My landlord came by today to sign my lease renewal. Within 30 seconds of sitting down at the desk he had a pushy feline attention whore rubbing his hand while he tried to write. I kept putting my cat on the floor, but he was determined to make everyone drop what they were doing and pay attention to him.

This is why I love cats. They are wonderfully selfish and clear about their needs and wants in a way that humans, constrained by the social contract, are unable to be. Unlike any other relationship in your life you’re never confused about what a cat wants. If they are hungry, they meow. If they need affection, they demand it, and once they are done getting affection they let you know it’s time to stop. If they are bored, they find something to do.

Cats combine equal parts domestication and self-sufficiency, especially if they are indoor cats. They are dependent on you, but they seem to resent it. They know you provide the food and comfort, and in order to maintain their egos they act as if they don’t really need you. In fact, outside of food and the litter box, even the neediest cats are low maintenance enough for the busiest of people. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to wind up with 20 cats and not even realize it.

Enter the “cat lady.” It’s a term that carries all kinds of negative visions – most of them undeserved. People hear “cat lady” and think of a sad, overweight single woman with her dozens of cats, sitting in her house which reeks of cat urine and tuna, puttering about talking to Boswell and Boots as if they were the children she never had. While the stereotypical cat lady does exist, there is also the cat lady – or gentleman – who just has a cat and really loves that cat. And for some reason a lot people seem to still view them as sad, lonely people dependant on a cat for love, because they have nothing else.

As a self-proclaimed cat lady I resent the image of a cat lover as an eccentric trying to fill a void of some sort. Okay, maybe we are filling a void. But what’s wrong with that? Some people have casual sex, some go shopping. Some eat, others drink, do drugs, get addicted to TV shows, do yoga or find religion. We all fill whatever void we have in the way that works for us.  I say do what works, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone.

So what’s the deal with making cat ownership into such a stigma?

I say it is time for cat ladies (and gentlemen) to come out of the shadows. Be proud of doting on your spoiled cat. You do without food so Whitman can have the expensive awesome cat food. You brush them, or get them groomed. You buy the best litter around (I cannot recommend Fresh Step enough for apartment living – it costs a bit more but you will never smell their business.) Why would such care and money be less pathetic if it were a dog or child? Ridiculous! I am done being ashamed of being a cat lady.

I love my cats. I also love my dog. I love them as a part of my little single girl family, so much so that I drove them in a U-Haul to Brooklyn with me in the face of some people saying “drop them off at the pound and get new pets when you get there”. (This is not the place to say what I think about the people who said THAT to me.) Being a cat lady doesn’t define me – but being able to love a living being adds to the definition of who I am as a whole. Isn’t that what you should get out of a relationship? Even a relationship with “just” a pet.