Why lesbians supposedly like cats

I couldn’t believe the title of this article when I saw it in today’s New York Times (click on screenshot to read it), but the title is hilarious. So is the first half of the article, which explains why she thinks she’ll die alone. The second part of the article, in which Krista Burton gets serious and tries to explain why lesbians like cats more than do other folks (and I’m not sure they do: where are the data?), is off the mark.

Burton recounts her numerous dates in which other women show her pictures of cats, and her growing realization that because she doesn’t like cats (in fact, liking them is a nonstarter for her potential partners), she’ll never have a successful relationship. So far so good.

Do you know who mostly owns cats? Women. Queers. Not all women, and not all queers, obviously, but go on, I dare you — try being queer and hating cats and looking online for dates. So many queers on Tinder or Her or OkCupid are obsessed with their cats. Sometimes they will post pictures of their cats as their only profile picture. The picture they want to show to prospective lovers as representative of who they are? A tabby wrapped in a blanket.

Maybe she’s right here; I just don’t know. And I bet that more single women own cats more than do single men (this is a disparity that must be recitified!). But I don’t know whether “queers” own cats more than do straight people of the same sex. Do we have data on this?

Well, never mind. This is where Burton gets into psychologizing, and I’m pretty damn sure she’s serious here:

. . . I’ve often wondered why women and queers love cats so much, and in the end, I think it might be this: It’s possible we’ve been conditioned to love and perform labor for creatures that don’t necessarily love us back, care about our needs and may even wish us ill. Like women loving cis men. Like all of us in the dating world, intrigued by the person who doesn’t want us but is terribly, terribly cute and elusive and gives us just enough hope to continue the pursuit.

Cats mirror bad relationships. They ghost you. You want your cat to love you, so you feed your cat special food it likes; you brush it, you clean up after it and try really hard to win its affection, and in the end — where’s the cat? The cat has been on the top shelf of the closet, sleeping, for 11 hours; the cat doesn’t care. Cats string you along with tiny rewards — a burst of purring on the couch, a 20-second “making biscuits” chest massage (claws can absolutely be felt, but isn’t he sweet!) — and keep you emotionally invested in the relationship.

People who really love cats are masochists; they’re so happy to be even acknowledged by their evil-yet-adorable pets that they will keep taking care of them indefinitely, aware they’re being used. Aware that they’re being exposed to bacteria and the incredible nastiness that is cat litter and still O.K. with their end of the bargain.

Maybe this is what’s really behind No. 29 on my list of deal breakers: Truly loving cats means hating yourself.’

First of all, cats are not uncaring animals, as anyone who’s had a properly-brought-up cat knows. Yes, they are more independent than are dogs, but I find that a plus: they are not sycophants but more like people: somewhat independent and not so needy they’ll glom onto anyone who picks up their poop. You have to earn a cat’s love, and, like people, they sometimes want to be left alone. Yes, we are the staff of cats, but that doesn’t mean we’re masochists. Who among us would say that having a cat causes us near constant pain?

Further, if women really do favor cats, I can think of other hypotheses. Maybe women admire their grace more than do men. Maybe cats remind women of human babies; after all, they’re the right size and pleasing to the touch. In fact, I’d say that people who love babies are masochists, for babies really are parasites, giving nothing back, not even a purr or a crawl into the lap. Cats don’t mirror bad relationships; cats mirror real relationships. Talk about bad relationships: dogs resemble partners who are so suffocatingly needy that you just want them to go away.

I’m not trying to diss dogs here; I’m trying to show that the cat dissing of Ms. Burton is way off the mark. It’s amateur psychology of the worst stripe. It may be true that women and “queers” love cats more than do men and straight people, but if they do I doubt it’s for the reasons given in this article.

46 Comments

  1. Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised she doesn’t finish her little screed by pointing out that on occasion, when a single person dies and the body is not discovered for some time the cat……”partakes” shall we say??…

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    If Burton is as troubled in evaluating mates as she is with cats, she may be in for a dry spell. Cats do not care what your gender or persuasion may be and I can’t figure why lesbians would have more attraction to cats than anyone else. Cats should be the pet of choice in the city simply because it is a much easier than all those year around walks with a dog. Also cats can deal with the longer hours alone required by single owners who do have to work. Leaving a dog alone all day everyday is a crummy life for any animal but harder on dogs. People of all stripes seem to not understand this with pets and the decision to have or not have pets.

    • Mark R.
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      It’s never a good idea to get a dog when you know it will be left alone for many hours. If that’s the case, then at the very least, get two dogs. I know of many stories where dogs with separation anxiety have wreaked havoc on homes, garages, porches or where ever the owner has left them.

      A simple rule of thumb for me is; if you don’t have a yard, don’t get a dog.

  3. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    The author may be making a quantity/quality confusion here.
    It is possible that lesbians have a particular way of relating to cats, and/or their own unique reasons for liking them.
    That would be an entirely different matter than a higher quantitative percentage.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t Sappho thought to have kept cats on the Isle of Lesbos — or maybe that was Ellen DeGeneres. I dunno, I’m forever getting those two confused.

