Hey guys: Stop snuggling with your cats (at least in photos) if you want a date

Cat photos can be cat-astrophic for your love life.
Cat photos can be cat-astrophic for your love life. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Can posing with a pet help men find dating success? Not if the pet is a cat, scientists say.

Posing with a cat makes men less desirable to women, compared with when they pose without their feline friends, researchers recently discovered. 

Overall, women rated cat-less photos of the same man higher on desirable qualities, with more women saying that they would be likely to consider the man for both long-term and short-term relationships, according to a new study.

Related: Photos: See the world through a cat's eyes

Previously, other studies had found that women considered pet-owning men to be "more attractive and dateable" than men who did not own pets, but this effect was usually associated with dog ownership. 

This led the scientists to ask: Would men with cats be more desirable than men on their own? 

To answer that question, the researchers conducted two surveys: one with 708 participants and one with 680 participants. Study subjects were all American residents between the ages of 18 and 24, and who identified as female and heterosexual.

Depending on the group, the women looked at photos of one of two white men — "Male 1" or "Male 2" — who were in their early 20s and wearing blue button-down shirts. The participants looked at two versions of the photo of each man: either with or without a cat

When the first group viewed "Male 1" alone, they saw him as "more extraverted than when pictured with the cat," the scientists reported. And when "Male 1" was pictured with a cat, study participants saw him as "more agreeable, neurotic and open," than when he posed solo, according to the study. 

"Male 2" also scored higher in extraversion and conscientiousness when alone, and higher in agreeableness and openness when pictured with a cat.

And how did holding a cat affect the men's desirability as mates? In the first group, about 30% of those surveyed said they'd be more likely to enter a relationship with the cat-free man, compared with 19% who said they'd be more likely to date the cat-holder. Preferences in the second group were more equally divided, with only about 23% favoring the cat-less man and 19% preferring the cat snuggler.

In both groups, about 50% of the participants found the men equally dateable regardless of whether or not they held a cat.

"Male 1" and "Male 2" were evaluated in photos with and without cats.

"Male 1" and "Male 2" were evaluated in photos with and without cats. (Image credit: L. Kogan/S. Volsche)

But were some of the study subjects predisposed to judge cats — and the men who love them — too harshly? While about 19% of the subjects in both groups said they were "cat people," 48% called themselves "dog people" (24% said they were both, while around 10% said they were neither). 

Other studies have shown that men who are considered dog-lovers are perceived as being more independent and masculine, the scientists reported. Identifying as a "dog person" may therefore also embrace a cat-centric bias that is pervasive in American culture; branding cat-loving men as "less masculine" and perhaps "creating a cultural preference for 'dog men' among most heterosexual women in the studied age group," according to the study.

Might interpretations about dateability then be applicable to photos of men posing with dogs? Follow-up research could incorporate photos into the survey that show men with dogs, to test subjects' responses to different species, the scientists said.

"Would women find the man alone more or less masculine than a man with a dog? Further, what role would the size/breed of the dog play in these perceptions?" These and other questions "remain an area for future research," the researchers concluded. 

The findings were published online June 9 in the journal Animals.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Mindy Weisberger
Live Science Contributor

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.

  • dannykun
    With all due respect, it seems that this experiment has some confounding issues. First, I don't sere what the point of using only two men was... right away that made me worried whether or not the statistics could be trusted. Second, it just so happens that both of the men have more strongly bulging forehead veins in the with-cat pictures. It's a strange thing that I wouldn't think to worry about during the experimental design phase, but it turns out to be pretty noticeable even at the picture size of a thumbnail. Third, it's clearly a photoshoot style picture. For the without-cat picture it looks like it could be any run-of-the-mill passport photo kind of photoshoot--no problem. But the with-cat picture begs the question: did this guy bring his cat to a photoshoot? It takes a specific type of personality to go on a photoshoot with your cat, and(, in agreement with the results,) I would guess someone who does that is more neurotic than someone who doesn't. Lastly, even if you photoshopped in a bulldog or some perceived-to-be-masculine dog that could actually fit in with their pose, it would still look like a less masculine pose than the without-cat poses. The without-cat poses present men who are square with the camera, in poses that looks relatively assertive. The with-cat poses are a bit more hunched over, looking more delicate, giving their shoulder to the camera, perhaps subconsciously indicating some kind of passiveness of personality. Either way, it seems to me, independent of the presence of a cat, the without-cat pose could be perceived as more masculine and therefore more attractive to heterosexual women.

