Men who love cats have long paid a social price for their feline leanings. Cat guys are sissies. They’re emotional wrecks. I don’t trust them. Clearly, perceptions are changing, but I doubt such bias is gone. Stereotypes are hard to eradicate because they often pass for accepted truth. Also, a certain amount of malice still lurks.
British writer Chas Newkey-Burden, for example, hit the stereotype trifecta in 2015 in The Telegraph. “[A]ny man with a pet cat is sneaky and afraid of commitment,” he wrote, adding that cat guys are “rather snobby and a tad creepy.”
Bad news? Hardly.
First, Newkey-Burden is known for shooting his mouth off, so who knows what he really believes? Second, look at popular culture and media today, and evidence suggests this point of view is losing ground.
So if today’s cat guy doesn’t embody the stereotypes, what kind of person is he?
Illustrating this is a hip-hop artist named Moshow I met in August at CatCon, where I was emcee. Moshow grew up in poverty in Baltimore and now lives in Portland, Oregon. He has four cats: three Sphynxes and a Devon Rex. Through his videos and photos, Moshow educates people about the special needs of these hairless breeds. He also advocates adoption, vilifies declawing and celebrates cat ladies while preaching love and positivity. Moshow is handsome and stylish, hilarious, an exceptional performer and irrepressibly openhearted. He put himself through college and maintains a relationship with a charismatic woman named EmSee. Commitment-phobe? Not here.
Consider Mike Bridavsky, Lil BUB’s “dude.” He insists that the people who do business with him and BUB give part of what they make to a charitable cause such as cat rescue. “It doesn’t have to be a lot,” Mike said to me in a 2013 interview, “but just something to show that they care.”
Consider also Mick Szydlowski, owner of Oskar the Blind Cat. Mick brings Oskar to meet blind children and adults so Oskar can provide companionship and inspiration. Mick also made an Oskar book series available in braille.
Take Scott Stulen, the man who orchestrated the original Internet Cat Video Festival at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2012. Scott is an artist, writer, musician and DJ. He helps at CatCon by moderating panel discussions, including one called “They Put the ‘Special’ in ‘Special Needs.’” He’s now director of the Philbrook Art Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Consider Jackson Galaxy. The tall, broad-shouldered Galaxy, whose style is simultaneously retro and modern alternative, cuts an imposing figure, yet he describes himself as sensitive and introspective. When I interviewed him in 2013, he said he loves obliterating people’s expectations, but rather than keep score on this point, he uses the same principle to dispel the myth that cats are not sensitive animals. “When you humble someone by blowing their assumptions out of the water, you show them mystery,” he said, and cats are all about mystery.
About two years ago, firefighters in Greenville, South Carolina, adopted a malnourished stray cat they found outside the station and named him Flame. Chief Anthony Segars was reluctant to let the cat stay, but now he acknowledges that Flame has rescued them in return. “My guys, they see … horrible things every day,” Segars told ABC News, and Flame provides “tremendous stress relief to these guys. He is therapeutic after a bad call comes in.”
Rather, he’s a lot of different guys, guys who are funny, guys who are perceptive, guys who are smart, guys with style, guys who are tough, guys who are compassionate. Today’s cat guy cares about life and has the patience to figure out how to use his powers for good. He knows who he loves and, more importantly, he knows how to love them, whether they’re humans or cats.
Thumbnail: Photography ©Sergey Moskvitin | Thinkstock.
Keith Bowers is a career journalist who has covered pets, the arts, law, politics, business and crime. He is a visual artist in oil painting, sculpture and photography. He has been emcee at CatCon for three years. The fashion-conscious Bowers lives in Corvallis, Oregon, with his wife, Daphne, and one cat, a brown tabby named Thomas.
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