Cat Ladies (2009) D: Christie Callan-Jones

Cat Ladies (2009)

Cat Ladies

Director Christie Callan-Jones’ 2009 documentary about the life of women who hoard cats played to an enthusiastic full house at this year’s Perth International Revelation Film Festival. It is at present being distributed solely through dedicated website

What you may anticipate is a chaotic peek into the squalor and insanity of matted-haired old crones living among the filth of a million cats, actually begins with a montage of fairly charming and often attractive women. This works well to immediately dispel any misconceptions viewers might have as to what your average ‘crazy cat lady’ is like. With the disarming opening out of the way, the film takes a closer look at four cat ladies and their day to day existence under the at times crushing weight of their obsession.

The film visits an elegant real estate agent with 16 cats who is looking for love and quips she’d be happy with ‘conjugal visits’; a one-time corporate high flyer who has quickly amassed 123 cats since forced retirement; a strangely gruff older woman who traps and ‘heals’ an untold number of the cats in her neighbourhood and a woman with only 3 cats who may be the most unstable of them all.

Life amongst the cats appears to be a foul-smelling, writhing sea of fur and claws with cats shown hiding  five deep inside drawers, climbing all over kitchen sinks and basically doing as they please throughout the entire house. The young real estate agent seems to have either the time or resources to keep her home in a semblance of order, but the gruff ‘healer’ has had her furniture condemned and removed by authorities. It takes credit cards and a Sysiphean effort to feed, clean and care for these cats. Even the most ardent animal rights advocate will struggle to figure out why these women choose to do it – and at any rate, the welfare of the cats in some cases appears actually to be suffering.

What seems to be the common thread among these feline-focused females is a childhood or adulthood of emotional and psychological struggle or abuse, The woman with just three cats for example, lived in the shadows of a high-achieving family to which she was adopted. While three cats may still be more than most, it is worth pointing out that her city, Toronto, allows ownership of up to six. She does, however seem quite lonely and deeply forlorn – even more so than our corporate high-flyer who lost the career that had meant everything to her.

Cat Ladies is a fascinating study of what drives people (mostly women) to amass vast colonies of stray cats despite the very swift and real way it destroys their financial and physical health. The main subjects of the documentary are all in somewhat different stages of accumulation, but all have a common element of unhinged obsession. What none of them have is a perfect fit for the stereotype of Cat Lady.

Entertainingly disturbing look at a rare inner-sanctum. 4 Stars


~ by mfnm on July 28, 2010.

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