Are cats still the preferred pet of single women?

Posted by Coco Dolci. March 19th 2015.

There has long been an association between single women and cats and the term “cat lady” is a frequently used description for females who have found themselves in the later stages of their life without a significant other; accumulating a number of cats in place of human companionship.

Young woman and catIt also seems that a cat, rather than a dog, is regarded generally as a more common choice of pet for single ladies but is there actually any hard evidence that this is the case? Are cats still the comfort creature of choice for single women?

Strong bonds

According to research by scientists at the University of Vienna, which analysed the interactions between 41 cats and their owners, the relationships between the female participants and their feline friends were stronger than cats with male owners.

The bond between animal and human were said to be far stronger than originally thought and rather than relying on their adopted parents just for food, it seemed that the cats were attached to their human buddies, and saw them as social partners. This was true across all owners but relationships were particularly intense among women.

The study marked the first suggestion that cat-human bonds are almost identical to human-human bonds and even discovered that cats and owners are strongly influenced by each other’s behaviour. But why is this?

Mothering instincts

According to a behavioural ecology professor at the University of Sussex, it’s all down to sound. It was determined that cats have just about the right size of vocal folds to produce a cry that is very similar to that of a baby. A meow can sound like a crying child, something that lures in humans. It is effective with both men and women but causes the mothering instinct in females to really kick in.

The professor’s study also identified what is called “solicitation purring” – a combination of purring and an embedded high pitched cry.
Men and women frequently differ in their influence over the cat and Wedl wrote:

“It is known that, when humans and cats first meet, women tend to speak/vocalise to the cat more than men, and cats tend to approach women more often than men.”

A young woman and her dog

Close interactions

Sound isn’t the only trigger though and Wedl also explained that interaction had a big role to play, saying:

“In studies of cat-owning families, it has been found that women tend to interact with their cats more than men do. In response, the cats approach female owners more frequently and initiate contact more frequently, such as jumping up, than they do with male owners.”

She additionally points out that other researchers believe “female owners have more intense relationships with their cats than do male owners” although a recent article in The Telegraph saw a female journalist suggest that this sacred bond between feline and female could be being taken over by their canine cousins.

She revealed the lavish treatment she bestows on her spoilt Staffordshire Bull Terrier (who eats only organic food and favours the sophisticated flavours of asparagus and Greek yogurt), claiming that she has noticed more and more of her single female friends opting for dogs rather than cats – five in the last three years, in fact.

She cites their undying devotion as a reason behind the trend as well as that fact that “owning a dog doesn’t have the same sad spinster-of-this-parish connotations as being a single girl with a cat or, God forbid, more than one cat.”

Are the days of the cat lady really coming to an end?

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