At thirty-five, after seventeen years of dating and twelve years of being owned, in some way, by cats, I have finally decided not to date people who do not like cats. Men have come and gone through the years; the cats have stayed. I have broken off an engagement over a cat (no regrets whatsoever—I did make the better choice); refused to go on a second date with multiple people who've said, "God, cats are so cold", and always have a picture with a kitty on my online dating profile, to drive a not-so-subtle "love me, love my cat," message. Cats are my spirit animal, I often say airily. And though now atheist, I am fully convinced that in an earlier life I was an acolyte of Bastet, the Egyptian goddess of women's secrets, home, fertility and protection, who has the head (and also, I think, the personality) of a cat.
I'm not sure if my cats feel quite the same about me, of course. As I write this essay, my two cats--Lady Mohawk and Bagheera-- stride irately across my writing table, annoyed that I have taken over their bird-watching perch so early in the morning. It doesn't help that the cats and I are going through a particularly rough patch in our relationships. I have not been in their good books since I moved cities a couple of weeks ago and decided that they would accompany me. As any cat parent knows, cats do not like someone else making their decisions for them, and they make their displeasure known. Although I have spent the better part of the last two weeks trying to make amends, purchasing vast quantities of exorbitantly-priced wet cat food and treats to appease them. So far, the bribes have not worked. While they continue to demand utter sycophancy, forgiveness comes slow to a cat, if at all.
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Now, if you are not a cat person, you must wonder -- why even bother sharing a home with creatures so complicated and seemingly aloof? I wish I had an answer to that. But love, after all, is not a reasonable practical thing; it has never been. One of my favourite quotes about cats—yes, I collect those—is this one by writer Lloyd Alexander. "Perhaps one reason we are fascinated by cats is because such a small animal can contain so much independence, dignity, and freedom of spirit. Unlike the dog, the cat's personality is never bet on a human's. He demands acceptance on his own terms."
I like to believe that cats--just by being their fabulous selves-- have taught me a little about love and self-containment. The romantic relationships of my teens and early twenties were built upon suffocating co-dependency, a loss of identity and self, and love at the cost of everything. Sharing a home with cats has shifted these beliefs considerably; love, I know now, is never about control, loss of autonomy or ownership. One of my favourite poems about cats—yes, I collect those too—firmly reiterates this. In this pithy, clever poem, Advice to Women, published in 1994, Eunice de Souza writes
if you want to learn to cope with
the otherness of lovers."
Philosophy and random musings aside, I've often wondered what it would be like to date someone who is also a cat person. I never have, somehow. So, I must admit to being very chuffed by the recent initiative by the dating app Tinder — which helps the user filter profiles and only connect with other Animal Parents; it holds some interesting possibilities, I think.
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Here are five reasons why I think it would be great to date a fellow cat person
They get the lingo of cat universe
Scary diseases like FIP, FIV, CKD and parvo? Knowing that a group of kittens is a kindle and a group of cats is a clowder? Cat boops, bleps and toe beans? Cat universe has an inside language that only a real aficionado is privy to. The easiest way to weed out the fake cat-lovers, in my opinion? Point to a calico cat and ask your date whether it is a boy or girl. (Ha, trick question. Because calico kitties are nearly always girls, thanks to complicated genetics outside the purview of this piece.)
They don't judge you for kitty-related expenditure
Fact: I spend more, per month, on cat food than on my own. I also waste vast amounts of time (and money) trawling through the web for cat accessories, toys and vessels of various shapes and sizes. I am also more likely to take my cats to the vet if they don't eat than go to the doctor myself, even if I have a raging temperature and lesions exploding across my back. A cat person will get it. They may even agree with me that there was nothing excessive about Choupette, the late designer Karl Lagerfeld's cat, being flown business class, eating caviar and having two maids.
Cat messes don't turn them off
I imagine dogs are messy too, but I am sticking to feline messes since my experience is with the latter. As much as I love my cats, scooping out poop from their litter tray every day is hardly fun, especially if they've treated their tray as a fun sandpit and have left trails of litter and dried poop all over my bedroom floor. And yes, prepare for fur on your clothes and bedsheets, hair-balls clogging your drains and AC, the occasional food or water spill and bimonthly vomiting fit. Understandably enough, a normal human being may not want to live with all this; cat people, however, are immune to it.
They don't mind your cat quirks
Bit of a generalisation here, but cat people can be extremely weird about their cats. Case in point—I now have a security camera that I use to check on my cats when I am away from home. I'm fairly certain they don't care a damn about me—all they do is snooze when I am away—but I check on them every half an hour. I am also a member of three very active WhatsApp cat groups, have the pet-food supplier man as one of my 'favourite' contacts and often text my vet and/or cat buddies at six in the morning with queries like: "Poop slightly liquidy. What to do?" I am hoping a fellow cat person will be able to live with this as well as my other not inconsiderable quirks.
Your cat family will expand
This, in my opinion, is the best reason to date a cat person. They have cats, you have cats, and if things work out, you may even adopt one more together. Talk about the best #relationshipgoals ever.