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Cat ladies are sadder and scarier than you think
November 8, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

"What's the deal with cat ladies?" asks an article. Maybe you saw the TV show, which could be "the grossest footage" on TV. Gross indeed, but read the studies from the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, or watch the documentary, and maybe you'll want to visit the little old lady that lives down the street and see if she's OK.
posted by Cool Papa Bell (47 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
the little old lady that lives down the street and see if she's OK.

Trust me, she's not.
posted by Avenger at 2:04 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some cat ladies are just awesome animal-loving cat rescuers!
posted by so_gracefully at 2:06 PM on November 8, 2009


Grossest footage on TV? We'll see about that.


Hoarders 1x01 downloading...
posted by floam at 2:08 PM on November 8, 2009


Grossest footage on TV? We'll see about that.

I just watched it and yes, yes I do believe that is among the grossest things I've seen on television.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:12 PM on November 8, 2009


Thanks for this. I had no idea there were such sick and fucked up people out there.

I'm referring to the people that were able to bring a television show about mental illness right into the homes of the sick bastards that get off on ogling these people's particular brand of suffering. A fucking show about hoarders? Let me guess, so people can learn and understand why such people do what they do? Doubtful. It's point and laugh and the network and the producers know that's exactly what brings in the revenue. Yes, hoarding is disgusting and gross. You have no idea just how bad until you've actually lived it. Sometimes I get so sick of living in a society of gawkers.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 2:17 PM on November 8, 2009 [32 favorites]


Not interested in gross TV, but the study was illuminating. I know a Cat Lady who fits the "Attachment Model" explanation, from chaotic childhood to socially awkward adult.

She wasn't a Cat Lady when I knew her well. But you could see the potential.
posted by notyou at 2:22 PM on November 8, 2009


People say she's crazy just because she has a few dozen cats... But can anyone who loves animals that much really be crazy?
posted by MaritaCov at 2:23 PM on November 8, 2009


What's next, a reality show on mentally challenged sex offenders? Really, at what point does this stop? These type of shows are like porn, except much more morally suspect and considerably less arousing.
posted by dortmunder at 2:23 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thread is not complete without Cat Rackham and the Comforts of Life. Warning: utterly bizarre.
posted by teraflop at 2:25 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Crazy cat ladies thread is just not complete without this YouTube clip.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:28 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let me guess, so people can learn and understand why such people do what they do? Doubtful. It's point and laugh and the network and the producers know that's exactly what brings in the revenue.

The Boy With An Arse For a Face
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:39 PM on November 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


For all those railing against the show, yes people are profiting off this, but the people on the show are getting help with their problem for free. Help which they otherwise probably wouldn't have gotten and would probably have cost them quite a bit. So hey if these people are getting help I'd say thats a positive. In a perfect world there wouldn't be a TV show about it, but lets face it the world is far from perfect. I'd rather see these shows putting money into helping the mentally ill than giving a million dollars to some idiot who can eat the most bugs then manipulate and lie there way to being the last one stuck on an island.
posted by Sargas at 2:55 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


One of my relatives is what you might call a high-functioning cat lady. She makes a tiny living from doing clothing alterations and dress-making and combined with a pension that keeps her afloat, barely. I have no idea how her clients tolerate the smell, or how she keeps the cats from crapping/pissing all over the work. Personally I am pretty tolerant of other people's hygiene standards but I feel slightly skeeved out even having a cup of tea there, even though the boiling water ought to sterilise the mug.

She lives in a half-finished house, which has been that way for about 30 years, since her husband left her. After coming unstuck as a young woman with buying things on hire-purchase and layby, she refused to get a mortgage, and my understanding is that her husband tired of her insistence on being totally debt-free rather taking a mortgage so they could finish the damned house.

She is fiercely resentful of help. My dad gives her money from time to time, which she grudgingly accepts. We suspect it all goes on cat food, but the theory is that then she'll spare money for necessities for herself.

