Cats are for introverted losers who read comic books and don’t go outside, and dogs are for everyone else — or so the internet would have you believe.
To celebrate World Cat Day Facebook has leapt into the “dog vs cat” debate and embedded the stereotype into the minds of the world by proving that on its social network at least, all of the above is true.
Indeed, researchers at Facebook have studied 160,000 profiles based in the US and found that 30 per cent of people who shared cat photos were single, against 24 per cent of those who posted photographs of dogs.
According to the social networking site, “cat people [lol] seem to have more indoor activities: they disproportionately like books, TV, and movies (measured in terms of Facebook Page likes).”
Of course, cat lovers “disproportionately” preferred fantasy, sci-fi, and anime. Whereas more acceptably, dog lovers enjoyed love stories and tear jerking animal films like Marley & Me.
But what is perhaps more interesting is that pet owners of the same animal also shared similar feelings:
Although it is likely not the intention of Facebook to prove any kind of stereotype, it has chosen to publish these data sets for a reason.
But do pet ownership stereotypes hold up in reality, or at least, outside Facebook?
Writing for Psychology Today, Stanley Coren, who conducted his own study (using data not from Facebook or the internet), found that:
Being married, living in a house, and having children living in the home, are all factors that are more likely for dog owners than cat owners.
A single woman was the most likely individual to have a cat.
He also found that people who grew up with cats as children were more likely to own one as an adult. Only 11 per cent of people opted for a different species.
That said, it goes without saying that women — who receive the most brazen and well-formed “crazy cat lady” stereotype — have had close ties to cats for thousands of years.
And experts aren’t quite sure where this stigma originates, but as Forbes contributor, Kiri Blakeley, notes, “on the whole, women live longer than men.”
This means of course, that there are more elderly women in the world, who are widowed, who have distant and far away children, with a lot of time on their hands, and likely, cats to feed — all at an age when dementia is rampant.
But this association is something that is often applied to women in their late thirties and early forties, because after all, if they are single and with cats, there can only be one trajectory for them.
Another study, conducted by Match.com, found that 62 per cent of female cat owners believe that having the animal as a pet comes with its own set of preconceptions — and it is something that single women worry about.
Or at least, 23 per cent of them do, even highlighting the “crazy cat lady” stigma as a reason why. Another 21 per cent said that they would actually wait to gauge what their date felt about cats before revealing that they had one at home.
More importantly however, more than half of Brits said that they have no problem dating a cat owner, with 25 per cent of them seeing it as a positive attribute.
But what about men?
Whereas the brush that tars women is fairly clear in its ingredients, stereotypes about male cat owners are fairly convoluted.
One blogger quips, “So what is it with guys and cats these days? Is that the new, cool thing? I assure you single gentleman: it’s not.” She continues, “Guys wonder why they’re single, not getting any, having trouble in the relationship department etc….and then they start talking about their cat. Ding Ding. We have a winner.”
Anna Breslaw, writing for Cosmopolitan, says that, “Nothing is cute about a man with a cat. Nothing is sweet, endearing, or vagina-tingling about a dude in possession of this animal,” before later concluding that a man with a cat is more likely to be a “Lazy Indoor Guy”, which she says, “is more likely to turn her on.”
But for every article warning single men against cat ownership, there are ten advocating the opposite.
Kathryn Morrill at Thought Catalog claims that men with cats might actually be better lovers. Although she acknowledges that society does in fact deem it weird for a single man to own a cat, she claims that men who own cats “tend to be better at understanding women”, which is something “very appealing”.
And this is where much of the support lies — in the assumption that men with cats are more “sensitive” and “empathetic” and “warm”.
Definitely not crazy then.
But perhaps for both men and women, these stereotypes might have one, if seldom appreciated, benefit. As one guy in TimeOut says, “Anyone who judges me for liking cats has done me a huge favour [sic], since they’ve outed themselves as a dick.”
Of course, it could all be down to the animals themselves.
In yet another poll, this time conducted by Associated Press, it was found that cats are just the easier animal to hate, as 15 per cent of adults said that they disliked cats a lot, while only two per cent stated that they disliked dogs a lot.