I enjoy opportunities to link back to my dog person/cat person rant. In it, I point out how pet ownership can be gendered. In this case, owning a dog is masculine and owning a cat is feminine. Anna sent in an image demonstrating just this, noting that the dog products at her vet are blue and the cat products pink:
More, and importantly, because we also tend to value men and masculinity over women and femininity, it is somehow “cool” to own a dog, especially a big dog. This is true for both men and women. But it isn’t really cool to own a cat. We accept it in women because cats enhance her femininity (for better or worse), but when men do it. Well, as I say in my previous post on the topic, “we think men with cats are a little femmy or, at minimum, sweeter than most… even, maybe, gay.”
This was not lost on the folks at Much Love Animal Rescue. Visiting the site, Squee noticed that they had a page aimed at men that attempted to convince them that owning a cat could be manly indeed. Their commercials feature extra-super-manly-men with grease ‘n stuff talking about punching things and loving their cat. This is nice in that it challenges the social construction that owning cats is feminine, but notice that it leaves intact the idea that men-should-be-men and avoid all things feminine.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Ricky — February 17, 2011
You never own a cat, a cat owns you.
Flea — February 17, 2011
If these ads do work there is something really fucked up in many guys minds...
Erika — February 17, 2011
It makes me sort of sad that some men are so insecure about their masculinity that organizations think they need ads catered towards them telling them it's OK to enjoy the companionship of a cat.
I found the ads cute at first but of course, there are implications that the men featured are "real" men because they're not feminine.
Jihad-Punk — February 17, 2011
I am convinced a lot of people who claim to hate cats, in reality, hate feminine traits and cannot stand feminity. Cats have been burned alongside at the stake with women who were accused of being witches, cats have been associated with witchcraft, paganism, and satanism (and anything associated with "evil), and let's not go there with the stigma for black cats...
I love cats, although dogs are cool, too. But I still very much prefer cats and horses over dogs.
and I think in the United States, cats vs dogs is more of a gendered thing. Cats are much preferred over dogs in many other parts of the world, especially in Europe and the Middle East.
Bannef — February 17, 2011
I felt like the ads were so cheesy that there must have been some self-awareness going on, on the part of the makers... But maybe that's based on my assumption that they must have been. Making a living creature more masculine? What? I don't even...
But oh my goodness, they were so cute.
Miriam Heddy — February 17, 2011
In the latest episode of House ("You Must Remember This"), Wilson gets a cat and House becomes obsessed with getting Wilson's cat away from him. He even makes the connection to the feminine explicit by calling the cat "the wrong kind of pussy" for Wilson.
m — February 17, 2011
I especially noted how the Coppola ad used derogatory talk about less than über masculine men as a means to enhance Coppola's own masculinity. It's an interesting mechanic, that bullying other automatically puts you above them.
Echo — February 17, 2011
I think people have the whole cat/dog thing backwards. Cats are cold, aloof and independent (traits that society assigns to men), while dogs are needy, emotional, high-maintenance, and dependent (traits that society assigns to women).
(WARNING: I'm about to drop some anecdotals.)
My dad was the biggest bad-ass I have ever known. He once drove himself to the ER after being gut-shot. He pistol-whipped a lion. And a couple guys who trespassed on his property...well, that was the last mistake they ever made.
And he was a cat person. Because, he said, "If I died, and that cat was outside, it would thrive. There's mice to catch, and streams to drink from. And if I died and the cat was locked inside, it would eat me." (Dad respects stone-cold pragmatism.)
And for all that he was a tough guy, he would constantly talk baby-talk to the cats while he petted them, because what are you gonna do, mock a guy who's packing a Colt Commander with exploder rounds?
He hated dogs. He shot every stray dog that ever showed up, and more besides. Because, he asserted, dogs were stupid, annoying, and helpless. "What's more feminine than a dog that has been bred to fit in a purse?"
Stephanie — February 17, 2011
Almost ever guy I talk to on OKC has a cat, and the only reason it makes me think twice about dating them is because I'm allergic. One guy didn't have a cat, but wanted a rabbit (also allergic). Seriously, I kind of want to find a guy I want to date without a cat, LOL! So maybe this isn't so prevalent among young guys?
Caroline — February 17, 2011
I totally agree that the way those ads construct manhood is messed up, but damn, that cat riding on the motorbike isn't one of the cutest things I've ever seen.
David — February 17, 2011
Makes me wonder about the ironic juxtaposition between other hyper-masculine cultures like Mexico; their dogs are half the size of cats. Whaddup wit dat?
