There is no definition of ‘cat lady’ which specifies how many cats she must have to qualify. If the question was, “How many cats does it take to be a crazy cat lady?”, the answer would be: a lot! How much is a lot? I’d say more than a dozen. But it is up to each individual to decide.
There are millions of cat ladies who live with one cat and they are very content together, thank you very much. Please note too that the phrase is ‘cat lady’. The word lady indicates a refined, educated woman.
Crazy cat ladies not infrequently have large numbers of cats, perhaps over twenty and more. The lady is often involved in cat rescue or is a plain and simple cat hoarder with a mental health issue. And there are lots of women who pull cats from rescue organisation and foster them to help in cat rescue. These women are providing a service to the community and they enjoy it too.
Arguably, you need to be a bit crazy (in the nicest possible sense of the word) to own more than a dozen cats because it becomes damned expensive and bloody smelly unless you spend a lot of time making sure everything is clean and proper in a decent sized home with, ideally, safe outside access. That means each cat has their own cat litter, food bowls etc.. The expenses will be enormous. You’ll find ways to cut corners on expenditure. Even doing that each cat will cost $10,000 – $15,000 over her lifetime. Multiply that by 12 and you have a cost of $120k. That’s just the cats. And you’ll be for every wedded to the house. You’ll never go out and you can forget holidays. Only a few husbands would entertain the idea of living with a dozen or more cats so you’ll probably be a spinster too.
That said: Enya has 12 cats but she is super rich and can do it well. She is reclusive and spends a lot of time at home and has staff to help. I would not call her a cat lady; just a cat lover. It is not automatic that if a person has a dozen cats she is a cat lady. It’s about the personality of the person.
A final point I’d like to make is that there is nothing wrong with being a cat lady unless the cats are suffering through neglect. The phrase is often used in a derogatory manner. This is wrong. We should respect all people even if to us they might behave strangely or we disagree with what they do. As long as they don’t hurt anyone of disturb anyone it’s fine to be a cat lady. In fact often they do a lot of good, rescuing cats and being involved in activities such as feral cat colony management and TNR programs. Society needs cat ladies.
In defence of women, people don’t make up derogatory phrases for men who love cars and have three of them in the driveway. We don’t call them ‘crazy car gentlemen’. Well, we call them ‘petrolheads’ but this is not in criticism. Men have fads and addictions like some women have. I believe that ‘cat lady’ is slightly (or greatly) misogynistic. It is a term created and perpetuated by men, who, I suspect, are misogynists.