No more crazy cat lady: In defense of single men with cats

It’s the end of the crazy female feline owner as we know it—and local cat dudes like Brian Levinson feel fine

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Photograph: Melissa Sinclair


For years, the first rule of being a dude in Cat Club was: You do not talk about Cat Club. As a lifelong member—my childhood cat was actually older than me—I’d always viewed my affection as the love that dare not meow its name. My membership was, frankly, embarrassing—not the first thing I’d mention to a girl at a bar.

I wasn’t alone. Unless they were super nerdy or oozing I-don’t-give-a-fuck hipster quirk, the cat guys I knew were afraid to come out from under the sofa. After all, cats were for James Bond villains and hoarders. They were for crazy women we had the displeasure of dating. Men were supposed to like dogs, whose empty expressions and constant drooling embodied the simplicity of…men.

But recently, fellas with felines have embraced their ailurophilia. Local celebs like Howard Stern have fostered dozens of rescue cats, turning their homes into “catnadoes.” There’s the guide Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too by Brooklyn comedian Michael Showalter; the website Men and Cats (menandcats.com), which displays pictures of manly icons like Sean Connery posing with their kitties; and a brand-new photo book called Metal Cats, in which scary-looking rockers from bands like Skeletonwitch and Lightning Swords of Death pose with their furry friends. The cat dude is officially entering the mainstream.

And in NYC, ever the place where trends are born, the phenomenon is reaching the point of normalcy (though reaching is the operative word). I’m no longer hesitant to tell people about the five critters I live with. In fact, every cat owner I talked to for this piece is just the sort of guy you could have a beer with, not some weirdo holed up in his apartment doting over an animal like some surrogate spouse.

“The cat dude is the sort of guy you could have a beer with, not some weirdo holed up in his apartment doting over an animal.”


But what makes this phenomenon so New York? Why do there seem to be more cat dudes here than in, say, Chicago? For one, New Yorkers are busy. We’re preoccupied with jobs, social lives, HBO series. “Working as a Realtor in NYC requires a commitment of six or seven days every week,” says 37-year-old Greenwich Village resident Adrian. “So I don’t have time to walk a dog.”

“Cats are barely more difficult to take care of than plants,” adds Seung, 31, an IT professional from Ditmas Park. “They just need to be fed and watered,” he adds, emphasizing the very dude ideal of taking it easy at all costs. Lebowski would be proud.

Perhaps even more key than practicality is that felines can help stave off the crippling loneliness of getting by in the city. “I’ve lived alone for many years,” says Chris, 34, a writer from Harlem, “and having a cat means there’s a sentient creature there beside me.”

Most important, though, is that male New Yorkers in particular are by nature critical of blind friendliness and bubbly personalities—which makes them the yin to cats’ standoffish yang. You have to earn cats’ affection, Seung says, “but once you’ve won them over, it’s so satisfying.” Michael, 34, an ad executive from Greenpoint, agrees: “They’re yours because they want to be with you, not because they have to be with you. That makes it feel like a closer bond.”

As for the haters? The folks that still view cat ownership as distinctly feminine? (See “Catfight!,” below.) That kind of scorn ain’t no thing for guys like Josh, 31: “Anyone who judges me for liking cats has done me a huge favor, since they’ve outed themselves as a dick.”

It’s that imperviousness to judgment that is the mark of a true cat dude: Everyone I spoke to insisted that he wouldn’t trade his furry friends for all the wings in Buffalo. It’s a sign that this movement will always land on its feet.



Catfight!

Don’t get too confident, dudes—these ladies are not impressed with your kitty lovin’.

“If you’re a man with a cat but without a girlfriend, I’m just going to go ahead and assume you’re a murderer.”—Alyssa, Upper West Side

“Why would I want to date a guy who’s already bought himself a pussy to come home to every night?”—Anna, East Village

“I assume that those men, like cats, don’t require human love to survive.”—Siobhan, Upper East Side 

“Like the guy taking women’s studies, he’s trying too hard. That or his last girlfriend was so desperate end things that she just left her cat behind.”—Liz, Park Slope, Brooklyn

“Straight. Up. Creepy. It’s a giant red flag for me when single guys say they have cats. I assume they’re needy and antisocial. And psycho.”—Krystle, Williamsburg, Brooklyn  

“Never trust a man with cats. That’s all I have to say about that.”—Kristin, Astoria, Queens


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