The woman who operates Cat House on the Kings–the largest cat rescue in the world–has been reduced to a “crazy cat lady” in the media. Since Lynea Lattanzio founded the California refuge 19 years ago, The Cat House on the Kings has saved over 18,000 cats and 5,000 dogs and currently cares for more than 700 cats and kittens, a dozen or so dogs and a handful of goats. The Cat House is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, receives no government or public funding, and relies entirely on donations to carry out its mission.
The National Geographic channel is airing a special about Cat House called The Lady With 700 Cats, which makes it seem like Lattanzio is just some bat-shit old animal hoarder. Now, I haven’t seen the program so it’s possible she and her mission will be treated respectfully, viewers will become educated about homeless cats and responsible pet ownership, and Cat House will be flooded with support. I certainly hope that’s the case. But it’s disheartening that so much Cat House coverage is snarky and dismissive.
In the past year or so, my leisure-time focus has shifted a bit from blogging and hanging out in the feminist blogosphere to taking on more responsibility with the rescue where I volunteer and following animal welfare news. Caretaking, whether for people or animals, is primarily women’s work. The animal rescue community is easily 90 percent female, even though the “big names” are mostly male.
The “business” of rescuing and/or advocating for animals is undervalued. Animals are not valued. Especially cats!–which are coded feminine and thus, disdained. Squeeing at animal pictures on the Internet is OK, but people who devote themselves to animals or invite multiple animals into one’s home are deviant. This applies to people who have veg*n diets, people who want to protect wildlife and people who fight all manner of animal cruelty. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.
In conclusion, it’s a sexist shame that people are so eager to shove an amazing woman like Lattanzio into the dismissive “crazy cat lady” box. There’s nothing wrong with being a crazy cat lady anyway! All the best to her and the kitties.