Does Owning a Cat Make You Sexier?

In 2003, researchers at Charles University in Prague conducted a study funded by the Stanley Research Medical Institute in Bethesda, MD, which showed that domestic cats infected with the toxoplasma gondii parasite - the same parasite that's the reason pregnant women are advised to stay away from the kitty litter box - can actually alter the personalities of their human owners.

Women exposed to the parasite experienced a desirable attitude adjustment. According to the study, infected women were shown to be more easygoing and warm-hearted, with more close friendships. Plus, they cared more about how they looked. "However," adds Dr. Jaroslav Flegr, who conducted the study, "they were also less trustworthy and had more relationships with men."

That last judgmental bit aside, this is music to the ears of anyone who's been called a "Cat Lady," whether in jest or in earnest. It's high time to banish all thoughts of a very old stereotype: That of a slovenly, unkempt woman wearing, say, sandals-with-socks and a bath robe. This tired stereotype simply isn't true.

Michelle Pfeiffer or Halle Berry in a cat suit? Now you're talking! And while you're at it, kindly refer to your neighborhood cat ladies as "Cat Powers."

But we digress. Toxoplasm or not, something about the feline species brings out our inner sex kitten - whether we're male or female.

"Going back thousands of years, the feline archetype is associated with feminine power, strength, and sensuality," says Laurie Nadel, Ph.D., a Manhattan-based psychotherapist, who lives with her beloved cat.

"Cats' emotional independence gives them an aura of mystery. You can never really domesticate a cat. Its essence is of the wild. Their movements are sleek and graceful. Audrey Hepburn once told me that she liked to model how her cat stretched in the morning!"

Clea Simon, author of The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats, believes that cats can positively impact people's personalities - but that this has nothing to do with a parasite.

"In some ways cats can and do teach women to be more independent and more desirable," she said. "And maybe cats' independence also teaches men to think for themselves, to become more free-spirited." Then there's the feline aura of mystery, a phenomenon so profound that it inspired Simon to pen not just The Feline Mystique but several kitty-themed mystery novels: Probable Claws, Cries and Whiskers, Mew is for Murder, and "Cattery Row.* Call her Agatha Kitty!

Dr. Gilda Carle, psychotherapist and author of 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity, is cat-less herself, but has profound appreciation for the feline mystique:

"Watch the grace with which a cat stretches...Ohhh, ahhh, what man wouldn't want to stroke a stretching woman's lanky body in a cat pose--and hear her purr? A woman who is willing to openly display the muscles of her torso with such precision and grace is confident and proud of what she has. She walks gingerly, she purrs when touched, and she spontaneously quickens or slows her pace as she pleases, keeping her suitors off-guard. A cat's whiskers also get in on her sexy come-on. When a woman extends her eyelashes, they act like whiskers that move and flutter in sensuous syncopation. Not only will a man's desire hit the scorching level, but he will also not be interested in 'catting around' with all the heat he's already receiving."

Feline empowerment doesn't discriminate by gender, Carle adds:

"Guys who keep cats as pets are in step with their sexiness, too. Women love men who can boast their feminine side without apology. Personally, I say gimme a guy who may seem to be 'macho' on the outside, but who is also confident enough to show that he's sensuous, sensitive, and gracefully vulnerable. This guy will get the gold key to my own pet-obsession any time!"

The noted psychic Frank Andrews once told me, "Dogs are emotion, cats are the mind." Frank is never wrong, but he's especially right on this point. Living with cats helps us mere humans to approach challenges from a cerebral angle - and that approach makes for world-class lovers who may be counted on to come up with creative ways to, well, blow their partners' mind.

Don't believe me? Find a cat lover and seduce him or her - or rather, let them seduce you!

About the Author: Julia Szabo writes the Living With Dogs column for Dogster and shares her home with four very sexy felines.