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girls and their cats

The must-follow Instagram debunking the crazy cat lady stereotype

@girlsandtheircats shows us how sweet life can be with our furry feline friends

Give me cats or give me death. That’s how the saying goes, right? Considering the mess the world is in, there is no purer joy to be found anywhere than that of women sharing love with their adoring feline friends. Now is clearly the right time to be appreciating the work of photographer BriAnne Wills, better known as @girlsandtheircats.

It’s pretty self-explanatory, but @girlsandtheircats brings you heartwarming stories of women being bossy in their lives and enjoying the best friend a woman can have – the furry love nugget that is a cat. Gone are the days of crazy cat ladies, or the idea that they’re a spinster’s company. Cats are the best, and someone who knows that better than most is Wills. We caught up with her to talk felines, feelings, and her wildly popular Instagram account. 

Tell us a bit about yourself?

BriAnne Wills: I’m a fashion and beauty photographer based in Brooklyn. After four years in China, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine, I moved to NYC in 2014 with my husband and two rescue cats from Kiev to pursue photography. Some of my clients include Teen Vogue, Nylon, Spin, ELLE, Refinery29, Milk Makeup, Shiseido, and The Coveteur.

Can you tell us more about your own cats?

BriAnne Wills: Liza is a brown tabby and Tuck is a tuxedo. My husband and I rescued them both from precarious situations in Ukraine. They now live a spoiled American life.

When did you get the idea for @girlsandtheircats? Why girls and cats?

BriAnne Wills: I wanted to start a photography project when I moved to New York as a way to meet people and work on my art. Originally I thought it would be a series of nudes, but when I was photographing the first nude model, her cat popped into frame and basically stole the spotlight. After seeing the images it occurred to me that cat ladies were not represented well in media, but here was this super cool, beautiful woman and her equally beautiful cat. I decided to change course with the project and focus on highlighting interesting cat ladies in the industry (fashion/art) and work to dismantle the crazy cat lady stereotype.

“Every cat is different and they all have their own quirky behaviors, likes, dislikes, routines and personalities. Just because you met one aloof and mysterious cat, does not mean all cats are that way” – BriAnne Wills 

What do you think it is about women and cats that created this stereotype of the cat lady?

BriAnne Wills: I can only speculate here, but I’d assume it’s our nurturing instincts. I personally love spoiling my cats and I consider them my furry children. That might look crazy to some. If it weren’t for small New York apartments and my practical husband, I’d probably try to bring more pets home with me. I just want to take care of all vulnerable beings.

How do you think this stereotype is wrong?

BriAnne Wills: For a couple of reasons. First, because mental illness is not a frivolous subject matter and crazy is not a term we should project on someone just because they love their cats... and cat-related art, and cat videos, etc.

Also, it discourages people from adopting for fear of being judged or teased. There are more than a million cats euthanised each year so if women (and men) are afraid to adopt because of negative stereotypes it definitely hurts cats in the long run. 

What do you think your project is doing to help dismantle the stereotypes of cat ladies and of cats being aloof, mysterious pets?

BriAnne Wills: I feature strong, independent, cool, stylish women. These women share their stories about how owning a cat (or cats) has changed their lives for the better and the portraits are beautiful representations of what it looks like to live with a cat.

Once you read the stories you have a deeper understanding of the cat/cat lady bond. Every cat is different and they all have their own quirky behaviours, likes, dislikes, routines and personalities. Just because you met one aloof and mysterious cat, does not mean all cats are that way.  

What’s the criteria for you to feature someone and their feline friend?

BriAnne Wills: I ask that anyone interested in participating send me their kitty story, a short bio and some photos of themselves and their cats. I want to get an idea about who they are and what their cat means to them. I’m looking for artists, writers, movers, shakers, cool, interesting cat ladies of all ages based in NYC.

What are some of your favourite posts?

BriAnne Wills: One of my favorite posts is of Alexandra and her two girls, Lois & Maxine. Not only is she one of my good friends now, but her cats are so sweet and their story is moving. They have cerebellar hypoplasia (wobbly cat syndrome), which was something I’d never heard of or seen in person. It was an adorable visit.

Has anything unexpected come from you running this account?

BriAnne Wills: Yes, so many unexpected things have happened. I’ve photographed more than 200 cat ladies and even formed friendships with several of them. Also, most of the photo work I am commissioned to do now is because of GATC. A lot of my clients are cat ladies or the series will be seen by a photo producer who then brings me on to shoot something like Cats and Cat Eyes for Teen Vogue.

Who do you love to follow on Instagram?

BriAnne Wills: Loki the Sphynx (@loki_the_sphynx) He’s such a grumpy looking guy.