Sunday, February 13, 2005

Real Men Like Cats

There is a perception that men choose dogs for pets and women have cats (dogs are from Mars, cats are from Venus). I believe that some of men's traditional dislike of and abuse of cats is a projection of their feelings toward women. And there's that old association of cats with witches or women who resisted being controlled by men or religion. This was passed down to us and resides in the collective subconscious and so, when you meet a man who loves cats, he's a real treasure. I'm fortunate to know several such men and each one is fascinating.

One of the things that I found so attractive in Rob when we first met was that he had a cat - just a cat, not a dog and a cat. Rob's communication style and his calm, easy-going manner were also sexy, but the fact that he had a cat convinced me that I needed to get to know him better. Even though we've been together for almost 12 years and his cat now considers me part of the family (one of the offical can openers), Rob still has a special relationship with her. He cooks souffles of ground turkey and eggs for her and he gives her special massages on a regular basis. She's spoiled but she deserves it - she's an elderly kitty.

Our UPS driver adopted a kitty at the shelter. Chester was a bit of a feline delinquent at first. He roamed the neighborhood stealing Beanie Babies. Erik tried to find the owners to return the Beanies but they'd lost some value after Chester chewed the tags off. Later Chester drank some anti-freeze and had to undergo dialysis which was costly for Erik but Chester survived. Once when Erik was setting the table for dinner with his roommate, Chester tossed a freshly killed critter into the air and it landed on a dinner plate. I love hearing about Chester's exploits when Erik stops by to pick up our outgoing packages. What a fascinating man and cat duo.

The copy center in Santa Cruz has another interesting pair. I don't actually know the name of the man, but the cat is called Elvis. When the man gets ready for work, Elvis hops into the car and goes to work too. If Elvis doesn't get in the car, he can stay home, it's his choice, but almost every time I go there, Elvis is in the building. Elvis has reached elderly status now at age 15, but his long coat is always perfectly groomed. He's rather aloof. He allows his fans to pet him and admire him, but I think he prefers to be left alone. Originally I assumed that Elvis lived at the copy center because my cats all hate to travel by car, but when I asked if Elvis spent the nights alone at the store, the manager said, "No! That would be cruel." I suspect that Elvis is so devoted to his caretaker, he's willing to endure daily rides in the car and the attention of pesky customers like me.

My favorite doctor had a cat, Nermal, who commuted to visit the neighbors when he and she moved a short distance away from their old home. He, Dr. Bill Heller, has a great sense of humor and is caring and compassionate in his medical practice so it makes sense that he and a cat would bond - unlike Senator Frist who killed cats to advance his career in medicine. I've even heard stories that Dr. Bill has accepted rabbits in trade for his services, although I'm not certain if that is true.

Buddhist monks care for homeless cats in several Asian nations and so I've concluded that real men like cats and vice versa. has an interesting article about men and cats titled Single-Minded: Women like men who like cats

It seems as if single men are discovering what single women have known since ancient Egyptian times: Cats are worthy of worship.

At least unmarried British men say so, in a recent survey conducted by Cats Protection, a leading animal welfare society in the United Kingdom. And judging by the delirious worship that single men I know lavish on their kitties, I'd like to think
American men -- those brave enough to stand up and be counted -- feel the same
way. The survey showed that 85 percent of men, and 94 percent of women,
don't think it's wimpy or needy for a man to love his cat. In addition, just as
many single men as single women said they enjoy "lavishing care" on their

More than anything, the survey showed that unmarried laddies go as delightfully off the deep end over their pets as women have been teased for doing for centuries. Single male cat owners are more likely than their female counterparts to have made, or consider making, a sacrifice for their cat, including giving up a vacation and going into debt. Three-quarters of male respondents say their cats fulfill their cuddle requirements, and single men are also almost as likely as single women to consider choosing their cat over their partner.

It's long been said by women that cats are excellent guy-o-meters -- capable of spotting a bad one with a sniff. I always found the converse to be true: Men who were good to my cats -- and not in a manipulative, let's- impress-her-with-my-sensitivity kind of way -- were going to be good to me. Noodge has always been easy to like. A bulldozer of a Maine coon cat, he is like a dog in cat's clothing. He's fearless, assertive, funny and loud. He possesses, as his vet said recently, more attitude than any other 16-year-old cat she'd seen. I've never looked to him to be an impartial judge on the men in my life; he liked anyone who would feed him and stay out of his chair.

But Bunny was harder to warm up to. She came to us in 1991, on the day of the Oakland hills fire -- a tiny, ragged survivor of a brood most likely born in the field nearby. Terrified but plucky, she hung out behind the water heater in the garage for two days before she finally allowed my daughter to hold her. I came home from work and Erin was doing her homework on the concrete garage floor, beaming and ecstatic at the gray fur ball curled up in her lap.

Although we were able to tame her feral nature, Bunny (named for the rabbitlike way she would nestle under your chin, purring loudly) bonded only with the two of us, and was terrified of everyone and everything else -- from the UPS man to the vacuum cleaner. Only a few boyfriends in the past 13 years have been patient and loving enough to coax her out of her hiding places with sweet words and smiles. Those were good men indeed.

Bunny loved her food -- OK, OK, she was a bit of a porker. Erin would admonish me when she came home from college for letting her get fat, while I would argue back that Bunny was merely big-boned. She loved Erin fiercely and even if they didn't see each other for months, the cat would recognize her instantly and burrow under her chin, relieved and happy.

After watching Bunny slow down in recent months, I should not have been surprised that she timed her collapse for the night Erin came home for Christmas. She knew the wagons were circled; she knew we'd be able to go through this together. At the vet hospital the next day, Dr. Heidi McClain noted that with a kitty this fat ("She's just big-boned!" I mouthed to Erin to keep her from crying), it was hard to get a sense of what had gone wrong inside. But it soon became apparent:
kidney failure.

After five days of Christmas-week back-and-forth visits to the hospital, which saw her improve to the point of almost coming home, Bunny's heart unexpectedly gave out. I held her still body and called Erin. Through the tears we knew Bunny was better off without the tubes and the monitors, and all the scary things that had daunted her.

It's been two weeks and Noodge is confused and alarmed that his mate is gone. I watch him closely to see if his tough attitude softens and he starts to die, too. At that point, I will find him a new friend. In the meantime, if a new man comes into my life, I guess I'll have to suss him out the old-fashioned way. And hope that any new kitty I get will be as difficult to love as Bunny was.

There is a moral to this story.

Men, if you want many good things in life, get a cat. Why? So many reasons. There is the unconditional-love thing, the way science has proved that stress levels come down drastically when one is stroking a pet, etc. But here's additional incentive: They are babe magnets.

Yes, according to this same British survey, women love men with cats. Ninety percent of single women surveyed thought men who like cats are "nicer" -- i.e., more caring and sensitive -- than those who don't. A quick poll of my cat-loving single girlfriends bears this out.

Additional points were awarded to those who adopted mature felines from shelters, rather than adorable kittens that have a much easier time finding homes. I suspect I shall find myself doing that very thing quite soon. More than anything, I'm pleased to find that single men might just be warming to the notion of single-with-cat as a worthy lifestyle. It might help deflect the endless guff single women with cats have taken over the centuries. And it will certainly be good for cats.
And rightly so. They rock. Even when they break your heart.