Documentary about crazy cat ladies

Cat Ladies is a one-hour long documentary about women who are living examples of the "crazy cat lady" stereotype. It was directed by Christie Callan-Jones, and just showed at the San Francisco documentary film festival, which ends tomorrow.


  1. It’s the taxoplasmosis, rewiring their brains so they more likely collect cats in filthy conditions that promote propagation of the parasite.

  2. I haven’t seen the whole documentary, but I believe many people who horde animals do it because they like to feel needed. They enjoy that these animals depend on them.

    What they don’t think about, or they rationalize away, is the harm its doing to their neighbors and to the local wildlife.

    Thank goodness they haven’t invented “Smellovision” yet, because I guarantee that everyone of their houses stinks, and stinks really badly.

  3. Also, would be people be less likely to get pets if they didn’t know there was someone who would end up taking them?

    Nobody wants to see animals suffer, but if there’s somebody who will take the cat, then they don’t have to feel responsible for the suffering.

  4. This will be a fascinating documentary.

    I think a lot of animal hoarders do have an overdeveloped sense of empathy, responsibility and guilt. If a cat is homeless, they feel personally responsible for its real or imagined suffering, anything that might happen to it. If they take the cat in, they feel, at least they know it’s safe with them and can control what happens to it, so they can avoid the guilt.

    mike_the_kid, maybe some would. But a lot of animal hoarders don’t trust anyone else to take care of animals. They seem to feel like it’s all their responsibility.

  5. These ladies seem to be under the impression that cats are incapable of surviving without human care. Sounds racist if you ask me.

  6. I saw this and found it to be really interesting… they did a good job of showing the different levels of cat ladies, from the not so nuts, to the over the deep end. Well done.

  7. The male equivalent of these woman are men who like having huge families. “Look at all the people who are dependant on me! I’m the king!”

  8. There are hoarders with serious mental or emotional problems that go way to far but not everyone with several pets is crazy. My husband and I have 12 cats. We never intended to have that many but while working near Death Valley at a Navy base we took in a stray cat. There is a HUGE feral cat population there because Navy base employees tend to leave their pets behind when they move. We turned the cat over to the only shelter in town and were told that if we left her there the babies would be aborted and she would be killed. We believe life is sacred whether it’s a kitten or a human baby and couldn’t allow that to happen. We made a huge effort to adopt them out but everyone in town already had several cats because of the overpopulation issue. Taking care of this many animals is difficult and expensive but when death is the alternative we’re willing to accept the responsibility. We aren’t rich so the cats aren’t pampered, they are however healthy, safe, well fed and living in a clean environment. Had we not taken her in the mother cat and her kittens would likely have died of starvation, heat exposure, been hit by a car or been eaten by a coyote. That’s not something we can live with and I don’t think that makes us crazy, just compassionate.

    1. To hell with coyotes. Let the bastards starve. :-)

      It’s the circle of life, and while I do like the idea of applying evolutionary pressure towards cuteness, it’s supposed to be “survival of the fittest”.

      How do you sleep at night knowing how many gazelles die in Africa every year because people are too lazy to save them from alligators?

      1. Yes, the cycle of life. Gazelle and alligators live in the wild, let the alligator eat the gazelle, that’s fine. Hell, I’d kill and eat gazelle myself, given the necessity and the opportunity — alligator too.

        But feral abandoned cats and dogs are another story: we kept them as pets, we owe them more than we owe untamed creatures.

        Saint-Exupery said something about “What you tame, you are responsible for.”

        To abandon our pets … it’s like pollution, but we’re dumping living things.

        I remember my mother saving dinner scraps in a brown paper bag for several days, then going out to the edge of town — 29 Palms, California, i.e. the edge of the desert — and throwing the bags out to the coyotes. Whatever else it was (and she was a rescuer, of people as well as animals), it was love.

    2. … while working near Death Valley at a Navy base … We believe life is sacred whether it’s a kitten or a human baby …

      All life is sacred, and you work for the military.

      Mah head dun gunna asplode.

  9. I also think it’s the Toxoplasmosis. Researchers are discovering a lot of strange things about this parasite, and cat hoarding behavior appears to be one of them.
    However, a majority of people carry toxoplasmosis, and why some people become crazy cat ladies and some not is very interesting. Someone commented about the lack of Crazy Cat Geltlemen, and as far as I understand, is that Toxoplasmosis has different effects on men and women.
    You can read all about TP at Carl Zimmer’s blog, the Loom.

