Tuesday, 24 August 2010
On Cats And Singleness (longer version of something I wrote for Cats Protection's The Cat Magazine)
As regular readers of this blog might have gleaned, I became a single person last year (I haven't wanted to make too much of this, but since my ex, Dee, was a fairly sizable part of the story in Under The Paw, it would have been an insult to readers not to mention it in Talk To The Tail). As a state of being, it's actually not without its perks – sometimes, I’ll throw a wet towel on the floor and leave it there for a whole four minutes before picking it up - but it’s also been a slightly bewildering phenomenon at times. Of course, I’ve been single before, but since that happened in 1647, I’m not sure my memories of it are at all relevant to the present day. There’s also the fact that, last time I was single, I was not living alone with four cats: a domestic set up that can be a huge drawback in the dating world, or a major plus, depending on who you ask.
I’m told by cat-loving female friends that being a man who owns multiple felines marks me out as "solid boyfriend material", but then they would say that: they like cats, and are being nice to me, because they are my friends, and know I’ve been through a relationship break-up in the not too distant past. Am I really more "sensitive" because I like cats? I suppose I have a sensitive side, but I also probably like beer, big boobs and loud rock music no less than many manly men who wouldn’t allow a feline in the house. I’m also aware that there’s a flipside to the perception: that there are also women, even women who like cats, who will immediately start asking themselves questions about a man living alone with that many sets of paws. Why four moggies, and not just one? On a deeper level, what do the cats “represent”? If he has that many animals, does it mean he can’t relate to humans?
If I were to answer these questions, I would say it’s as simple as this: I like cats, my ex also likes cats, so we ended up getting a lot of cats, then, when we split up, I ended up keeping slightly more cats than her. But as we all know, that kind of explanation might not cut it in the real world. Another single friend recently signed up to one of the more wholesome Internet dating sites and showed me her profile and asked me whether there was anything I thought she should add. “You haven’t mentioned that you like cats, have you?” I said. “No. She replied. That’s because you don’t, if you’re a girl. It’s The Rule.” I noticed that in one of her photos she had cropped out Bob, her chunky tabby. I felt sorry for Bob. Had he had any say in this?
“But you wouldn’t want to go out with someone who doesn’t like cats, though, would you?” I asked. “No!” she replied, horrified.
I’m not sure that single men would worry quite so much about having a moggy slinking in the rear of their shot on a dating site, but Crazy Cat Woman is now so ubiquitous, she is altering the way we all think about our pets, whether we’re male or female. She’s been here forever, yet she seems to be particularly prevalent in modern culture – on The Simpsons, on sitcoms, endlessly referenced in daily conversation. “You want to be careful. You’ll turn into the lady with all the cats and no friends!” “Uh-Oh. You’ve got hair on your jumper. Mad Cat Woman Alert!” Certainly, there are people out there who project too much onto their animals, and start to let their hygiene standards slip as a result of being around them, but they are in the minority, and it seems sad that we are going to quite such lengths to hide our cat love because we’re worried what the world thinks? Surely loving cats says more good things about a person than it does bad ones: that they’re patient, an appreciator of beauty, open to a challenge? There’s the possibility that it might just say plainly that they love cats. Having said that, I will confess that I met a girl recently who talked a lot about how much she loved the smell of cat food, and I found it hard to view it as a plus. But let's face it: that’s just plain weird, isn’t it?