New York City-based photographer BriAnne Wills had originally planned to focus her career on nude photos of women taken in the comfort of her homes — but after her first nude model got distracted during the shoot while playing with her pet cat, inspiration struck. Wills then decided to take her photography in a different, unique direction. Wills, who has two rescue cats along with her husband, now makes her living capturing the joy and excitement women naturally express when interacting with their feline friends. She hopes that her project, Girls and Their Cats, will open people’s eyes to the calming benefits of feline companionship — and combat the pervasive stigma of the so-called “crazy cat lady” that is commonly applied to single women who love pets.
“My partner and I adopted Henrietta from @barcshelter two and a half years ago. BARC is great because they have a separate “cat loft” area where the cats can play and lounge crate-free. As soon as we started walking towards the loft, we saw Henrietta’s little face peering up over the glass windows watching us. The plan was to sit down and hang out with a few of the cats and see which one naturally gravitated towards us. We didn’t have to wait long because as soon as my butt touched the ground, Henrietta was rubbing up against me and climbing into my lap. She stood her back legs on my knees and climbed her front paws all the way up my chest so that we were face-to-face and started purring. We had been in the shelter for about 45 seconds at that point and I already knew I wasn’t leaving without her. We learned that she had been at BARC for two weeks and had come from Coney Island. We suspect she lived some of her life on the street because she has a clipped ear. On the first night that we had her, we learned that she likes to raise her front legs straight over her head while she’s being pet, like she’s on a rollercoaster. We like to imagine her as a street cat sitting on the boardwalk watching people ride The Cyclone thinking, “that’ll be me one day.” Henri is truly my counterpart in cat form. I feel like I intrinsically understand her. We both require a lot of attention and physical affection. She sometimes will follow me from room to room in our apartment as I’m getting ready, slamming her little body into my legs at every stop. I will often pause what I’m doing to have an extended cuddle break with her. I’m the kind of person who is always running late, so having her around has only made that much worse. It doesn’t help that I will inevitably show up to where I’m going covered in her hair. She is half-white, and I wear mostly black, so people are able to pick up on the fact that I’m a cat lady as soon as I walk through the door.” @cameronsheedy @ragingbush . . #sheltercat #adoptdontshop #adopted #catlady #catlover #girlsandtheircats
“Working at an art gallery in the rapidly growing community of New Kensington, my life and schedule are all kinds of crazy. My cats PJ, Monkey, and Junebug have been my 12 legs of much needed serenity. PJ (2nd photo) came into my life as a wandering rescue. I was dealing with a long period of underemployment, and my friend Jeb happened to find her on his way home from a bar. They say black cats bring bad luck but I beg to differ. After adopting PJ, and because of her bitchy attitude, I’ve evolved into the working girl I am today. Her unabashed sassy-ness has taught me to be assertive and unapologetic for all that makes me neurotically me. She is named after one of my favorite musicians, PJ Harvey, as she is someone who feels things deeply and much so expresses it. Four years after PJ–much to PJ’s chagrin– in came Monkey (3rd photo) and Junebug or Bug for short (4th photo). There isn’t a mean bone in Monkey. Her name comes from the Japanese snow monkeys who bathe in hot springs. She’s incredibly pensive with her long bouts of staring. She’s also a total ham to my boyfriend Steve and his friends. I adopted Monkey from my mom’s friend, who had specifically reached out to me because I’m pretty much the only cat person in our toy-dogs-only Filipino community. Bug is the most affectionate and playful of the three. Her eyes are huge, much like a bug, hence her name. There’s nothing she wants more in life than to groom her sisters. Bug was found by Steve, under a pile of wood in front of the apartment when it was still a construction site, only weighing one pound and meowing so loudly! At the time, we only intended to foster Monkey and Bug until we could find them a home but thousands of lint rollers and destroyed pieces of furniture later, it’s been a full yet loving house since.” @lzrn #girlsandtheircats #adoptdontshop #philly #catlady
"My little best friend's name is Bean. I've lived in NY my whole life except for 1.5 years I spent in New Orleans. My boyfriend, Michael, and I lived in this cute little apartment in the French quarter that opened out into a garden. I've always been super into cats but never had one because I moved so much. While living in this apartment I claimed a little calico kitten stray as my own. I called her (who I thought was a he at the time) Mr.Kitten. I would feed her and let her in my apartment during the day and then back out at night. One day she came to my door and was pregnant! Then a good amount of time went by and I hadn't seen her at all. I got pretty upset about this, but my boyfriend tried to assure me that she was off having her kittens somewhere safe. I didn't buy it and would stress over it. A few weeks later, I found out some woman around the corner from us had the kittens. I flipped and immediately got in contact with her. I really believe she was an animal hoarder, but she would never allow me in her apartment. She said she had lots of dogs and cats and a rabbit already and couldn't keep the kittens. She was always going back and forth changing her mind by the hour telling me to help find homes for the kittens and other times she would insist on keeping all of them (which I wasn't going to let happen). Eventually I convinced her to give me the kittens and I made sure they all got their vaccinations and checkups. I found homes for them and kept little Bean for myself. I fell in love with him the minute I saw him. He was the cutest little bean of a cat with a huge personality. A few months later I moved back to NY, taking Bean with me. One brother is still in NOLA, one lives in Philly and another sadly passed away when he was taken in to get neutered. Bean has lived in 5 different apartments and had 4 different cat roommates in his 6 years in this world." @lundybites Christina Lundy is a hair stylist at a salon in the LES called Fringe #caturday #adopted #catlady #girlsandtheircats
According to recent research, owning a cat causes a multiplicity of positive effects in their owners. Not only do cats help people better deal with loneliness — which itself can cause a host of health problems and diseases — but just petting them and hearing them purr has been shown to reduce stress and even lower blood pressure, noticeably reducing cat owners’ risk of suffering heart attack or stroke. And if there were any doubt about the matter, a quick look at Wills’ Instagram — which is full to the brim of images of women happily engaging with their feline friends — should be a powerful reminder that nothing can quite put a smile on one’s face like cuddling with a cat.
Read the full story at ABC7 News.