When we finally bought a house in 1996, we toyed with the idea of getting a dog. He'd had a dog as a child, and I'd always had a dog, but after interviewing a few dogs, we realized that with our work schedules, it just wasn't going to happen. So we were Crazy Cat People.
Mr. B. with Wendy (1985-2000)
I think Mr. B. preferred cats because they were easy, specially when you live with someone who does all the litterbox cleaning. But it was more than that. When cats love you, they love you because you deserve it, not simply because you walk the earth. Cats have a badassery that dogs just don't have. It takes a certain kind of guy to appreciate a cat, and that's why I think cat guys have a mystique that dog guys just don't have. Cat guys don't expect to be attached to you at the wrists and ankles 24 hours a day. Cat guys get that sometimes you want to be with your women friends, or that you need down time, or that you are an adult capable of your own decisions. Cat guys can be needy in a different way, but they don't need to be slobbered over all the time in order to feel wanted.
After Mr. B. died, I used to joke about how it used to be "Jill and Steve live in Washington Township with their two cats," which made us sound sort of hip and artsy, but now it was "Jill lives in Washington Township with her two cats", which made me sound sad, lonely, and pathetic -- a walking stereotype of the crazy cat lady. I don't know how the crazy cat lady image came about, except that it tends to be women who end up feeding feral cat colonies rather than shooting them. But it's a stereotype that unfairly maligns women and keeps far too many men from discovering the amazing mystery that is felis domesticus.
When we used to listen to "Morning Sedition" on Air America Radio over a decade ago, Marc Maron would talk about "Boomer the dirt cat" out at his home in L.A., and about the three feral cats he'd rescued in Astoria -- Moxie, Monkey, and LaFonda. If I recall, Moxie was part of the settlement with his ex-wife, but Monkey and LaFonda live with him to this day.
Maron is funny and cool and the cats still figure prominently in every interview now that he's a Really Famous Guy Who Interviewed The President And Was Nominated For a SAG Award. In a 2013 interview, he said about cats "You don't really know what they're up to, and they're always sort of fascinating, and they seem to have their own thing and they're always sort of surprising. I think dogs are kind of emotionally consistent -- either they're very needy, or they're a little bit aggravated. I think cats, you assume, have an inner life, because they get focused on things, and they're kind of effortlessly cute with their own obsessions, and that makes people into them."
I think he's on to something here. Perhaps it's that mysterious inner life where they DON'T share their obsessions with the world that resonates with men, especially those who are uncomfortable with too-open displays of emotionality. Cats also have a certain "Screw you" affect that I think some men find appealing. Women, on the other hand, are attracted to an animal that handles its own inner life because we have enough trouble dealing with our OWN inner lives and the inner lives of our parents, spouses and children, thank you very much. So an animal that goes about its own business and doesn't ask to be understood provides a much-needed respite.
Cat guys tend to be the dirty little secret of masculinity, though that's changing. In the online world, Dwayne Molock, whose cat guy alter ego is "Moshow", raps about his cats. What makes Moshow compelling is not just that until you see the cats, he's just another rapper with an unfortunate tendency to use autotune, but that he has four sphinx cats, which are the weirdos of the cat world. Moshow's sphinxes are endlessly patient and seem to thrive on wearing clothes, including, apparently, matching pajamas:
Moshow shows the kind of gleeful, all-encompassing love for his cats that you usually see in women. So perhaps it's Moshow who made cat-obsession safe for macho guys like....
Yes, THAT Keith Hernandez, the 1979 MVP award winner and holder of World Series rings with the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets; the carrier of cocaine usage rumors, the chain-smoking first baseman who along with the couldn't-be-more-different Gary Carter were the missing pieces that when added, created the 1986 Mets, and now the lovable curmudgeon of the SNY broadcast booth, and yes, cat guy.
Hernandez is one of those people who really found his voice on Twitter, but does it in a way that doesn't piss people off, but instead, shows him as a kind of Tweeting Man of Letters. But it was a single video of himself picking up the paper with his cat Hadji (named after a character in a Jonny Quest cartoon, which may be the endearingly dorky thing done by an ex-jock EVER) that put Keith Hernandez into the Exalted Pantheon of Internet Cat Guys.
Perhaps it's going to take a curmudgeonly ex-jock to make cats as acceptable a pet for men as women have known for decades. On the other hand, it seems kind of a shame that we may have to share that with them too.