I find “cat people vs. dog people” tiresome — as tiresome as “Mac vs. Windows,” or arguments over rival sports teams. “MY way is better! No, MY way is better!” Ad infinitum. Yet a recent post I read online reinforces stereotypes about people who own cats in such a textbook way that I want to address it.
To be fair, the item (which I won’t identify because my point is not to start a flame war, it’s to illustrate how stereotypes get perpetuated, and I don’t think this one was intentional) is mostly about why people who own dogs are great. And that’s fine. I support most anything that encourages domestic animal love. But I took issue with two sentences.
Thing is, the author doesn’t cite or link to any studies. I don’t sense malice here, and for all I know, the author does know of studies. Yet by pointing to sources but not identifying them and analyzing their results, the author suggests that these facts are so obvious that there’s no need to bother with the particulars. I call this the “We all know it’s true!” school of logic, and it’s dangerous. It’s used to perpetuate generalizations about gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, and, in this case, people who own cats — namely, the tired misconceptions that cat owners are reclusive and in poor physical shape.
To answer this, I won’t say anything negative about “dog people.” (Why would I?) Rather, I’ll talk about what I know — five reasons why cat guys are likely to make great boyfriends.
Society reinforces the idea that dogs are for “real men,” while cats are for women. So to a lot of people, a boy or man who loves cats might as well be wearing a dress. Being labeled a “sissy” or a “fag” can be major trauma for young boys, and it can haunt men in social and professional circles throughout life. (I was often called a fag — but I took it as a compliment because it meant I wasn’t like the boys who called me that.)
Any man who openly loves cats has dealt with some level of this, and he has probably come to terms with questions about himself and what he values. If he finds that being true to himself is more important than pretending to like things that a “real man” is supposed to like, then he’s stronger in character than any weight-lifting, beer-drinking, truck-driving man who ridicules cat-loving men. In life and relationships, this man is not afraid to take chances. He’s more likely to try different things, regardless of what other people say about him. He’s adaptable, and that’s important in the long run because relationships grow and change.
(Disclaimer: I know weight-lifting, beer-drinking, truck-driving men who love cats, as well as men who wear dresses who love cats — and they’re all fabulously self-assured too.)
The idea that dogs are masculine while cats are feminine has taken some ugly and horrific turns in history, including cats being drowned alongside accused witches for being the women’s “familiars.” Just the same, cats do display traits more associated — rightly or wrongly — with the feminine (sleek and graceful movement, cunning behavior, a more reserved attitude).
Any boy who loved cats had to consider this and how it reflected on him. Like me, he might have realized that every human (and every animal) possesses feminine as well as masculine traits, physically, mentally, and emotionally. If he accepts this, a boy or man can probably better relate to girls or women, and learn to welcome the energy without shame or confusion.
Also, I’ll come right out and say it, this probably makes that man a better lover.
A common misconception about cats is that they’re aloof, cold, and emotionally barren. Spend a day with a cat and you’ll know this is blatantly false. Cats need love and affection. Just the same, cats have solitary, ponderous components to their lives. They continuously re-explore the same rooms or backyards, they find the same views endlessly fascinating. It takes a certain kind of man to embrace this, and in a relationship he’s more apt to recognize that he and his significant other need time to themselves.
I grew up in a military family, so I moved a lot. As a kid I had a lot of time to myself in new homes, and I was the perpetual “new guy” at school. I made the best of my time alone. My coping strategies were to read, write, draw, build things, walk for hours on end, and just think about what it all means. I found cats tremendously comforting not only for their love and affection but also because they also understood that to stay mentally and emotionally healthy, we all need time to ourselves. I’ve found that this works wonders for a romantic relationship, and it’s something not all men understand.
Cats are hysterical. Every cat is like a never-ending Theatre of the Absurd playing all over the house. Some things cats do aren’t funny — like knocking things off the counter — but cats have long helped me recognize that life is, in fact, absurd, and that some things (such as love) are more important than that really cool pint glass I got at a garage sale.
Cats also reinforce for me the idea of laughing as a form of stress relief, and also of seeing the humor in certain situations (like finding poop on the rug) that might otherwise wreck a person’s day. The kind of man who can look at things this way also learns to throw expectations out the window and make the best of any situation that comes along. That’s relationship gold.
Many of the world’s most prolific cultural, scientific, and political minds in the past 200 years have been men who loved cats.
Those names include: Ernest Hemingway. Steve Martin. Tony La Russa. Marlon Brando. Bob Goldthwait. Kinky Friedman. Raymond Chandler. Winston Churchill. Albert Einstein. Henri Matisse. Freddie Mercury. Edgar Allan Poe. Maurice Ravel. Nikola Tesla. Mark Twain. H.G. Wells.
I don’t know how any of them did as boyfriends, but I love knowing that they were cat guys, and they did what I consider to be great things. That kind of confidence is good for any relationship.
Are you a cat guy? Do you know or love one? How have cats helped you or him? Also, what are some of the negative stereotypes that you’ve proved wrong?
Cat Dandy has been on many dates — because he’s good at it:
About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is associate editor at Catster and Dogster.