I don't know exactly how she ended up in this state. The articles linked here are interesting, but they don't really explain anything for me, or tell me how my cat-lady relative might be assisted to live a less stinky and maybe happier life.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:58 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


What's next, a reality show on mentally challenged sex offenders?

It's called "To Catch a Predator" and was actually quite popular. Even resulted in a suicide or two, I believe.
posted by Avenger at 2:58 PM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


Previously.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:59 PM on November 8, 2009


One could drag compulsive behavior into this I guess, but I strongly suspect that these ladies are like this basically because our culture values isolation and independence above community feeling and helping ones' neighbor.
posted by JHarris at 3:02 PM on November 8, 2009


She lives in a half-finished house, which has been that way for about 30 years, since her husband left her. After coming unstuck as a young woman with buying things on hire-purchase and layby, she refused to get a mortgage, and my understanding is that her husband tired of her insistence on being totally debt-free rather taking a mortgage so they could finish the damned house.

These people are all around us. They are not rare examples at all. They will continue on like this until something happens that makes their broken system of living just unworkable enough that they must change, or until they die.

What can be done for these poor souls?
posted by JHarris at 3:07 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]



The Boy With An Arse For a Face

This thread has one redeeming thing about it: The fact that I learned the two guys from Peep Show have a sketch show. I'll be over at YouTube if you need me.
posted by dortmunder at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2009


Previous related MeFi FPPs:
Ladies aren't the only ones crazy for cats.

You Always Hurt The Ones You Love.
Interesting resource -- The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium: Animal Hoarding -- What Caseworkers Need to Know.
posted by ericb at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2009


The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium

As per the FPP link.
posted by ericb at 3:16 PM on November 8, 2009


My sister-in-law is the Director of Photography for Hoarders. She loves working on the show, but it's really hard work. I've seen some pictures of her where, to be able to shoot in some of these people's homes, she had to wear waders (you know, like for fishing) and a surgical mask over her nose and mouth so that she could breathe.

The way that they are finding the subjects to profile on the show is principally people who are already seeking help for their problem. Hoarders brings in professionals to help them work through their problems. Like all reality TV, it is certainly voyeuristic, but it seems to me that they are actually trying to help these people. Pathological hoarding is a real problem, and they try to help people to work through it, as best as they can in the short time they are filming, and then connect them with help after they leave. Often the hoarders aren't really ready to change, though.

I've seen a few episodes, it's pretty compelling stuff, but really challenging to shoot, for obvious reasons.
posted by MythMaker at 3:49 PM on November 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


Maybe these folks have Toxoplasma gondii, which makes them want to be around cats.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:53 PM on November 8, 2009


I was just wondering when someone would mention the toxoplasmosis theory.
posted by justkevin at 3:58 PM on November 8, 2009


Hoarders on A&E actually seems pretty respectful; I don't think it's a cruel point-and-laugh kind of show from the few episodes I've seen. Can you give any examples, Cat Pie Hurts?

I'm pretty fascinated by compulsive hoarding because I understand and empathize strongly with the emotional attachment one can have to objects - it takes about six months for me to throw out cards from my parents, for instance - but my fear of hoarding results in me throwing out everything else immediately. I can walk away from (or discard) anything I don't need to live or work, and I am very grateful for it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:22 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately I think that a lot of the people on Hoarders need some hardcore meds and they seem not to be getting those. That makes me sad.
posted by kathrineg at 5:00 PM on November 8, 2009


The ending of the first article is pretty ominous: "Convicted hoarders will collect again!"

NO CAT IS SAFE.

Except for mine. She's under the table. Pretty safe. Actually, most cats are safe. I'd wager all indoor cats are safe, unless hoarding leads to cat theft.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:07 PM on November 8, 2009


A Habitual Hoarder Treatment House, I think, should be a single floor building on stilts, with a paved carport underneath (no garage walls). An open concept design, it would have no interior walls whatsoever; even the bathroom and bedroom walls would be retractable hanging drapes, with clothing shelves instead of a closet and stacked laundry machines right next to them.

The idea would be minimize the nooks and crannies where junk can accumulate out of sight and be forgotten.

