Just because a woman has a cat, it doesn't mean she's a "crazy cat lady."
Photographer BriAnne Wills is looking to debunk this false image of women with cats—one photo at a time, with her ongoing project called "Girls and Their Cats" (GATC).
Since 2015, she has snapped portraits of women and their felines to showcase them in a positive way—as interesting ladies who love their cats. The initiative has been a hit; over the course of several years, she has photographed more than 300 women and their rescued, adopted and fostered kitties across the U.S.
Here are some of their beautiful stories.
Devin Caskie, Salsa & Queso. (Fosters: Lather, Rinse, Repeat)
"I first started fostering in June 2017. A friend who fosters dogs reached out to me because the rescue she was working with was going to be rescuing cats for the first time and they were in desperate need of fosters. I took two calico sisters and had them for a couple weeks until I eventually found them homes with my co-workers.
Not too long after that, my mother unexpectedly passed away. It was life-altering for me. I stopped eating, lost a lot of weight, stopped participating in things that I really enjoyed. I was a wreck, emotionally and physically. My therapist and I began talking about ways to get my life back on track and make my life feel meaningful again, and one of the things she suggested was volunteering with animals again since she knew how much joy and comfort they brought me.
So far, I have been the foster mom of 14 beautiful kittens. My current fosters are three tabby siblings named Lather, Rinse, and Repeat. It's so rewarding to see them grow up from little roly-poly balls covered in kitten food and dirt, into healthy, spunky young cats. And it's even more amazing when you get to see them grow and thrive in their new permanent homes. In my life, there have been few experiences as rewarding as fostering."
Sara Anderson & Loki
"Loki came into my life shortly after I moved to Syracuse, NY with my boyfriend Brent, who was working on completing a graduate program at the time. We are both from Minnesota and moved to New York together. I had always wanted a hairless cat but never thought it was a realistic possibility since the breed is so rare and can be wildly expensive. Brent, unfortunately, is also allergic to cats so I ruled out the idea of owning a cat for some time until I found myself feeling a little depressed from the move to Syracuse and decided I wanted a pet. I started researching hypoallergenic cat breeds and poring over Craigslist for any possible leads on pets. I searched for Bengal cats, Sphynx cats, anything I could find that could potentially coexist with allergies. I looked for about 3 months before I came across Loki's ad on craigslist and the rest is basically history. This cat has more personality and sass than any animal I have ever met. We are inseparable. We are best friends."
Nomi Leasure, Atticus & Scout
Atticus (see also: Fatticus; Fatty-Cakes) walked – literally – into my life spring of 2013. On the invitation of a can of tuna served on the front stoop, the bold little thing, just under a year I'd have guessed by weight and length, waltzed into my apartment, at the time shared with three other girls (all confessed "dog people") and, as can obviously be assumed, never left. Food, it would turn out, was something Atticus really, really enjoyed. Perhaps it was those formative months spent scrounging the unforgiving and un-bountiful city streets that instilled in him the dire desire to dine… In any case, he quickly became a sizable companion whom I lugged – lifting from the legs not the back – from city to city."
Bridgett Balliett, Petra & Maxine
"Petra came to be my cat through what always seemed to be divine intervention. She was found as a days-old kitten abandoned by her mother on my family's farm in 2014. I had actually been hoping and planning to get a dog, but when this tiny crying baby kitty needed a guardian, I decided to step up and take her to live with me in Brooklyn. I remember when I was bottle feeding her (she came to us with her eyes shut) I kept doing math around how long cats live like, "Wow, this little thing might end up being my buddy until I'm 40. I think this was half commitment phobia, half not wanting to admit to myself how fragile Petra was. So creating this future scenario was my way of pushing those anxieties away. Petra thrived and grew into a petite adult cat (I always attributed that to missing nutrients from her cat mom). She imprinted on me as her mother and became like the dog I'd always wanted (but… cooler)"
Hannah Kinser & Ozzy
"I'd always considered myself a "dog person' (and in fact have two—Pork and Sal), and the thought of being a cat-mom never crossed my mind. My boyfriend, however, had wanted to adopt one, as he'd lost his a few years back and thought it was the right moment for another. I was hesitant but played along as we visited shelters, but I'd always end up looking at dogs and trying to sway him towards another.
As the weeks passed and the idea of a cat fizzled, I was walking home and out of nowhere I spotted a free-roaming fur-ball on our block in the East Village. While strays are commonly seen in other neighborhoods, I'd yet to see one in ours and I was a bit surprised. Suddenly I started seeing this cat nearly every day just lounging around. Was it a sign? The next time I passed by she was sunbathing on the sidewalk and seemed pretty relaxed as I approached, so I went in for a belly rub. I wouldn't have thought a feral cat would let me do this, so I thought there was no way she was a stray. I looked around to see where she could be coming from, and found a small bowl of food tucked by the entrance to a real estate company. That's when I found out Ozzy's story"
Amy Mills & Walter
"My big 16-pound black kitty Walter found his way into my life when he was just 6 months old back in 2013. My bandmate Megan, who worked with rescue animals at the time, was on the subway and encountered a child with a cardboard box trying to get rid of a kitten. After she saw the tiny black ball of fur in the box she brought him back home with her until she could find him a forever home. He spent time there with her 3 other cats and a big lovely dog named Sarge. I stopped by to meet Walter and it was love at first sight! He was so small, but had such a mischievous personality and looked like a little vampire. He also did the strangest trick (which he still does now today): if you hold him on his back and rub his hips and his shoulders, he'll stretch out his legs all the way and let you rub his belly"