Roughly half of Americans buy into the "crazy cat lady" stereotype, generally believing cat owners to be single women surrounded by numerous balls of fur, according to a 2015 survey spotted by the Los Angeles Times. It's a long-standing idea, as evidenced by an 1872 editorial in the New York Times, claiming "lunatics ... frequently evince a remarkable fondness for cats" but "never ... any extravagant attachment to dogs." But it's just that—a stereotype, according to a new study out of UCLA, which backs up previous research, per CNN. Researchers examined more than 500 pet owners but "found no evidence to support the 'cat lady' stereotype," as "cat-owners did not differ from others on self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, or their experiences in close relationships."
In other words, the findings "do not fit with the notion of cat-owners as more depressed, anxious, or alone," per the study in the Royal Society Open Science journal. There's a link between mental illness and the cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can be passed to humans. However, a 2017 study determined people who grew up in a house with cats had no greater risk of mental illness than those who did not. This latest study also looked at how people reacted to a cat's meow and dog's whimpering in times of distress, finding pet owners to have "greater sensitivity." Meanwhile, My Modern Met highlights BriAnne Wills, who's photographed more than 300 women and their cats. "I wanted everyone else to see cat-owning women the way I see them, as unique, cool, and interesting women who love their cats," she tells the outlet. (Read more cats stories.)