A little over a year ago, just before a nasty pandemic swept the globe, something equally horrendous was unleashed upon mankind — the movie “Cats.” Loosely based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much lauded musical, the movie was both terrifying and repulsive, in equal measures. Variety’s Peter Debruge labelled it “outlandishly tacky,” while Slate’s Marissa Martinelli recoiled at the sight of the “digital fur technology.” Whether they happen to come in creepy, CGI forms or more traditional varieties, cats are nothing if not controversial. The Kanye West of animals, if you will. Some love the swagger and arrogant nonchalance. Others…not so much.
Internationally, however, cats have never been as popular as they are today. Take South Korea, for example. According to a report issued by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, more Korean households are opting for cats over dogs. The report also noted that cat owners, when compared with their canine loving counterparts, tend to be more satisfied with their pets. Meanwhile, in China, there are approximately 67 million pet cats. A growing number of younger people, especially Millennials, are investing copious amounts of time and money on raising cats. Although cats have always occupied a special place in Chinese folklore, their popularity amongst younger individuals is still rather striking. Conversely, in the United States, from a historical perspective, dogs have always been the center of attention. However, slowly but surely, things appear to be changing. Today, states like New Hampshire and New York have more cat owners than dog owners. In Russia, cats are incredibly popular. In France, too. Apart from an affinity towards cats, all of these countries have another thing in common — falling fertility rates.
A precipitous drop
In Russia, Vladimir Putin, the uber-fertile, eternally virile president, recently announced a radical set of plans to increase the national birth rate. These include bigger tax breaks for bigger families and a once off “maternity capital” payment for new mothers. Neighboring Ukraine is also experiencing a precipitous decline in population. Interestingly (or not), in this fractious, politically volatile country, cats are incredibly popular pets. In fact, Ukraine has one of the highest levels of cat ownership in the world. Further west, in France, birth rates have dropped for the fourth year in a row. In 2015, France had the highest birth rate in Europe.
France may be in a state of demographic decay, but so, too, is the American Empire. According to a CDC report published this year, birth rates are at an all-time low, continuing a five-year downward trend. In 2019, the U.S. registered roughly 3.75 million births, down 1% from 2018. Meanwhile, in China, birth rates are at a 70-year low. In 2019, the birth rate was 10.48 per 1,000, the lowest recorded figure since 1949. In the same year, South Korea’s total fertility rate hit a record low of 0.92,
well below the replacement level of 2.1 that is needed to keep a country’s population stable.
Ok, but what have falling fertility rates got to do with cats? That’s not just a good question to ask, it also happens to be a highly pertinent one.
Strange, rather enigmatic creatures, cats are highly independent and somewhat aloof, more comfortable in their own company than the company of others. In the words of Sir Walter Scott, ‘cats are a mysterious kind of folk.’ It takes a certain kind of person to choose a cat over a dog. I am not casting assertions here, but merely stating a scientifically valid fact: personality differences between cat owners and dog owners certainly exist.
In one study, Dr. Sam Gosling, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin, found significant differences on major personality traits between dog and cat lovers. In fact, cat owners are more likely to be single and have considerably fewer friends than dog owners.
Stereotypes are rarely helpful. As an Irishman, I am acutely aware of this fact. However, sometimes they contain a sliver of truth. And the old stereotype of the reclusive cat owner, prone to extended periods of isolation, has a high degree of scientific validity. Furthermore, when compared with dog owners, cat owners tend to have less sex.
On the topic of sex, if you happen to be a single man who owns a cat (or, heaven forbid, more than one cat), and find yourself scratching your head wondering why you are still single..... blame your cat. According to a study out of Colorado State University, women are less likely to date a man with a cat. Why? Well, in short, men and cats go together about as well as spicy food followed by three cans of Red Bull. Science tells us that men with cats are considered less attractive than men with dogs. Gentlemen, if you own a little cat, have you considered upgrading to a leopard or tiger? Definitely more macho.
Alas, even in an age of progressive agendas and radical scientific breakthroughs, many of us, it seems, can’t get past the idea of a man owning a cat.