Women who own cats have long been associated with the concept of spinsterhood. In more recent decades, the concept of a cat lady has been associated with "romance-challenged (often career-oriented) women".
A cat lady may also be an animal hoarder who keeps large numbers of cats without having the ability to properly house or care for them. They may be ignorant about their situation.
Cat Ladies documentary
The 2009 documentary Cat Ladies tells the stories of four women whose lives have become dedicated to their cats. The film was directed by Christie Callan-Jones and produced by Chocolate Box Entertainment, originally for TVOntario. It was an official selection at the 2009 Hot Docs Festival, Silverdocs Festival, and San Francisco's DocFest.
Naftali Berrill, Ph.D., Director of the New York Center for Neuropsychology and Forensic Behavioral Science told AOL Health, "These may be people who have a very hard time expressing themselves to other people. They may find the human need for affection is met most easily through a relationship with a pet." This devotion can sometimes signal mental or emotional issues such as depression.
Recent research indicates a link between the parasite T. gondii, which sexually reproduces exclusively in cats, and numerous psychiatric conditions, including OCD. The compulsive hoarding of cats, a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), has long been associated with "crazy cat ladies". Mass media has drawn on this stereotype to coin the term Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome to refer to the association between T. gondii and psychiatric conditions.
Bertha Rand was Winnipeg's notorious Cat Lady, who for years battled her neighbours and city hall to save her dozens of cats. Even years after her death, she still holds a place in Canadian popular culture. Maureen Hunter's play The Queen of Queen Street is based on Rand's life.
A key scene in the movie A Clockwork Orange has the violent sociopath Alex DeLarge murdering a paranoid cat lady, for which he is convicted and sentenced to a prison term during which he undergoes behavioral training to become a vastly-different person.
In "Cats in the Cradle", an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a cat lady is revealed to have been murdered by a young girl, after the girl and her sister wanted a cat she possessed, which the lady was unwilling to part with as she considered it one of her children.