  10. It’s a form of self-medication. Some stuff themselves, some gamble, some bungee jump, some collect cats. It’s all to scratch a neurotransmitter itch that isn’t being properly stimulated either due to the lifestyle or due to physical imbalances.

  11. There are people who really can’t see the difference between rescue (or simply having a lot of animals) and hoarding?

    If the animals are in good health, being properly fed and not living in filth, and the owner is obviously coping with them, then I don’t see it as hoarding.

    As to what the lady said about the crazy ones being the ones who neglect their animals, fucking WORD. I’d be much more suspicious of someone who did that, or even of someone who blithely doesn’t care when they see other people do that, than any of these cat ladies.

    And, no, I only have two cats myself and won’t be getting any more in the foreseeable future ;-)

    1. alisong76 – Word indeed. I definately have more time for people who are concerned about the welfare of animals and actually do something about it than those who neglect or abandon them.

      I certainly wouldn’t lump cat hoarders and rescuers into the same category – I know cat rescuers in the UK who fairly regularly rescue cats FROM hoarders who have too many cats to look after properly.

  12. My current cat was a stray, abandoned at my apartment complex by a family, apparently. great cat, been neutered, very friendly, a bit headstrong and determined to spend part of the day outside (I prefers ’em to be indoor critters). There is a very large population here. Well, not too long ago, I decided to leave some food outside for Peachy (my cat). This news apparently got around the local feral/stray population. Then, my girlfriend’s daughter fed them one night. Now, every night around 9pm, I have six or more cats crying at my door. Though I love cats, this is too much; climbing the stairs is a risk because they tread under foot. My neighbors are getting annoyed, and, of course, Peachy doesn’t want or like competition. The sad thing is, I know one of the cats and who abandoned it (shame on you), and really feel for them.
    There is a local program that has been spaying and neutering the local strays, and three from this group have the tips of their left ears clipped indicating that they are. They are pretty sweet cats, the three spayed females. Even if I had the space, I can only care for one cat. But it does break the heart.
    I do feed them from time to time, a good distance from the apartment; several of my neighbors do, too. I shouldn’t, we shouldn’t, I know. Trying to find homes for the three. Best I can do.

  13. This kind of behavior isn’t caused by Toxoplasmosis. Infecting humans is a dead end for Toxoplasmosis because cats don’t eat humans so the parasite can’t complete its life cycle. Natural selection has caused Toxoplasmosis to modify the behavior of infected mice so they’re more likely to be caught by cats. The parasite does modify human behavior as well, but this is a side effect, not something that was selected for.

  14. I saw this on CBC or TVO recently. Highly recommended, if only to see the breadth of “crazy.” Non-exploitive and sympathetic.

  15. I have to agree with the lady who says it is crazy to watch an animal suffer and die rather than help it.

    I have many cats and had more in the past. I would be happy to re home some but people want kittens and there are always a ton of kittens everywhere.

    My place is clean and stink free. My cats are free to roam, no cages….but then I do not have as many as the ladies in the film either.

    1. That’s why you don’t see many (any?) crazy cat men.

      I cared for a herd of about a dozen strays at my last house. My cousin is a cat lady. As in busted by the cops for having 42 cats in the house. I think that there’s a genetic predisposition.

  16. The key issue for these people who “want to take care of the cats” is to make sure that the ones you take in, you get spayed or neutered.

    Its the people that feed the cats and then let them roam around and populate that are truly causing harm by promoting the population to explode.

    As long as they can’t reproduce, I have no problem with “cat rescuers/hoarders”.

    A couple notes: yes I’m sure those houses reek like no other, and I think specist or some equivalent would be more apt than racist.

  17. The dark haired one was rather cute. And single she sez. If she can cut it back to a maximum of three (3) cats I’m interested.

  18. @tubesoda

    The parasite does modify human behavior as well, but this is a side effect, not something that was selected for.

    I think you need to go read your Origin of Species again.

    Evolution is all about side effects. In this case, the side effect causes human behavior which in turn produces conditions with lots of cats and filth to attract vermin. That’s what I would call an advantage, even if it is an indirect one.

    1. @gabrielm
      And I think you need to understand the difference between a trait that’s selected for and one that just happens to be a byproduct. When toxoplasmosis infects a human it is not able to pass its traits on to the next generation. It dies. Period. Therefore, any behavior modification it causes in the human host can not be the product of natural selection.