Is it because they are SO masculine that though they still require a dog to legitimize their masculinity, it just needn't be huge? Or is it that beneath their socially constructed facade of gender-identity, there is great insecurity so they require a small dog that won't challenge?
I get the feeling I could easily spin this into a dissertation: Masculinity, Culture, and Gender: A hermeneutic perspective on canine's and their human, alpha-male counterparts.
WHO'S WITH ME?!
P.S, I am a man and I love cats.
Kelly — February 17, 2011
I was just starting to type a reply when one of my cats (I'm not going to tell you how many I own) jumped up and messed up my desk papers. True story, and no cat-owner here will be surprised.
So yes, while I agree their is a cultural framing but also, growing up working class and living in a logging town and working in pulp mills and knowing lots of men, etc. etc. I have known too many "macho" / manly guys who so clearly love and dote on their cats. In fact I think sometimes pet ownership is a way some men feel its acceptable to openly express tenderness, whether they do it with "baby talk" and smiles or other ways. Either way, any human being expressing tenderness and care to an animal or child in whatever way they do it, of course only augments their humanity.
I love both cats and dogs, very much. I will say often cats seem to be unable to be dominated in the same way we perceive dogs can be. I wonder if that's a problem for some people.
Grafton — February 17, 2011
What the heck does it mean that this cat can 'handle the foxhole'?
David -- most Mexican dogs aren't chihuahuas.
Interesting -- the post says that owning a dog, 'especially a big dog' is cool and masculine, but I suspect that owning a small dog, especially one with a long or curly coat, is distinctly not cool and is perceived as even more feminine than owning a cat. The comments seem to confirm this.
The biker guy's cat doesn't look all that pleased to be riding, and there aren't a lot of cats who would put up with that. Most small dogs would just love it, though.
If the cat was a toy poodle, how would you react?
I don't feel it's necessary to say, "liking cats doesn't undermine my displays of masculinity' and I don't recall ever hearing that message from male cat owners. When I was working at the vet a very large percentage of men who owned small dogs (the exception being Jack Russel terriers, which are small yet manly) expressed embarrassment or defiance regarding their love of a girly dog. And I can't tell you how many women have told me they wouldn't want a little froo-froo dog.
The stigma associated with small dogs is quite a pity, because they are very practical. A dog is usually a happy traveling companion (even if it's just for a walk around the block) and a cat usually isn't. In a lot of circumstances a very small dog is a much better traveling companion than a large one, because it is welcome in a lot more places. Little dog can ride a motorcycle, be simply picked up out of trouble, be cleaned up after with one paper napkin, can sit in a carrier on an airplane or a bus. Or at the pub or the home of a friend who doesn't want a dog running around the house. But people prefer big manly dogs and then leave them home barking in the yard all day because you can't take a big dog anywhere but the park.
Matt — February 17, 2011
So, this animal rescue group is trying to reach neanderthal-like men who have serious masculinity issues and feel they must prove themselves by acting tough. They perceive these men to be the least likely to adopt a cat and want to target them specifically. They think they challenging the idea that cats are for women or "wimpy" men -- an idea which most people can understand because it has been framed that way throughout our lives even if there are many exceptions will help them adopt out more cats. So, they may get more cat adoptions but they are supporting the gendered stereotypes about masculinity at the same time Agh!
T.M — February 17, 2011
I wish we could explore the language of cat/dog "ownership". Sociologically speaking this language is disturbing to me because of the status of non-human animals in North American society today...they become commodities all too often. It's disappointing to read an article that takes a progressive approach to gender performance but neglects to take on a critical approach to the status of the individual animal(s). This is not to say that cats and dogs who reside with us aren't in fact property under the law because they legally are - but this is definitely problematic and I think that more socialists should/could make an effort to resist this language. These are sentient beings after all. Ownership? Or companions? I think it's something worth thinking about...
AitchCS — February 17, 2011
More of the same on Huffington Post
Neil Robinson — February 17, 2011
Even if cats fail to make you gay they will keep you single, apparently.
michele — February 17, 2011
I just watched these videos with the sound off and enjoyed them much more. I just wanted to see the dudes with kitties.
sara — February 17, 2011
cats won't keep you single if you're a lesbian. kidding. (half.) i have had and loved cats and dogs. i have always preferred large dogs, but recently i found a chihuahua and learned that a little dog is basically a large dog in a smaller package. i could have a small dog someday, and certainly will as i get older. :) dogs are soooo much more work. more like taking care of children than cats are.