It would have a large chute featured prominently in the center of the main living space leading down to the carport, through which garbage could be dropped into a conventional steel trash bin that would be picked up and emptied every few weeks by a conventional garbage truck.

Thoughts?
posted by CynicalKnight at 5:33 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that clever architecture gets to the heart of the issue.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 7:02 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Damn! That's a lot of cats to declaw.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:36 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


My mother remarried after my father died, and her new mother in law was a hoarder, though thankfully only one elderly dog was involved. My mom, being a get-things-done type, organized a total cleanout of the woman's home, plus new carpets, etc.

Took maybe 6 months for her to junk it up again, courtesy of eBay and shopping channels. My mother was so angry and disgusted--I wish I'd had some of this info to give her then.

My family tend to be anti-hoarders, we all like to move a lot and don't keep lots of stuff. To the point of sometimes regretting throwing out things that were valuable. But it seems a small price to pay after seeing these shows.
posted by emjaybee at 7:42 PM on November 8, 2009


I'm friends with a married couple; the husband's a hoarder (not a cat hoarder, but items, esp. food) whose inability to let go and compulsion to bring things into the house stems from an episode of serious poverty during his childhood. The older he's gotten, the worse his compulsion has gotten, and he can't see that it's destroying his marriage. Their five-year old daughter has never known what a clean house is; their soon-to-be-born son won't know either if the husband doesn't get help.


I've been doing a lot of reading about hoarding disorder in an effort to try to figure out some way to help him. (I didn't bother to suggest that the husband watch 'Hoarders'; he would insist he's not even close to that bad).

The books I linked to above have been illuminating. Hoarding disorder is an emerging diagnosis. The experts out there still can't quite agree on how to classify it--some aspects of hoarding seem to fit with OCD, others with depression, others seem to arise from PTSD, and still others are sort of just out there on their own. Therapies--pharmacological, CBT, etc.--seem to be hit or miss. What they do know for sure is that hoarders are notoriously hard to treat. Most of the time they can't even perceive the mess they've made and how it affect their lives and the lives of others. And simply cleaning out the house doesn't work if the hoarder hasn't come to grips with his addiction*--he'll just refill the house in a matter of weeks.

Anyway, I for one am relieved that hoarding is starting to get more public attention. My parents were near-hoarders, the neighbor lady next door growing up was an epic-level hoarder along the lines of the Collyer brothers, and the husband I mentioned is so adamant about keeping everything that he refuses to pay $13/month for garbage service. A common denominator of the hoarders I've know in my life is that they all thought that they were alone. And (except my parents, who eventually saw the light) they were. Mental illness can be very isolating, and they pushed away the very people who might have helped them.

By talking about hoarding illness and the options for help--even in a voyeuristic, will-this-get-us-ratings way--the show's producers are educating hoarders, their loved ones, and the general public. It shows them that they aren't alone, and that help is out there. It's not perfect, but it's step in the right direction.




*The husband's reaction to my recent gift of a year's garbage service was as agitated and hateful as that of a prescription drug abuser whose intervention I participated in. IANAPsychiatrist, but I don't think the word "addiction" is out of line to describe some hoarders.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:59 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


CynicalKnight:
Thoughts?


They'd make interior walls out of boxes of stuff.
posted by Decimask at 8:38 PM on November 8, 2009


Geez, this has me questioning my own sanity. I like tinkering with old hardware, but maybe it's time to come to grips with the fact that I'll never find a valid use for some of the computer components I've been hoarding since the late 90's.

My grandparent's old "Space Command" remote control I'm keeping thought. That's a classic.
posted by Loudmax at 9:10 PM on November 8, 2009


Sometimes I get so sick of living in a society of gawkers.

Interesting because I think hoarders tend to get crazy because society always looks away when people start to lose it.
posted by srboisvert at 5:25 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have three cats and a tendancy to collect things. I fight against the instinct to keep everything. I still have more than I need of various things, and I try my hardest to keep what I have clean and neat. Though I succeed in some areas better than others.