      1. @tubesoda:
        Just to play Darwin’s advocate here, the toxoplasma doesn’t NEED to survive after it infects the human to provide an evolutionary push as long as it creates a behavior that helps its genetic kin still dwelling in the cats.

  19. My obsessive/compulsive fear of toxoplasmosis keeps me from becoming a crazy cat lady. Well, that and the whole “lady” part, although I could change that, save for my obsessive/compulsive fear of surgery.

  20. Besides, it’s the dog people that you really have to watch out for. At least a cat can be taught to shit in a tray.

  21. Swedish scientists have now proved that one person, regardless of gender, living with six or more cats is a crazy cat lady. Two people may have, collectively, up to eight cats; at nine, they are both crazy cat ladies or, as they prefer to say in Maryland, “Crazies Cat Lady,” as in “Attorneys General.”

    There is no such thing as a “crazy dog lady” or “crazy dog guy,” with one exception. Anyone owning more than two SWUDs (Small White Ugly Dogs; chihuahuas, toy poodles, some kinds of terriers) is a “crazy rat-dog person.”

    1. @ andyhavens

      People say ‘Crazies Cat Lady’ in Maryland? Crazy is not the noun, it makes no sense!

      Is it too far to neuter every cat in the country (easier in mine, the UK) except for those owned by licensed breeders? I suppose you could end up with cats becoming expensive and possibly inbred, but that seems a better situation than the current one.

  22. The younger one said she had a sickness to look after things. So instead of having a husband or kids to look after she had 16 cats. Um…. you seem quite normal and even attractive, but with 16 cats you will wind up just looking after cats and there will be no family.

  23. Sigh. There is a huge difference between animal hoarders and SINGLE WOMEN WHO HAVE A CAT OR TWO, and yet the general definition for “crazy cat lady” now is any single woman with a cat. I’m single, have two cats, with no plans to get more. I do not consider them my “children”, nor a replacement for a husband or children (I’m still looking for the former). These women are hoarders. I mean, this idea that you somehow just happen upon stray cats in your everyday life? How many of you do? I know I don’t. So these women are seeking them out so they can “rescue” them. That’s hoarding.

    1. I mean, this idea that you somehow just happen upon stray cats in your everyday life? How many of you do?

      When I moved into my last house, there were half a dozen strays bivouacked in the back yard. In fact, most places that I’ve lived have had a resident stray.

  24. @2 mike_the_kid: Did you stop to consider that all what you wrote applies just as much (or more) to people who decide to have kids? You should be against both or none.

    @14 alisong76: so true!

  25. The most significant cause of feral cats are rural landowners. They let cats multiply freely because they take care of the vermin population. They aren’t pets, and they’re only halfway feral… they’re “barn cats”. So until we can finally get rid of rural landowners, the feral cat population isn’t going anywhere.

  26. Also, for all those “compassionate” people that want to save the semi-feral cats…

    Remember that life is a zero-sum game. When you save that cat, it has to eat. And cats aren’t vegetarians. They might eat cat food, but cat food is made from other animals.

    You might not see it happening, but by saving those cats, your sentencing some other animal to become “animal protein” that is then turned into dry cat food.

  27. Just to chime in and politely disagree with the argument that cats “can be taught to shit in a tray.” You should qualify that statement with a “most of the time.” Maybe I’m biased because I’m a dog person, but every cat owner I know has a story about the cat getting ill or just plain acting out and shitting/pissing all over their house. Not coincidentally, the only cat owners’ houses that don’t smell like cat waste are the ones who have all wood floors. Even ones who meticulously clean up the cat box. I know you cat owners are about to say “NUH UH! MYS HOUSE DOESN’T SMELL!” but it does. Cat owners are like smokers, they don’t even smell it anymore and can’t understand that non-cat owners can.

  28. As long as we’re opening that ugly “cats vs. dogs” debate I guess I’ll throw in my own biased dog-person view:

    Dogs have buddies. Cats have staff.

  29. Watching that woman open all those cans of food, all I can think is what a huge expense that is. When you hit the 12+ threshold preparing a raw diet for your pets becomes more than good health, it is now an economical decision as well.

    On that note, cat owners, save yourself money and buy pine animal bedding. You can get 40+ pounds for $5 USD and it is the same as the pelleted pine litter you pay $1+/pound for when packaged as cat litter. It will decompose quite rapidly as well.