  5. Liz
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I always thought cats were not affectionate because the ones I saw growing up were like that. About 10 years ago, I got a cat with my fiancé and the cat would snuggle both of us all of the time. I remember her as being sort of “needy” because we’d come home from work and she couldn’t wait to run up, knead around, and sit on my head, shoulder, or chest. All of the time. She was so loving. Not like most cats. I kept her initially but he missed her too much. It’s like she could tell when the Bills lost. Babies apparently offer unconditional love. Babies are also the same species. It’s just different.

    • BJ
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Almost all cats I’ve met have been very loving and affectionate. Perhaps the ones you saw growing up didn’t belong to you (or, more accurately, you didn’t belong to them!), and so they didn’t give you their affection?

      But I’m glad you found a cat you loved and who loved you. And you’re right about her being able to tell when you were upset. Whenever I’ve been depressed or angry, my cats have always showed up immediately and behaved slightly differently, trying to comfort me rather than just sitting in my laps for pets and scratches and napping.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted November 5, 2017 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

        Me too.

  6. Barry Lyons
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Dogs as sycophants. I’ve never seen it put that way. Hilarious, but true. Full disclosure: I do like dogs an awful lot (though it depends on the breed), but I’ve found in recent years that I prefer cats — and generally for the reasons that Jerry has stated here and elsewhere.

  7. bonetired
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Screenshot doesn’t seem to work – at least not for me.

  8. Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    “…but isn’t he sweet!” Why would the author ascribe a masculine pronoun to a cat? Why would the author make assumptions about the masochism of women and queers as displayed by their choice of “unloving” cat pets?

    I’m a woman that has loved cats and dogs ever since I was a little girl and, have always found them to have different personalities, as humans also do. But, I could never have them as pets because animal dander exacerbated my asthma.

    • BJ
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      I think the answer to your questions lies in this paragraph: “It’s possible we’ve been conditioned to love and perform labor for creatures that don’t necessarily love us back, care about our needs and may even wish us ill. Like women loving cis men.”

      It’s necessary to her thesis that cats represent the terrible men (which is all men, or at least the “cis men”) that society has brainwashed women into loving.

      • Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        Of course, you’re right. But I get so tired of any human making generalized assumptions about the behaviors of “all” people in any given group. I have met some wonderful males and some not so wonderful females, and vice versa. Ditto with cats and dogs and other animals. I think it best not to aggregate any category of life form as being all the same. It may simplify who you choose to love or hate, but think of all the individuals you might love if you gave them the chance. If I err on the side of “grouping”, I love them all until one proves unlovable.

        • BJ
          Posted November 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          Well said 🙂

  9. Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I can go along with the idea that most cats who are staffed by single people will have a woman for their human. But d*gs are also very popular for women as well, far as I have seen.

  10. BJ
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    This may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. She’s basically saying women have been conditioned by the patriarchy to love cats because women have been brainwashed to love people that will treat them terribly (as she helpfully notes, this is “cis men”) and never love them back. Wow.

    By the way, Ms. Burton, you really need to see a psychologist, because you’re (1) projecting a whole host of your own issues onto cats, and (2) reading into the behavior of cats to an extent that is very troubling.

  11. David Coxill
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/gay-lions-sex-kenya-photos-men-inspired-need-therapy-says-official-a8036016.html.
    Great timeing this is about big cats and gayness .
    Glad to know not all the religious fruitcakes are in America and the middle east .

    Hope it is ok to post this here ?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      This is hilarious. Yes, obviously, these lions who engage in such shameful behavior, which is clearly contra naturam, are in immediate need conversion therapy from a lion psychotherapist.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      From the article: “He told the Nairobi News: ‘We do not regulate animals, but this is a first and interesting to hear that there are two male lions in love.'”

      No shit they don’t regulate who male lions have sex with. That would be a good way to end up as a post-coital snack.

    • bundorgarden
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      That picture of two male lions having sex is just so totally hot!!

      • chris moffatt
        Posted November 5, 2017 at 7:01 am | Permalink

        Looks more like a dominance thing than a sex thing to me.

  12. Craw
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Truly then I am a lesbian trapped in a man’s body.

    (And I know the cant is “male body”, but that ruins the joke.)

  13. mordacious1
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I can see this. When I was in college, I told my GF at the time, that if she moved in with me we could get a dog. She said she’d prefer a little pussy. We broke up soon after.
    (I’ll get my coat)

  14. James Walker
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I call BS! All of the lesbians I know are dog lovers. As a cat-loving gay man, I would have died alone if I had made the pet choices of my potential partners a non-starter – I know more gay men who love dogs than I do fellow cat-lovers. My husband is a dog person and if and when we get pets again, we’ve agreed to get one of each.

    • BJ
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      It’s almost like the author of the article has no idea what she’s talking about, and has made up a ridiculous narrative in her head about why nobody wants to date her.