Laura — February 17, 2011
I think what you have wriiten is true, but it is still big dogs that lose in this scenario. I work at an animal shelter and big dogs are the hardest to adopt out. We adopt cats and small dogs all day long, but big dogs sit there for months--even years. I am starting to thing it is not "socially acceptable" to own anything but a cat and/or a yorkie. Do your part! Adopt a big dog--they deserve love too--particularly the pittie bulls!
rhea d — February 17, 2011
see the whole thing.
Rachel — February 18, 2011
For an interesting example of a community in which cat appreciation is appreciated and encouraged among men, I suggest you log onto 4chan /b/ and say something mean about cats.
The Week As We Read It « Canonball — February 18, 2011
[...] Also, BREAKING: cats are girly and dudes think you’re uncool for liking them. Or can a man’s man with an affinity for felines change your mind? Everything’s cooler when men like [...]
jenny — February 19, 2011
The way I see it, it's hard to get more offensively masculine than one of those alley tomcats that yowl and fight in your backyards, so it baffles me that there's the assumption in the ads that it's not okay to be a cat guy.
Kay — February 19, 2011
I definitely see your point about how it's using X-TREEEME® masculinity to counterbalance the "girly" aspect of owning a cat (which always has confused me, cats go around killing stuff and barfing. What could be more stereotypically manly than that?!).
Though, inadvertently perhaps, it also seems to challenge the idea that you can't engage in "masculine" activities, and be compassionate and tender (so-called "feminine" activities). So while yes, it's holding up the status quo in one respect, it's also juxtaposing something sincerely that's usually reserved for comedy (hahah big muscle-men being...sweet?! NO WAY! IMPOSSIBLE!)
So I'm not really sure what to think. It is befuddling.
Kay — February 19, 2011
P.s Watched them with the sound off as well, maybe that altered my perspective.
Nijuro — February 19, 2011
I think the boxer was cute :3 and didn't seem overly manly in a traditional sense. He said the word "fabulous," for one thing.
Aylon — February 19, 2011
It's interesting that not one comment links masculinity, cats, and homosexuality together. Arguably, every issue dealing with masculinity in a contemporary context involves intersections with homosexuality.
This quote may be of some value. It's from W.C. Rivers' article, "A New MAle Homosexual Trait (?)" Alienist and Neurologist 41 (1920):
"If fondness for cats be entitled to a place among male homosexual traits, the reason will be that it is a woman's taste."
Nine Trillion — February 24, 2011
The 'cat = femme / dog = masc' theory has been around for ages but I disagree. I've always prefered cats over dogs. ( or better stated- cats prefer me, dogs don't.) My masculinity has never been in question- even though I'm bisexual - and, in fact, I've seen many examples of cats being portrayed as symbols of masculinity. Tom, from the cartoon, is VERY butch while Jerry mouse is somewhat effeminate. There's an old blues song with the line," I'm a tomcat and you's my kitten." in ancient Egypt, cats were seen as Gods (not goddesses) and buried with kings (not queens). Even in our metaphors we say that a bossy woman is a 'bitch' (canine) and a libidinous man is 'on the prowl' like a lion or tomcat (feline).
I think it depends on perspective. I'm a Leo and so is my dad and we have both always been owned by cats. Most 'strong' Leos indentify with the feline moreso than the canine. Dogs and cats definitely have radically polart traits but this can be seen in light of Yin & Yang energies. Cats are more independent and solitary whereas dogs are more sociable and pack oriented, this is displayed in nature.
Ironically, I live with a female cat (Dharma) and a male dog (Duke). Dharma runs the house and is very butch, Duke is very docile and easily manipulated (and he's half Doberman / half Rottweiler).
pale blue dot — March 31, 2011
Some of the comments complaining about this campaign makes me sick.
If this can get more cats adopted it's a good thing.
It is also necessary to balance out the gross overfeminization of cats as cats and male cat owners being defined as "pansys" does a great disservice to both men AND cats.
I say it's about time an ad like this exists.
I'm one of those guys who owns a cat that's really tired of feminist bullshit and my cat rocks like mofo.
So you're against masculinity-so what/ suck it /just die already.
Why should cats have to suffer for your own disgusting political agenda.
There's nothing wrong with badass cat owners because cats kick ass.
emgee — April 27, 2011
I have to wonder if the campaign might lead to "cat guy" "recidivism:" someone who has misgivings about an animal might get impatient with it and get rid of it later. Hopefully the adoption agency will do a good job matching cats to humans.