  30. Yeah, that was what I was thinking, dunt that shizzit come in gallon cans?

    And anybody else out there think the young brunette and the way hot ass cat rescuer could, nay SHOULD, get together?

    The toxoplasmosis theory about cat lady behavior a result of the bacteria’s evolution is FREAKING GENIUS!!!

    Is there a term for how a parasite affects a higher level host organism’s behavior as a form of adaptation? Someone here MUST know.

  31. Brainspore’s right, contrary to my earlier posts, evolution does not need to be finite to get the job done. I think that fat guy I love who’s dead and has all those cameos on the Simpsons suggested as much in that really big book he wrote.

    Christ, and I passed on my genes?

  32. What is with all this nastiness you people exude when it comes to people feeding cats? Not to mention all these supposedly “intelligent” theories you concoct about why this is happening.

    I’m a cat loving gentleman. I have several cats, majority of them taken from around my home. I took them for several reasons – some were wounded (by troglodytes calling themselves “human”), others were sick. Others I simply liked and took them. Empathy is the major reason cat lovers shelter or feed cats. I suggest you get over it.

    1. I can speak for myself. I live in a duplex, and the other half as a lady with double digit cats. They’re a real nuisance. Quite often I can smell them inside my house. Every day, we get multiple piles of cat crap in our plants. They defecated on my porch some many times we had to replace the concrete to get rid of the smell. Every week there are multiple dead mice and dead birds that wind up on my porch.

      I see these cats as a health risk to my family at worst, and a nuisance and eye sore at best. The sad thing is, I always had a cat when I was growing up. At one point I liked cats, but I can never see myself owning one now.

    1. But there is no such thing as a vegetarian cat. They evolved as predators, evolved to eat meat. Trying to feed them a vegetarian diet will lead, at best, to the cats being malnourished and at worst to them dying. If you’re a veg (etarian or egan varieties) that’s just swell, but your cat isn’t. You can apply your own values to yourself or even your kid if you want, but don’t punish your animal cause you’re sqeamish.

  33. I admire people who care for their pets (or cats in this instance) and who look after them in the animal’s best interest.

    If someone has the time, space, money and love to care for 16 cats then I don’t see a problem. It seems as if most of the ladies do it out of concern for the cats and are fine with it. If you feel it has an impact on your mental or physical health then you should seek some help and talk to someone about it because there is help out there. You should still be able to live a fulfilling and balanced life (even with lots of cats). I can imagine it taking up a lot of your time but it is like any other job. I know people who are totally obsessed with their work and who are great at what they’re doing. It’s their call. I am grateful that there are people who care for these animals as so many people don’t.

    I have neighbors who let their cats go infested with fleas outside year around who aren’t being fed or treated properly who have become anemic and extremely underweight to the point that the shoulder blades, spine and back bones are sticking out, who have alopecia and it is clear that they are not being cared for properly. I have seen a lot of irresponsible owners and I think people generally seem to think that a pet is a wild animal and that it will survive year around outdoors on its own but they need to be fed and to have a shelter (warm place to live when they like to), they need flea treatments and checks, they can easily get frost bites and hypothermia like us so they do rely on owners to give them this. (It is your responsibility as an owner). I believe any person who has a caring nature would help if they see an animal in that condition. I admire people who do.

    As for stray animals, if they’re really underweight and can’t care for themselves then I don’t see the problem that someone would help them on their way to recovery like with any animal. These cats should be allowed to roam as normal outdoors though and they usually find it hard to settle as a house cat. As long as you have the cats’ best interest at heart, understands their nature then I can’t see it being harmful to the person who cares for them nor the cat/s.

  34. I thought the documentary was interesting and informative yet didn’t cover the whole story. It was one sided and misleading in many ways. Keep your eyes out for my follow up documentary. On Cat people vs. Hoarders. The history and psychology of animal rescue and responders. Covering issues of compassion in relation to cat rescue. We follow sixty wealthy, well educated, compassionate cat ladies on their journey. All of them provide super clean and healthy environments with multiple cats. Help with cat over population – by catch spay/neutering release – feeding and caring for stray and feral cats. All of these women are as beautiful, healthy, socially Responsible as the cats they care for. The stunning photos of these beautiful cat ladies – will make you re – consider the stereotype. 2012 film review.

  35. Yeah. Sigi and Diane (in the film) were mos’def ABDUCTING cats. That’s the turning point… when you sneak around with headlamps, food and cages, calling out to cats whilst peeping over property fences, and following trails in the snow.

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