      • Craw
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        Degrade the grammar a bit and it’s an acceptable autoethnographic dissertation in many PhD programs. https://mobile.twitter.com/RealPeerReview/status/925684102724046853/photo/1

        • BJ
          Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

          That was horrifying. I’ll have nightmares tonight.

          So, I guess writing about your life story is now considered a legitimate published paper in some humanities.

          • Craw
            Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

            Keep a record. There’s a peer-reviewed article in it for you if your nightmare is about how interstitial patriarchy perme(ate)s the intersectional fabric of whiteness. Then there’s an article about the transgressive discourses of writing the first article. Don’t let this opportunity slip.

            • tubby
              Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

              I had a dream about whether or not it was safe to use an unpatched Linux toilet. How can I tie this to gender and race to get my paper published? Do I need to PoMo it?

              • BJ
                Posted November 5, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

                Tubby: I can’t tell you how much I want to know what a “Linux toilet” is!

            • BJ
              Posted November 5, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

              I would never debase myself like that!

  15. tubby
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s like she’s from the weird part of Tumblr that’s not cat photos. Though to be fair, the cat photo part of Tumblr is pretty weird too.

  16. barn owl
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    It’s amateur psychology of the worst stripe.

    I think it’s a way to judge and/or feel superior to people one doesn’t know very well, or know at all. You have a cat. You have many cats. You have a rescue kitten. You have a purebred cat. You have a dog instead of a cat. You have the wrong kind of dog. You have rescue dogs. You have a purebred dog. You have a fluffy toy breed dog – that means something, and I don’t think it’s going to be good. You shouldn’t have a dog. You have both dogs and cats. You have pets that are not dogs or cats. You have no pets at all. All of these things say something about you that I am going to judge.

    Why stop with dogs and cats and the meaningfulness of whether you like them or have them as pets? People can be judged on the type of car they drive, what kinds of food they eat, the music they like, sports in which they participate, etc. Your car is too big. You have the wrong kind of car. You don’t have a car at all. You make all your meals from scratch. You only eat out at restaurants. You never eat out. You eat only organic produce in season. You run every day. You never go running. You work out at the gym. You think the gym smells bad.

    You’d get better psychology from the Patronus quiz at the Pottermore website, than from that ridiculous article.

  17. nicky
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I think it is written very much tongue in cheeck. Quite funny, immo.

    • Posted November 5, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Definitely tongue in cheek but apparently it doesnt take much to arouse the wrath of cat lovers. Let’s face it, fellows and lesbians, cats dont’ recognize their name, you can’t talk to them like you talk to dogs, they can’t learn things and I say that from direct personal experience, among other things.
      Above all, you cannot predict their reaction to things as you can with dogs…who can of course understand our reactions and emotions and above all our body language, being social animals, not felines. But whatever makes you feel good….all living things are wonderful even if not all make good pets.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        There are an awful lot of dead and mangled people and kids and babies thanks to dogs.

        All predictable you say?
        What does that say about dog people?

  18. Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    …to love and perform labor for creatures that don’t necessarily love us back, care about our needs and may even wish us ill. Like women loving cis men.

    Not just offensive and sexist and heterophobic, but also a misanthropic statement indicative of someone who doesn’t comprehend healthy human relationships.

    No wonder she gets animal-human relationships all wrong, too.

    And yes, she probably will die alone — or at best surrounded only by some cats she failed to properly interact with.

    • somer
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

      yes her article is toxic crap

  19. somer
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Think the lesbians like cats thing is bunkum but can’t resist including this:

    Kenyan official says “male lions who had sex should be seen as gay men and should be separated”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/gay-lions-sex-kenya-photos-men-inspired-need-therapy-says-official-a8036016.html

  20. Bob Barber
    Posted November 5, 2017 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    I suspect that Burton’s article is a metaphor for her choices in human partners.

  21. Laurance
    Posted November 5, 2017 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    “Maybe cats remind women of human babies; after all, they’re the right size and pleasing to the touch. In fact, I’d say that people who love babies are masochists, for babies really are parasites, giving nothing back, not even a purr or a crawl into the lap.”

    Not everybody likes babies or thinks they’re cute. I prefer adults.

    Nor do cats remind everybody of babies.

    Some years ago I read an article saying that some needy and desperately lonely and unhappy teenage girls get pregnant because they believe their baby will love them. But the baby needs needs needs, and that kind of need is not love.

    I do not believe that my five month old great granddaughter loves her grandpa who adores her. (Lucky kid, BTW, to have such a swell grandfather.) I believe she feels good when she’s fed and has her diaper changed and has had her nap. Love will come later as she grows and matures.

    I’ll say something that some people will consider awful. Personhood and whatever that is: it seems to me that a full-grown cat has more personhood than a newborn human baby. I suspect that personhood is something that develops over time and is fed by being in relationship with other humans (or cats as well as humans). (I’m thinking about the personhood of fetuses where the abortion debate is concerned.)

    • BJ
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      I like babies, so long as they’re encephalitic. Then they’re unlikely to bug me.

  22. Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a job for … research!


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