    I could be wrong about some of this and I welcome other viewpoints! I especially don't know if there is some statistically justified reason for using only two men. But without hearing any good counterarguments, I would be wary of drawing too strong of conclusions from this experiment's data...
  • DeAnn
    Obviously, this is not science. Any person who loves and takes care of animals is probably better than those who don't. To suggest that loving cats is something unnatural is ridiculous and repulsive. A lot more information is need to draw any conclusions.
  • talktodakota
    Oh bull. Dog guys are a dime a dozen and so predictable. Cat snugglers are gold. They know how to do all those sweet, gentle moves that keep you coming back plus they have realized they are not the center of the universe and learned the art of paying attention. Come on ladies do you want a guy who knows how to tell commands or one who know finesse?
    Some dog guys may defy the odds. But a cat guy is a real find.
    The "scientists" here should eat their hats.
  • Valentine Michael Smith
    My friends. These basic behaviors reveal easily in a decent scan around a dating site.

    'Independent' females tend to prefer dogs (and most at least admire dogs) for their loyalty. A dog-lover will follow the lines of their dog. The dog will stay longer than the SO.

    Also, many females prefer some measure of a rougher touch. Less calculated, perhaps daring.....

    Cat lovers on the other hand, may tend toward a lighter sensibility and touch. Sometimes not as firm as could. Safer seeming to those who prefer a smoother, if not more elegant, experience.
  • Chad
    Oh fuck you guys sideways, My wife loves me and the fact that I can be a man but love the everloving fuck out of sweet little animals without restraint not caring what people think of me for going mushy on an animal. You guys aren't real science
  • jonadenz
    admin said:
    Can posing with a pet help men find dating success? Not if it's a cat, scientists say.

    Hey guys: Stop snuggling with your cats (at least in photos) if you want a : Read more
    It's probably a good idea to not be snuggling with anything or anyone in your dating profile pic. Stay away from clown makeup and heavy ammunition as well.
  • Burmasdad
    This is foolish. I happened to have a unique cat who became really well known on ig and social media, needless to say most follows and comments were from women, particularly cat ladies, and humbly, it wasn’t uncommon for women to make comments to the contrary, or to reach out in messages or emails, some of them younger and who I’d consider out of my league looks wise. One of them my woman of 5 years who reached out to me through ig.
    There isn’t a better situation than being a sincere cat guy among a multitude of cat ladies if your single.
  • Michael D. Rogers
    It might be sensible for cat, dog or other animal lovers to make that clear up front, many potential relationships have crashed because a partner couldn't tolerate the other's animal companion! If your Golden retriever has been sleeping on /in your bed for years your potential SO may be unable to handle that--not to mention the dog!
  • Frank Sterle Jr.
    admin said:
    Can posing with a pet help men find dating success? Not if it's a cat, scientists say.

    Hey guys: Stop snuggling with your cats (at least in photos) if you want a : Read more
    THERE are some guys who’ll understandably hesitate at speaking in public about their particular fondness for pet felines; for, to do so, unlike with expressing affection for a good sturdy canine friend, may be generally stereotyped as a man’s non-testosterone pet-animal inclination. And, yes, there are many people out there who’d implicitly (or even explicitly) question the normality and/or straightness of a guy who adores his pet feline(s)—something that’s implied by first-season Seinfeld’s George Costanza, who, in a doubtful tone of voice and slight shake of his head, says to Elaine Benes (without looking at her) in regards to her boyfriend cherishing his two pet felines: “Guys with cats … I don’t know …”
    George’s line rushed to mind after one response I received after posting a short essay onto a feline-fan site (accompanied by an adorable-enough feline photo, of course) elicited from a reader a disconcerting response subtly questioning my heterosexuality, which left me feeling both resentfully embarrassed and angry.
    It also brought to mind an early-1990s Vancouver Sun letter to the editor—aptly titled “A Man With a Cat Is Where It’s At”—in which the writer, a straight guy who adored his two pet felines, responded to some recently published cat-critical commentary. He frankly cautioned straight single women about relationship-seeking heterosexual guys who love dogs but dislike domesticated felines; for, what such men really want in a mate is, basically, submission—unlike the dudes with cats who more than appreciate a companion’s independent nature as well as a silky soft touch.
    Within, Steve Eykel of New Westminster wrote the following response to another letter author’s cat-belittling: “Let me take a wild guess: is a dog person, not a cat person. It’s not too surprising really. After all, a dog will lick your hand, grovel, cringe, do tricks and generally make you feel like the big strong alpha male you wish you could be. A cat will do none of these things. Women take note! This is an acid test for any man’s character. A man who prefers dogs is looking for subservience; a man who prefers cats is looking for a partner. You heard it here first.”
    I further recollected how as a teen I knew two of the (if not the most) toughest, testosterone-laden, and (like myself) straight guys around, who also cherished their pet cats—albeit, no average guy would’ve foolishly openly expressed his pet-feline enthusiasm amongst his demographic peers, lest he seriously risk being unjustly deemed a wuss or in some other way having his reputation permanently besmirched.
  • jonadenz
    Frank Sterle Jr. said:
    LOL--What's your number?