Cats have held a special place in our hearts for a long time. In fact, Archeologists have found a burial site of cat next to a human at the Neolithic site in Shillourokambos which shows that the oldest recorded human-cat relationship can be traced back 9500-9200 years ago. A sculpture of what looks like a human-cat hybrid too was found there. This is not surprising as cats have played the roles of beloved pets, and even goddesses. In ancient Egypt for example, the people worshipped Bastet a half feline and half woman creature.
Cats have undoubtedly been the favorite pets of humans for a long time and we still continue to follow the tradition of our forefathers. Sometimes though love turns into obsession. Women afflicted with this obsession are called “cat lady”
It is in today’s society, where while cats are still adored that being a cat lady is frowned upon and has negative connotations attached to it. In fact, Wikipedia defines a cat lady as “a cultural archetype or a stock character, often depicted as a single woman, a middle-aged or elderly spinster, who owns many pet cats.” Or, in lay man terms as a person who is alone, unloved, a reject of society who keeps many cats just to feel affection. This however, is far from truth. Falling in love with our cats is a perfectly normal human response! To understand the beauty of owning cats we will look at a woman from the past that has been rocking this stereotype and who has been immortalized in a painting.
My Wife’s Lovers:
The painting was made in 1891 by an Austrian artist Carl Kahler, for his wife, an American millionaires named Kate Birdsall Johnson and shows her love for her furry pets. Its title “My Wife’s Lovers” was conceived by the Kahler himself, perhaps referring to her status as a widow. The painting was commissioned in the year 1888 and took three years to paint as the artist, who had never painted a cat before, had to study the habits of the cats and their poses. He studied each cat and sketched each one to get a feel of their personality to ensure Kate’s satisfaction. The painting cost and extravagant amount of $5000 to be made, an amount whose value in today’s money is greater than $120,000. On November 3, 2015 it was sold at an auction at Sotheby’s for $826,000, a value far greater than its estimate $200,000-$300,000.
How crazy was the cat Lady?
It is important to note that the painting depicts a total of 42 cats! Which makes her eligible to be a cat lady. But, if one thinks that 42 cats are one too many, it is also important to note that Kate Johnson owned a total of 350 cats and the 42 depicted are only her most favorite ones. Still, there is more.
The cat in the center is named Sultan, a cat on whom she spent $3000 for a trip to Paris. Furthermore, Kate, in her will named $500,000 to her cats, for the use of their upkeep whose lifestyle included the services of a dedicated staff. Especially, given that they were either Persian or Angoras and required special attention.
What does it mean for cat lovers today?
Today Kate may be called a crazy cat lady for sure, but it doesn’t matter, after all today she is still remembered, and she imparts to us an important lesson. She shows us that loving your cats is normal and has been a practice clearly more than a hundred years old. She helps remove the crazy from the cat lady and proves without a doubt that being a cat lady is normal.