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 from Boise State University, in Idaho, where researchers presented around 1,400 women with photographs of two men in their early 20s – 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. The chaps shown with cats were far less likely to arouse romantic interest because they were seen as “less masculine, more neurotic, and less datable”, the academics 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-20s, 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’s 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.