The kittens were three weeks old, rescued from the attic of a questionable drunk. Spencer and Sylvia. Bottle feedings, stimulation poops, and the incessant babble of baby-talk were my new temporary life after they joined my household. I invited over a friend to meet the tiny kittens and to provide me with a much needed break, intelligent conversation, and a moment away from the mountains of laundry Spencer and Sylvia had generated.

This was the plan until my friend saw the kittens. She held them, let them climb her, cooed over them and then laughed. “Don’t ever tell a man how many cats you have,” she warned me. I have six.

Do I have so many cats that their existence should not be mentioned in mixed company? Apparently, I am partaking in a shameful lifestyle. Looking up “Crazy Cat Lady” on, the oracle of socio-cultural knowledge, you won’t find any positive reflections on the traits of my sister cat-lovers. A crazy cat lady is, by definition, a woman (possibly elderly, always single) with five or more cats who lives in a foul-smelling home, and who must fill the “empty lonely void in her life” with multiple cats, because men have done her wrong. A Wikipedia search pulls up much the same information and adds to the denigration of cat ladies with a bold link at the bottom of the page — see: spinster.

At this point I must ask myself how many of those criteria I fit into. Do I need to meet a certain requirement, much like the DSM-V, and would meeting three out of four condemn me to suffer from crazy cat lady syndrome? As I said, I have six cats; one more than the requirement states, yet one less than municipal code allows for. For the purposes of this exercise, we will follow the law of Urban Dictionary and I will concede this point.

As for the state of my empty, void-filled life, my home and its odor, or having been wronged by menfolk, I must argue. After a brief soul-search, I can truthfully state that I do not have a gaping void in my supposedly sad and pathetic life. Many small voids exist – goals yet to be reached – but nothing that would cause me to apply to be on Hoarders. I go to great lengths to keep my home from being described as “cat scented.” But the crux of Urban Dictionary’s definition: Am I a spinster with six cats solely because men have treated me poorly?

There are many facets to this heteronormative argument. If we are still living by Jane Austen rules, yes, I am a spinster, but am I such because of the treatment of the opposite sex? I am ashamed to say that even today, finding a mate – settling down – is still vitally important to the collective well-being. People should be lined up in neat little pairs with their 2.5 children, 1 cat and 1 dog, and midsize SUV. Deviation is perversion, and I have deviated by existing singly with my six cats.

Tackling the reasons for a solitary life, I can only say that it is not because I hate men and feel wronged by them. I choose to focus on my education and my career, not marriage and the necessary bouncing bundles of joy. While many women successfully juggle both a career and a family, I am not as well-equipped to multitask.

On paper, I don’t appear to suffer from this ghastly syndrome: the dreaded crazy cat lady. What I am is dedicated to my cats and their well-being. I love them as if they were my children (because they are my children). I take pride in raising a beautiful family and gain comfort and strength from them. Why should such compassionate traits be viewed negatively?

Cat ladies need to embrace their feline affections and no longer feel ashamed. We must wake up to the fact that being a crazy cat lady is admirable, not a social stigma. I propose taking the misnomer back, reworking it, embracing it. We are crazy – crazy awesome. We are enthusiastic and we love cats. We are the new face of crazy cat ladies and my hope is to be their poster child. I will wear my cat-eyed glasses with pride and raise my fist in defiance (but only for a second, because I need my hand to submit new definitions to Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia).

It is with this new found confidence in my chosen subculture that I proudly announced to my stylist, as I stared at my damp hair between her fingers, “After I graduate, I want to move to New York with my six cats.”

She laughed so hard she had to stop cutting my split ends. “Good luck finding a man,” she said.

Stephanie is an undergrad in the Tampa Bay area. She has an unhealthy reliance on’80s music, spontaneous dance parties and hummus. When not wrangling her cats, she can be found locked in her office working and listening to the cure.

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