Cats have personalities, and their personalities also evolve over time. Some cats are very physically affectionate, some prefer their own space, others can talk your ear off and others never utter a peep. Some even swim or play fetch! I'm sure there is a cat personality to meet any human. I assume the same can be said for dogs.
On Animal Planet the male host of "Must Love Cats" improvises songs for the cats and plays guitar!
ECHO: your dad sounds awesome, tho I do feel bad for the stray dogs, I understand rural/agrarian life has different necessities.
The Ubiquity of Gender Rules; Or, Do Lesbians Have to Love Cats | Scientopia Guests' Blog — August 12, 2011
[...] their secrets, reminded me of this. In it a lesbian confesses that she hates cats. Because of the stereotype that women love cats, the “cat lady” stigma may be lifted in lesbian communities. This lesbian, however, doesn’t [...]
Spunth — September 7, 2011
"Why Men and Cats Clash - Similarity’s at the Root of Their Differences"
By David Graham
Mike Vasiljevs — November 4, 2011
I have developed a theory that more insecure women like cats (maybe to justify their passive behavior), as well as as well as secure men - they have their own opinion and can take care of themselves.
While if you look at dogs, they have pack mentality and appeal more to insecure men (who need to share an opinion with the pack to feel good). On the other hand more confident women may also own a dog - they know how to take charge when necessary (dogs requires some command) and and get physical sometimes (play with the dog).So what seems to me that insecure women are jealous of more secure men, and seem to distribute this idea that owning a cat is not masculine! ;)
and yes, i prefer cats, and i do like dogs too (although in moderation)
Butterfly fellow — January 10, 2012
The trouble is really that most people are uncomfortable with themselves, their true selves. This gives rise to confusion about gender and we like to split things up - so cats are labelled as having feminine characteristics, dogs as masculine etc. Cats are somewhat unpredictable, can 'turn on you' with their claws, are highly sensuous and territorial, whereas dogs are hierachy and order-orientated, on the whole, usually valued for strength, loyalty, endurance, courage etc.. All characteristics which a man or a woman may possess, but said man or woman may not be fully awake to.
I'm a cat guy - I like their soft fur and their little paws. I love their little voices and I like watching them talking to the birds (you know - that funny little chatter they do). I especially love it when a cat (any cat), takes it upon themselves to make a little nest of my lap, on which to have a nap. But I also like dogs - I love the enthusiasm and the joy that they bring and all the loyalty and companionship. Dogs are definitey friends in a way which cats simply don't choose to be.
Emma — April 24, 2012
What I find interesting is the number of cat owners with whom I've talked (male and female) who will describe their cat as "practically a dog." I think it's telling that they are distancing themselves from typical cat-like cats (??) and want to be sure everyone knows they and their cat are more dog-like, ie masculine.
Miles Archer — July 7, 2012
I don't need no touchy feely affirmational video. There's nothing wrong with men and cats. Geez.
Darrick — February 20, 2013
An animal is an animal. You can't have a big dog if you have apartment life. The animal is alive, it has feelings, it's conscious, it's fine...but thus, by the assertion given in this article(by someone with a phd)...both people and animals should suffer. What a fucking moron...Lisa Klein. Let's talk about jews now? Let's talk about how jews are cheap, manipulative and oh so much more. You know, all the things that society has asserted and believes? (eye roll)
Meet Jefferspin | Meeting Molly's Mates! — November 6, 2013
[…] with them, or they pick fights with him, but any time he goes inside there’s a complete territorial war that begins to crumble, and all you can hear are the cat screeches from the other room and you know […]
Chels — January 12, 2014
I have a black tux cat who is 20 pounds of hunky, muscled man-cat. Consult all the over-sexed stuffed animals he has.
Gooniard — August 23, 2015
Another biker: https://soundcloud.com/daniel-levy-6/demo-03-illinoiscowboy
RT — June 20, 2022
Yes it is possible to be a man and a cat lover. However most of the male cat lovers I have known are eccentric in other ways as well. As far as myself, there was a time when I liked cats better than dogs. Eventually I came to realize dogs did a lot more to stabilize me emotionally than did cats. I saw a t-shirt saying "dogs think they are human. Cats think they are God. " At one time I became a cat hater. Two things that brought me to the middle of the road. One was understanding how women seem to have an easier time with cats than do men. Also they do a good job of vermin control. My current attitude is dogs make better pets than cats while cats make better pets than mice (I currently have one of each).