For years, the “cat lady” pseudonym signified women of a certain age and disposition, in particular senior ladies who almost exclusively preferred the company of cats.
However, recent studies suggest that “cat ladies,” have been skewing younger in recent years, in part because, according to an ownership survey from the America Pet Products Association (APPA), millennials have eclipsed baby boomers as America’s largest pet-owning generation for the first time.
And not only do over half of these young pet lovers prefer cats, the majority consider these felines just as (if not more so) important than their friends, loyal like dogs, and important — even meme-worthy — talking points online. Moreover, the “me” generation sees shared attributes shared between themselves and their cats. Now 80 percent of millennial cat-owners consider their pets independent and social, just like they are. For the first time, it’s entirely possible to be a cat lady and possess some degree of a social life – even if that just means sharing cat-videos on social media. (To the first U.S. generation to grow up online, this counts as an entirely valid method of communication).
Theories abound as to why millennials remain obsessed with cats. Most hinge on the fact that this generation grew up amid an economic downturn and unstable job market, both of which demanded frequent moves and working odd hours. Animals provided comfort throughout the uncertainty, with cats, in particular, offering a special allure. Here was an animal that provided all the comfort and cuteness of pet ownership, albeit with a clean, low-maintenance nature attractive to owners as likely to be living in a cramped apartment as they are their parent’s basement.
Regardless, millennials everywhere are proudly reclaiming the cat lady label, because cat-ownership no longer indicates spinsterhood, but independence. Per a study by Nestle Purina, 3 out of 5 of the cat-owning millennials survey happily admitted to being a “cat lady” or “cat man.” Still more wore the epithet like a badge of honor. “I know that there is a stereotype,” author Marjorie Ingall, a cat-owner since age 23, told The New York Times in a 2014 story about the label’s shifting cultural resonance. “I own the stereotype, I subvert the stereotype. It’s reclaiming what used to be a slur.”
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