Donald Clarke: One man and his cat – the purrfect couple

One individual actually titled her blog: ‘I Don’t Like Men Who Own Cats’

While unkind caricatures of “cat ladies” focus on loneliness and social awkwardness, the man who lives alone with a cat is more often portrayed as an out-and-out psychopath

While unkind caricatures of “cat ladies” focus on loneliness and social awkwardness, the man who lives alone with a cat is more often portrayed as an out-and-out psychopath

 

This week I will stand up for a sector of society that has never been allowed proper respect: I am a man who lives alone with a cat and I don’t care who knows it.

Actually, I care a little. If I apply for a job as a US Navy Seal and this comes up in a background check, then ignore all you’ve read. My glamorous wife and I have an anaconda and two grizzly bears.

Where was I? Let me take you back to the trigger for these meanderings.

Every now and then a journalist will receive free stuff in a basket. It’s hard to know exactly what is going on here. Most of us have just enough ethical integrity to positively avoid mention of any such gifts in formal copy. I will, for example, not be confirming which cat food manufacturer recently sent me a basket stuffed with food and accessories for the furriest member of my household. I cannot, however, resist highlighting the ironic intelligence that he is among the two out of 10 cats who wouldn’t thank you for the product.

What a strange world we live in. It is somebody’s job (and more power to him or her) to scour Twitter for mention of cats owned by persons associated with the media. They then manufacture collars featuring the beast’s name and print pseudo-charcoal sketches derived from stray photographs the media fools have posted. Our ancestors grew crops in barren soil and hunted swine amid unlit forests, you know.

Cat women

As you will be aware, the most reliable and rigorous way of researching any phenomenon is to type a summary of the topic into Google. (Idle evenings abound in the silly season.) “Do Real Men Own Cats?” an entry towards the top of the resulting page asked. “Can men who own cats be considered men?” a forum at Bodybuilding. com ponders.

One individual actually titled her blog: “I Don’t Like Men Who Own Cats.” Well, I suspect I wouldn’t much care for you either, madam.

There is a smidgeon of homophobia in such attitudes. The sort of pillock who thinks that only a gay person would own a cat is invariably the same sort of pillock who instinctively dislikes all creatures in either category. But there is more to it than that. Unkind caricatures of “cat ladies” focus on loneliness and social awkwardness. The man who lives alone with a cat is more often portrayed as an out-and-out psychopath.

Think of Blofeld in the James Bond films. It just wouldn’t have worked if, in You Only Live Twice, Donald Pleasence cradled a cocker spaniel while contemplating 007’s imminent demise.

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn gets to parade glamorously about New York with a cat. In Alien, the only creature Sigourney Weaver can properly trust is Jones the ginger tom. In the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, by way of contrast, the elusive Ulysses brings only misery to the sociopathically rude title character.

A man who lives alone with a cat is either a raving maniac or a pathetic failure. When not attempting to lure Mr Furry from behind the washing machine, he is, most likely, annotating his collection of Regency bath mats or failing to seduce the retired district nurse on the half-landing. If he’s not Blofeld, then he’s Rigsby from the classic ITV sitcom Rising Damp. Vienna the tabby was, after all, the sole creature who endured Leonard Rossiter’s sleazy twitching.

Domestic dignity

There may be no change for the gas meter. The wallpaper may be peeling around the yellowy fungus that attends the leaking cistern. But you have persuaded a half-wild creature from primeval shadows to occupy your lap during The Great British Bake Off. You are a chieftain, a scourge of nations, a god among demigods.

I’m sensing this has done nothing for my fellow cat owners’ reputations.

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