluctantly, allow another feline to join the household. And two established cats will join forces against a third arrival, at least for awhile. Another secret: The cats come to us, not the other way around. But a potential animal hoarder faces an angry kitty chorus when trying to increase the population. Any additional cats must be temporary, or else a feline coup will ensue. Dogs, pack animals by nature, are more democratic, believing there's always room for one more. And more. And more.
2: Into Tea Cozies and the Color Pink
Tea cozies -- wide, insulated fiber sleeves placed over a teapot to keep the brew warm -- may be useful to cat people, but only if they have very tiny cats. A tea cozy, turned inside out and mashed flat, makes a fine, if petite, cat-napping mat. But how many could any cat person want, since a tea cozy does nothing for a cappuccino maker. Pink, the ultimate girly-girl hue, is not the shade of choice for most cat people -- if only because it clashes with most cat colors. Solid white or black cats may tolerate a blush of pink around the house, but their striped or spotted cousins demand shades that match or enhance their beauty. Such as carpet the color of hairballs. Please, don't think pink.
1: Fond of Knitting with Cats on Their Laps
On the social networking site Ravelry, a group called "There's Cat Hair in My Knitting" lists more than 3,400 members. They swap anecdotes, advice and photos of their knitting projects in progress -- often with a cat snuggling in the middle of it. Many cat people do enjoy crocheting and knitting -- although nothing can quite match the 1997 book "Knitting with Dog Hair." Some pursue hobbies that allow them to celebrate their cats. One admittedly cat-crazed Ohio yarn shop owner commissioned an entire line of yarn designed to match the colors of favorite cats. "Fabulous Felines Yarn" even features individual cat photos on its labels. With or without your cat's input, you can knit a tabby or tortoiseshell sweater to coordinate with her coat. (Some cat myths are actually hits.)
But most cat fanciers don't stop at merely knitting with their cats -- they're spreading that feline feelin', not to mention cat fur, via video. YouTube.com lists "about" 90,900 videos starring cats, and another 68,200 featuring kittens. For cats that want to take communication into their own paws, Sony's new "lifelogging" device attaches like a collar, and allows cats their own access to Twitter. No need for cat owners to tweet Tiffany's latest adorable antics, now she can do it herself! The device, complete with GPS, camera and acceleration sensors, deduces the cat's activities and posts a tweet of its own.