I cleaned like a fiend this weekend. Threw out a ton of stuff, including a stack of empty boxes I was keeping for...what I'm not sure. The place looks keen again, and I can find my floor.

I do not want to become a hoarder like this. Packrat, maybe; I will never be able to live a Spartan, stuff-free existance. But regular purges and cleaning sprees are a must if I'm to keep on top of things.

Three cats does not a crazy cat lady make. I hope.
posted by sandraregina at 6:25 AM on November 9, 2009


Metafilter: like porn, except much more morally suspect and considerably less arousing.
posted by shponglespore at 7:12 AM on November 9, 2009


There are more of these people than you know. Driving by our neighborhood, I saw about 4 garages open where junk was piled up to the ceiling. Made me feel better that at least our junk is scattered here and there on the garage floor. We aren't going to level 2 of a pile yet.
posted by stormpooper at 8:18 AM on November 9, 2009


i'm a packrat. my gf is a packrat.

i live in fear of ending up collyer-brother-like in hoarding. whenever i do a big burst of cleaning and clear off floor or counter space, it's like i can breathe easier in the house. but it doesn't stop me from cluttering it up again.

bah.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:14 AM on November 9, 2009


another previously - a short documentary about hoarding.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:16 AM on November 9, 2009


I guess we're all looking for love, somehow. My boss is a former psychologist who loves shows on hoaders...which begs the question of how sick psychologists must be.
posted by punktorah at 12:01 PM on November 9, 2009


This thread has one redeeming thing about it: The fact that I learned the two guys from Peep Show have a sketch show. I'll be over at YouTube if you need me.

You haven't watched Mitchell & Webb? Goodness. They also wrote the second season of Big Train, if that's also on your list of things you haven't seen for no good reason.
posted by Wataki at 12:22 PM on November 9, 2009


I guess we're all looking for love, somehow. My boss is a former psychologist who loves shows on hoaders...which begs the question of how sick psychologists must be.

Begging the question issue aside, why would a psychologist being interested in a show about mental illness be "sick"? It seems more like professional curiosity.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:24 PM on November 9, 2009


punktorah - its not looking for love, though. At least not for me, I can't speak for others. I have this idea that I need to keep things 'in case I need them'. Like those damn empty boxes. Like if I needed to pack something up, or have a gift box for someone (but the boxes are too big, or too small, or just cluttery). Or old clothes - I have a hard time getting rid of clothes. Because what if I need a ratty, torn pair of jeans for some kind of heavy labour (I live in an apartment. I don't need to paint or work in a garden or anything else like that...but 'what if'). What about that stack of paper thats only printed on one side - maybe I can use the other side for notes or printing personal stuff (but I hardly print anything at home any more, and all my notes are on the computer...)

There are also the 'sentimental' things, the knick knacks and gifts that I've been given, but it pales in comparison to the junk I keep 'just in case'. Plus my knick knacks are nicely dusted and have a place. Its all the other 'stuff'. What if I need it later? its like this recycle-reuse urge turned up to 11.

But I hardly ever do need it later, and if I do, its not like the world is running short of empty boxes. Not yet any way...
posted by sandraregina at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2009


Ech, punktorah was just spamming comments until he could self-link. Now I feel silly for responding.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:43 PM on November 9, 2009


Some crazy cat people are just plain awesome.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:52 PM on November 9, 2009


I'm just damn lazy, hate keeping my place tidy (you just have to do it again a little while later), and so have a massive clear out-periodically (you know, throwing away all the hundreds of old Nokia chargers, recycling the clothes I haven't worn in a couple years and the left-over gift wrap). I have two cats, too. But I don't think it counts.
posted by Lleyam at 11:30 AM on November 10, 2009


Well, I was just doing some extensive internet reading and research about hoarding and I dug out this thread and I can't believe I never commented here. Here is a good article on a good website that describes the current state of research and knowledge on this subject that I have been using to mine relevant information.
posted by fuq at 6:25 PM on November 20, 2009


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