A collage of topless men holding cats on a colour background.
Collage: Cath Virginia | Photos: via Getty Images

Do ‘Cat Dads’ Actually Respect Women More?

Maybe they’re just the new ‘nice guy’...

“Are you a dog person or a cat person?” may seem like the most mundane of modern discourse, but it’s actually a significant marker in humanity. We love a good categorisation – just ask the women of Salem, Massachusetts in about 1692. Before eras and cores (you know, villain era, healing era, blokecore, shoot-me-now-core) there were two main camps that divided heterosexual daters in the 21st century: dog people and cat people.


Cat ownership and heterosexual dating has a complicated, nuanced, ever-changing relationship. Up until just a few years ago, declaring yourself a “cat person” was off-putting to almost everyone everywhere – it was practically seen as subversive. “Cat ladies”, of course, represented permanently single, witchy, feminist types (derogatory). And “cat men”? They were seen as generally undesirable, weak and effeminate (again, derogatory). 

Studies have long proven the perceived “ickiness” of cat men, from women being less likely to date a man holding a cat in his dating profile, to dogs being more of a good sign than cats. The scientists involved with the former, from Colorado State University, suspected it came down to outdated perceptions linking male femininity to homosexuality, and the idea that cats are more closely associated with female owners, as per old research.

So unlike dog people – who’re largely considered dateable with their perceived openness, on-tap affection and simplicity – people with cats are a different breed. Just as cats are portrayed as hard-to-read, independent, with a generally no-shits-given vibe, their owners have been painted with the same dumb-and-reductive brush. 

As a classic “crazy cat lady”, complete with cat-themed tattoos, artwork and Etsy t-shirts, I relate proudly to the cat lady characteristics. However, I’ve recently noticed a shift. While single women with cats are still seen as undateable wenches, there’s a new wave of appreciation for “cat dads” online. 


I’m sure you’ve seen this trope on TikTok: Comments on thirst traps of topless men (and their kitties) reading, "Cat dudes are the best!", "cat dads ftw", "adorable, the cat isn’t bad either”. Videos of women candidly filming their unsuspecting boyfriends whilst they dance with/snuggle/feed their cats go viral on the regular, often captioned “date a cat guy”. These are met with support like, “Most of them are green flags, I can attest”. One user (@burdance) even captioned his cat-trap (see what we did there?) with: “Women only date men with cats.” 

This leap in public perception has been quick, from undesirable to the number one most dateable trait at a rate of zero-to-zoomies. Mostly informed by TikTok, we’ve somehow collectively decided that men with cats are more sensitive, that they understand women and they “get it” – “it” being politics that aren’t hideous and seeing women as, um, actual human beings. This sensitivity once seen by society as a negative, is now positive (as it should be). But are “cat dads” actually green flags or has owning a cat just become another way to trick women into trusting them? 

We’ve all had a straight man wetly whisper in our ear at a bar that he’s a feminist, whilst trying to chat us up. We’ve all had that same guy absolutely not be a feminist once rejected. Is this just the latest way heterosexual men are cosplaying as “nice guys” in order to get women to date them?


I spoke with several women who’ve been ensnared by a cat draped over a topless man’s shoulder, or drawn in by a Hinge prompt like, “If you wanna be my lover, you’ve got to get on with my cat”. 

Amber, 29 from south London, tells VICE that she “instantly feels connected to a man’s dating profile when he shows his cat off” because she has one, too. “Men with cats generally fit my type,” she says. “I perceive them as creative, usually bearded and tattooed, and into the same art as me. I find ‘dog’ men too vanilla.” But after swiping right on a lot of cat men, and dating a handful of them, Amber’s stance has shifted: “Dating is rough right now and Hinge is a bin fire. Sadly, I’ve not found any correlation between owning a cat and not being a cunt. They’ll still ghost you, but just dig the knife in by getting you excited to meet their cute pet.” 

Felines also give the feels to Maeva, 33 from Dublin. “I love cats so much and picture my future partner and me with three or four,” she says. “Naturally, if the first photo on a dating app shows a cat, it’s an instant yes from me.” When asked if this tactic has been successful, she says no with a laugh/grimace. “I actually think they’re catfishing me – excuse the pun – because I just see the fluffy cat and don’t really look at their profile as closely,” she continues. “When they turn out to be creepy, I’m always more disappointed.” 


Some cat-lovers have even turned to avoiding dating profiles with cats. “I used to feel like it was almost a ‘safe space’ if they owned a cat, that they’d automatically be sensitive, kind and understanding,” says 32 year-old Anna, from Cornwall. “Obviously, it was always the opposite and cats have ended up being a massive red flag for me.” 

Not all cat men are trash, though – just as #notallmen will make you finish. Geva, 22 from east London, found her long-term cat-loving partner on Hinge. “I honestly think the main reason we matched was because he made three cat-related jokes on his profile,” she says. “It gave us something to instantly bond over.” Geva think cat dads are the best: “I mean, we’ve been together four years, I’m now a cat mum and we’re going to adopt another one together!”

What do cat men have to say about all this then? Harry, a proud 28-year-old cat dad from London, doesn’t think his feline friend was a deciding factor in his dating life.

“I absolutely used my cat on dating apps – prospective partners have to know I have a child – but I don’t think it really made a difference,” he says. “I’d get messages saying my cat is cute, which I appreciated, but it didn't necessarily mean we had much else to talk about.” Is Harry a member of the cat-dad-thirst-trap society? “Uh, yes! I have a photo of my cat being the little spoon in bed, which conveniently shows off a tiny morsel of my bare hairy chest,” he adds. “I mean, who wouldn't?” 


One TikTok-famous cat dad – who asked to remain *very* anonymous for this article, so let’s call him Cat Zaddy – confirms the phenomenon. “Obviously I use my cat to get women,” he says. “I’ll spend hours on a skit or funny video and it gets a few thousand likes. But get my shirt off with my cat, and I get over a million views and hundreds of DMs asking if my son needs a mom.” 

When questioned whether he puts on an act, channelling a softer side to him that doesn’t really exist, Cat Zaddy gets defensive: “I don’t think I’m doing that, no. If women want to assume I’m a certain kind of guy just because I have a cat, then that’s on them – it’s pretty shallow.” Meow. 

Harry thinks it’s total fake news that cat men are more in touch with their emotions and women. “I've known people with different pets and no pets who’re all great, and ones who are dickheads,” he continues. “Perhaps non-cat owners are in touch with different emotions, or in touch with their emotions in a different way, but I doubt the trend is that significant. You don't see many binaries in real life and the ones that are usually are false ones.” 

It’s hard to say if the “cat dad” is just a new version of “I’m a nice guy”, but it’s clear there’s been a shift online in terms of desirability and pet ownership. Dog dudes are still desirable (golden retriever boyfriend, anyone?), but it seems that a lot more gen Z and millennial women are gravitating towards cat men, seeing them as the ultimate green flag. 

Ultimately, it’s just not that deep. Hetero men with cats are still just… men. Maybe they’re less bogged down by traditional ideas of masculinity. Maybe it’s just a ruse. Either way, if you meet the love of your life and they have a cat, then that can only be an added fluffy bonus – just don’t base your entire relationship on it.