May 9, 2021
Home » How the “Cat Lady” Aesthetic Became Cool

How the “Cat Lady” Aesthetic Became Cool

There’s long been a common misconception about cat enthusiasts, and women who like cats in particular. Perhaps an image of someone with 20 cats surrounded by litter and kibble lingers in your mind, and you’re not alone: Pop culture has enforced the idea of the “crazy cat lady,” with characters like the disheveled Eleanor Abernathy in The Simpsons and Robert De Niro’s unhinged, elderly cat lover on SNL.

But times have changed: In recent years there’s been a humanization of pets—and more of an acceptance of them as people’s “children.” Businesses have leaned into that idea as well. Thanks to a cohort of stylish companies and influencers ready to help you “catify” your life, being a cat person is not only cool but an entire aesthetic.

The idea of “catification”—or making changes to your home to suit you and your cat’s needs—has been precipitated by Hauspanther founder and cat style expert Kate Benjamin, who first became involved in the cat design space because she saw an untapped market in the pet category. But what started with a blog evolved into building a business around modern cat design, and turning it into a lifestyle. Benjamin wanted to not only get rid of the “crazy cat lady” trope, but do away with the idea that cat owners’ homes “must be covered in fur, and it’s gross, and you don’t care about how it looks.” It’s the opposite, Benjamin tells Vogue: “The modern cat person does care.”

Josh Feinkind, founder of modern cat furniture outpost The Refined Feline, has seen more of an awareness that “alternatives to ugly shag-carpeted cat trees do exist,” which he attributes to social media. “The combination of cats and visually appealing designs is ‘catnip’ to users of platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, which in turn, boost awareness further,” he says of the trend.

Jimmy Wu, co-founder of modern cat goods startup Cat Person, believes that what has helped normalize the feline fanatic’s aesthetic is making products for both the cat and their humans. In a survey Cat Person ran last year that quizzed consumers on cat products and furniture, Wu found that “people felt like they had to compromise within the category today,” meaning they couldn’t find a wide selection of cat furniture and they felt cat products were “underrepresented” in cat stores. “Over half of cat parents said they’ve bought products for their cat that are actually made for a small dog,” says Wu. That gap in the market, he believes, has also contributed to misconceptions about cats: “Cats have been largely ignored, so why they don’t have a great aesthetic today is [because] a lot of products and actually weren’t designed with cats in mind.”