So, this really happened: A cat was thrown out of his home because he’s gay.
Or at least, that’s what seven-year-old Bull’s owner, a woman living in a village in Nigeria, says. She alleges that he engaged in "unnatural sexual behavior" like mounting other male cats and not mating with female cats.
But lest you think that this sort of foolishness only happens in small African villages, last year some troglodyte in Tennessee surrendered his dog to a shelter to be put down because he suspected the poor thing of being gay. (The dog was rescued at the last minute and now has a loving forever home, by the way.)
All right, I don’t understand why people would get so freaked out about animals engaging in same-sex "mating" activities in the first place. This kind of behavior is found throughout the animal kingdom, and in order to have an idea whether it’s sexual or is motivated by other things, the behavior needs to be taken in context.
I think we’ve all seen male cats mount other male cats. In intact cats, this is usually about dominance: The mounter is proving that he’s more badass than the mounted. But female cats and even neutered cats can mount others when they’re stressed to the point that they have to prove something to their feline housemates.
My experience is that it’s pretty easy to tell when this behavior is about dominance, because you’ll find that a lot of other environmental factors are at play: too many cats, not enough vertical and horizontal space to make cats feel like they have a space of their own, roaming tomcats spraying outside the house, and other such things can push cats to the point where they feel compelled to act out in this way.
On the other hand, I’ve also seen cats of the same sex act with incredible tenderness and love toward one another. They groom each other and sleep snuggled in one another’s arms, they always seem to be together and sincerely enjoying one another’s company.
I’m really reluctant to chalk that up to being gay. In fact, I’m really reluctant to even try to assign cats a sexual orientation. First of all, intact cats will always have a drive to mate: It’s inherent in the species, and according to the latest research I know of, the drive to mate is so strong that it eclipses everything else — presumably even any sort of romantic orientation toward same-sex kitties.
Spayed and neutered cats, on the other hand, no longer have the organs that produce sex hormones, and therefore no longer experience the relentless drive to fight and fornicate. Does that mean they don’t find other cats physically or romantically attractive? Who knows? I imagine that not being constantly driven by sexual urges could allow cats more time and brain-space to consider relationships with other cats in a different way.
I’m also quite hesitant to draw any kind of false equivalence between cats’ experience of relationships and ours. We do our cats a tremendous disservice when we ascribe human characteristics to them: Witness people who think cats piss on their clothes to exact revenge, people who think that cats are mean because they react with their natural defense mechanisms when they are cornered … or people who freak out and disown their cats because they think they’re gay.
I wish I could peek inside a cat’s mind and see how they view their relationships with other cats and the nature of their attraction toward those other cats. Do cats experience romantic love? Do they have a spiritual nature and a sense of the divine? What does friendship — whether with other cats, with people or with animals of other species — mean to cats?
So, do gay cats exist? Quite possibly. And if that thought creeps you out, I think that says more about you than it does about the cat.
What do you think or sense about the nature of feline relationships? Have you ever known a gay cat? Do you know anyone who has kicked an animal to the curb because they thought the animal was gay? Do you have cute photos of your cats sharing tender moments? Share your thoughts (and pictures) in the comments.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.