A few years ago, I asked a woman I was dating what the most erotic sext I’d ever sent her was.
“The one with the video of you installing the door,” she replied. I had taken all my doors out when I’d moved into my apartment because I wanted to create the illusion of more space in that shoebox of a place. I had no roommates, so the lack of a barrier between kitchenette and bedroom hadn’t had much of an impact on my makeout game for my first year there. But this woman had the poor fortune of being the first person I’d brought home after I became the father of two cats.
They’re not horrible cats. Well, one of them is kind of horrible (he’s the male of the pair, of course), but they’re not quite My Cat from Hell material. That said, they don’t have a great deal of respect for personal space. So when this wonderful young lady and I were doing what grown-ups do, the two of them were fond of getting friendly with her: chewing her hair, lightly grazing their claws along her thigh, plopping themselves down for a nap on her face, and so on. She was fine with one creature in that apartment showing affection and interest in her body; three was two too many. So I reinstalled the door and texted her the proof. She swooned. The cats were put outside during our intimate dealings. Romantic harmony was restored.
That is, except for the persistent sounds of the boy cat whining and scratching the aforementioned door in a plea to be let in on the fun. The relationship didn’t last, but the feline concerns have persisted. Being a cat daddy provides a unique set of challenges and opportunities for a young, single gent in the city. Let’s start with the plusses. A middle-aged camera operator at an old TV job once told me there were two keys to getting a woman in bed: owning property (“it shows you’ve got a future”) and owning a dog (“it shows you could take care of a kid, if that’s what she’s into”). I’m a professional writer, so property ownership is a bit out of my price range, probably forever. And although a dog was out of the question — why should I let an animal force me to leave my house on days when I’d rather languish in the light of my laptop? — I’ve certainly found that pet parenthood makes a certain type of woman’s ears perk up.
I highly doubt that that perking happens because of the maternal longing the camera guy mentioned. It has more to do with good conversation. Talking about my cats on a first date allows me to both self-deprecate and brag, hopefully in a charming manner on both fronts. Calling myself a “cat lady” in a masculine baritone always gets a laugh, or at least a smile. Then I can talk at length about my victories in the struggle for ecosystem dominance: You should hear me recount the tales of what it took to drown out the boy cat’s screams when I’m trying to sleep (the current status quo is me locking him in the bathroom and using a white-noise machine to counteract the noise). Add in the tale of how the “used-cat salesman” (again, always at least a smile with that line) upsold me from one cat to two? Baby, you better believe I’ve got a girl’s attention at that point.
And, of course, the greatest trick the cats offer me (man, I’m really giving away all my pickup-artist secrets here, aren’t I?) is a fantastic method of casually proposing that we take the action from the restaurant to the apartment. “Hey, do you wanna meet my cats?” I’ll ask. It’s perfect! If she’s not interested, saying no to a cat-viewing is much less awkward for her than saying no to the prospect of kissing me. But if she is game for a potential make-out, it makes the whole endeavor seem more lighthearted and chill. I suppose someone could say yes solely out of the desire to hang with some felines, but I’ve never had a false positive like that.
In fact, now that I’m getting to this point in this essay, I’m realizing the positives far outweigh the negatives when it comes to dating as a kitty papa. Sure, they cause a fair bit of noise. They make cooking difficult (the boy cat has a profound hunger for people food). And they can produce truly repulsive smells when their litter box is full. But they force me to keep my apartment clean. Any mop-up of a hairball tends to lead to a general sweep of the area, and I have to keep most surfaces clear so no tiny paws push things to their shattered doom. And I can fill any awkward silences by picking up one of the cats and making light conversation with my children (the women probably think I’m doing a bit at first, but stick around me long enough and you’ll find that I talk to them whether or not anyone’s paying attention to me). My furry kids regularly lighten the mood by curling up for sleepy-times in a lady’s lap. And if we get somewhat public as a couple, that lady has top-notch cat-Instagramming opportunities.
But the most important way the cats help me make love connections is this: There’s a special magic when a cat dad finds a cat mom. Gabbing about the triumphs and travails of feline ownership is a genuinely powerful experience that can bring me a lot closer to a person. Plus, a cat lady and I can share an air of superiority with regards to our dog-owning counterparts. I dated a dog mom for a while, and although she and I both had to ignore animal hair in our respective boudoirs, only one of us had to worry about interrupting a make-out session to put on clothes, exit the building, and walk a pet. By comparison, what’s a little mewling at the bedroom door?