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Why Do People Bag On Cats So Much?

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, December 20, 2013 14:21 EDT

Molly doesn’t love people. Just Xbox.

Rebecca Watson has a great post up that, while purporting to be an examination of the cat vs. dog debate, is a subtle lesson in how to think critically about scientific studies, especially those that have pat “lessons” that just so happen to appeal to a certain subset of people. In this case, it’s cat-haters. The study supposedly shows that cats don’t experience love like dogs and babies do, because cats don’t obsess over you the way dogs or babies do.

Mills first replicated the study using dogs, and found that dogs reacted very similarly to babies. Cats, on the other hand, reacted very differently. While babies and dogs displayed distress at realizing their mother/owner had disappeared, cats didn’t seem to care very much and went on playing with the stranger. When the mother/owner returned, the babies and dogs ran to them while the cats acknowledged their return with a glance and then returned to playing.

Mills states that the research is not complete yet, though the trends I mention above have already emerged. He believes this shows that while dogs are attached to their owners and see them as a source of love and protection, cats seem to see their owners only as a source of food.

It seems to be a study that was done by someone who probably has an agenda and who mistook a hypothesis for a predetermined conclusion. Your eyebrows should already be high at the idea that love is so easy to define and quantify, but in case not, Rebecca explains the problem with measuring “love” by how panicked someone gets over a very short term separation.

Personally, I would love to see this experiment recreated with a teenager. Parent and teen enter the room. Teen sees a Playstation 4 in the corner and proceeds to play with it. A stranger enters and picks up the second controller. While the teen is distracted, the parent leaves the room. The teen does not notice. Eventually, the parent returns. The teen does not notice.

Headline: Science Proves Your Teen Hates You.

An alternate experiment could involve two adult best friends with the exact same situation described above. Headline: Science Proves Your Best Friend Hates You.

Indeed, if my boyfriend treated me like dogs treat you, I would not believe it’s because he loves me more. I would believe he has a problem and needs to seek help. Also, it’s not like cats never want to hang out with you. They just do it on their own schedule. Cats, as we cat owners know, often just have shit to do. They are busy.


What troubled Rebecca was how eager people were to hear that cats are just fooling you stupid cat owners with their fake love. She writes, “I’ve never really understood the ‘dog person’ vs ‘cat person’ fight, and why I’d have to choose one over the other (in much the same way that I was baffled when someone first told me I could like either The Rolling Stones or The Beatles, but not both, god forbid).”

Well, I think I have a theory, and yes, it’s sexism. Deeply sublimated sexism, but sexism all the same. While all sorts of people have pets of both types, cats are associated with not just women, but single, childless women. A lot of what people are doing when they insist that you cat doesn’t really love you and you must be fooling yourself is a kind of mansplaining: Silly cat ladies, who think that their cats love them! It fits into this larger narrative about how women are dumb and needy and cling to cats, unlike sure-footed, bright men who pick a pet they know loves them: dogs. (Never mind that men have cats and women have dogs, too. There’s no doubt that these pet choices are imagined as gendered in the public imagination. I get at least 10 people a week sending me “clever” jokes about how I must be a lonely woman who only has cats for comfort.)

The association between cats and women and dogs and men also creates a sympathetic magic-type thinking. Cats are imbued with one of the worst stereotypes of women, popular with “pick-up artists”: That women are shallow creatures who don’t love so much as seek out the richest man they can find, and they exchange sex for security. Except cats are characterized as shallow creatures who merely feign affection for security, but basically, same theory. Instead of crafting more studies to “prove” cats don’t love you, then, I’d like to see a study that measures if there’s a correlation between holding negative views of cats and believing women are gold-diggers. Because I have a hunch that might just be so.

Conservatives Should Be Thanking A&E For Suspending “Duck Dynasty”

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:18 EDT

With a plodding inevitability, the ignorant screams of “free speech” are coming from the usual suspects in the wake of Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty getting suspended for his homophobic remarks in GQ. (He was also mind-bogglingly racist, but for some reason, that hasn’t been as sticky a story, maybe because his racist comments were a little more complex than his homophobic ones.) Sarah Palin, who is quickly making “dumbass” seem like an inadequate descriptor,…


The Imaginary “War On Christmas” Inspires Real Violence

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 12:27 EDT

The “war on Christmas” that Fox News pretends is going on every year is one of those things that liberals, I think, feel widely guilty about watching with fascination, even to mock it. Like we fear that we’re feeding the beast somehow by even acknowledging  the stunningly dishonest hysteria about…


No, Ross, Misogyny Does Not Make Women Happier

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, December 17, 2013 9:58 EDT

Ross Douthat’s utopia: Weeping couples hauled to the altar. I know I’m a bit late to the party in mocking/criticizing Ross Douthat’s lame column once again arguing, as he likes to do, that many to most of the world’s problems could be solved if women stopped fucking. Launching off a…


We Are All Beyoncé

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, December 16, 2013 9:08 EDT

A few more thoughts on pop music, and then I swear, we’ll be back to the regularly scheduled programming of political rants and mocking Fox News. One thing that’s been bugging me about some of the more in-depth reviews of Beyoncé’s new record is the assumption that her music—or pop…


A Plea: Remember Beyonce’s Record Is Art, Not A Political Treatise

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, December 13, 2013 12:56 EDT

It’s been fascinating watching the rapid reaction to Beyonce dropping a surprise record on iTunes last night. Of course, it’s a huge deal for the record industry, because putting out something like this without pre-hype is unheard of, but you know it will sell like crazy. That’s why it’s amusing…


Another Reminder: Feminism Is Not A Birthday Party Thrown For You By Your Mother

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, December 12, 2013 14:03 EDT

Let’s stop fussing and everyone get naked. Callie Beusman of Jezebel has this piece about the supposed overuse of the phrase “slut-shaming” up and boy hoo did it rub me the wrong way. Not that she’s wrong that it’s  overused or that it’s being employed, as jargon often is, to…


How A Young Conservative Taught Mankind To Get Laid Through Street Harassment

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 9:40 EDT

Just ask yourself: What would Paul Newman do? He would definitely stare at her ass like it’s hypnotizing him. I was going to ignore Patrick Howley, the Daily Caller twerp who wrote this paranoid piece claiming liberals want to ban men from even looking at women’s bodies. It was a…


Why Is The Religious Right Intensifying Attacks On Women?

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 8:24 EDT

Why now? That was the question that I decided to answer when I set out to write this speech for this year’s Skepticon about the religious right’s war on women, which—in case you haven’t noticed—has been turned up dramatically in recent years. I’ve done a lot of written and spoken…


GOP Comes Up With A Brilliant Outrage Generation Plan

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, December 9, 2013 11:46 EDT

Why buy the shit when you can own the whole bull? The Republican freakout over the Affordable Care Act has gotten so out of control and elaborate that the freakout is creating more “problems” now for Republicans to freak out over. It’s a dragon eating its own tail form of…