Before we tackle a potential rebrand, let's look at what a cat lady is because it's not just someone who loves cats.
It has misogynistic roots
The original idea of a cat lady was just a more specific version of a spinster. In other words, it aimed to be an insult to a woman who didn't manage to get married by socially appropriate age and spend her time caring for a human family. Today, you're hopefully aware that insinuating a woman needs to be married to be valuable to society is a misogynistic notion. You probably don't hear the term "spinster" used very often, and that's good, but "cat lady" isn't any different. It references an older woman living alone with her collection of cats and usually includes the word "crazy," which is problematic for its reasons. But we'll leave that for another day. For now, understand that "cat lady" has historically conjured notions of loneliness, eccentricity, and societal shunning—ideas that are no less misogynistic than "spinster" for a woman who finds joy in caring for her cat family.
Oh wow, okay. It didn't seem that bad . . .
And that's why it's crucial to consider where words and phrases come from before using them! But there's some good news here, too. "Cat lady" doesn't sound offensive today because society's attitudes are changing in several areas. First, we're making slow progress toward eliminating sexist expectations of women and valuing their autonomy; second, focusing our attention and resources on furry family members as a priority has never been more popular, not just for singles. As the BBC reports, more American couples than ever opt not to have children and to treat pets as full-fledged family members instead, to say nothing of the many singles who do the same. The trend began with the millennial generation and has extended to Gen Z, but it's not just Americans favoring their fur babies: China is on the same path. So, really . . .
Has the rebrand already begun?
Correct! It may not have been an intentional effort, but the rebrand of the "cat lady" has already begun. For just about anyone age 40 and under, it's not much of an insult to point out that someone spends most of their time, money, or attention on cats today. And, with the appreciation of introverted personality traits gaining ground on social media channels, it's not uncommon to encounter memes praising people like Enya, who lives alone in a castle with her cats and professes a desire to be just like her one day. The world and its many varied personalities can be stressful. The thought of isolating in a peaceful home surrounded only by furry family members who always love you is more of a lottery-level dream than a societal threat. It may not be entirely accurate that many of us want that future, but we certainly don't hold anything against it anymore.
It's not just okay to be a cat lady today. Vogue says the cat lady aesthetic is fashionable now and describes the trend of "catification" as adapting our homes to suit our feline children better. Unsightly cat trees are a thing of the past for chic cat homes. An entire industry of upscale cat furniture now offers modern pieces that border on artwork and certainly factor into conscious home design choices today. Gone are the days of sticking a shaggy cat tower in the corner of a room to protect your furniture from Winston's stretching and scratching; luxury cat trees are the furniture now. And both our cats and our homes are better for it.
Whether or not "cat lady" will be rebranded in the future is as unknown as anything else yet to come, but it doesn't need a refresh right now. Thanks to some significant cultural shifts and awarenesses, it's just undergone a rebrand, and being a cat lady has never been more appealing. Still, it would be okay to retire the phrase entirely since it ignores significant pockets of the population who are equally cat-enthusiastic, and it doesn't have the most extraordinary origin story. Perhaps that's why you're more like to hear people referring to themselves as "cat mom" or "cat dad" today or even the gender-neutral and amusingly punny "pawrent."