What is it about my twin ragamuffin cats that proves such a turn-off for the opposite sex? That’s what I wondered yesterday, as I read the curious results of a study at Idaho’s Boise State University, in the US, where researchers presented around 1,400 women with photographs of two men in their early twenties – one stroking a cat, the other not. The women were then asked how they would feel about the prospect of a casual date or long-term relationship with each of the men.
Those chaps shown with cats were far less likely to arouse romantic interest because they were seen as “less masculine, more neurotic, and less dateable”, researchers said.
Those results came as a surprise to lead researcher Shelly Volsche, who had assumed the cats would make the men look “trustworthy, gentle and caring”. But I was less shocked. When I adopted Bells and Archie in my mid-twenties, I was warned that my new feline friends could have a ruinous effect on my love life. Cat-owners are perceived as introverts who prefer to spend time alone, I was told, whereas dog-owners are seen as sociable and outdoorsy. (As it happens – I’m an outgoing extrovert who loved cats since childhood, so I don’t fit this dichotomy).
And for some reason I do not understand, cats are associated with femininity whereas dogs are seen as masculine – and so it’s easy to understand why, even in these enlightened times, many straight men believe they need to avoid cats like the plague if they are to find a partner.
But I didn’t care. I spent a lot of time in my late twenties on dating apps like Tinder and Happn, and I always made sure to use at least one photograph of Bells and Archie on my profile. Adopting my cats is the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’ve never been in any mood to hide them away. My work managing my startup (Heights, a brain health and mental wellbeing service) means many long, stressful hours spent alone. Happy to leap onto my lap for a hug whenever I call their name, Bells and Archie proved the perfect company, doing wonders for my mental health.
It’s been suggested that a cat’s purr has evolved perfectly to soothe our stress, and is now the most comforting sound known to humans – something I can totally believe. My cats were part of my identity, I thought, and I have no desire to keep them secret.