Tuesday 21 February 2017

Are cats (& dogs) just the purrfect partners?

Published 21/11/2006 | 00:11

GRACE WYNNE-JONES Cats are becoming increasingly popular as purrfect partners for young, single women. The trend has already caused much comment in Britain, and now seems to be catching on here.

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GRACE WYNNE-JONES Cats are becoming increasingly popular as purrfect partners for young, single women. The trend has already caused much comment in Britain, and now seems to be catching on here.

Just take a look at one cat food ad. In a 'pets and the city' scenario, a glamorous young woman walks through the door after a busy day at the office. Her cat runs to her with the zeal of a hunky hero in a Mills & Boon novel. They gaze at each other with adoration, then she scoops her beloved in her arms.

These cool young cat-loving singletons have been dubbed 'Catwomen' in some quarters. One British observer of the social scene asked: "Would you want your daughter to marry a cat? That is one of the burning social questions to which we will have to address ourselves in the 21st century."

She was prompted to ask this question because of British government statistics published in a report called 'Social Trends'. They revealed that a majority of women will be single by the year 2020 because of rising divorce rates and the declining popularity of marriage. Thus more women will choose a cat as a companion."

However, some of the claims about women and cats seem rather over the top. Can it really be true that most single women would prefer to cuddle a cat than a man at night? The British-based Feline Advisory Bureau says this claim was made in a recent survey by a cat food firm, which indicated that 77% of the women questioned prefer feline company to the human male.

So far, Irish female singletons aren't turning to their tabbies with quite the same zeal. However, there seems to be a definite upsurge in feline interest. There are some practical reasons behind this.

For women who work outside the home, a cat is not as demanding as a dog and nothing like as time-consuming as a husband, but they require care and attention, too, and this is part of their appeal. Many psychologists believe humans have a need to display 'care-giving' behaviour.

Most Catwomen love men but they want Mr Right and not Mr Right Now. Many of them buy or rent their own homes long before they have any intention of getting married. They like that cats are liberated creatures who won't put up with much nonsense - after all, they are rather like that themselves.

"Behind every gifted woman is often a rather talented cat," proclaims a postcard. No wonder analysts of the Irish pet-food market believe the sales potential for additional cat food 'treats' has yet to be fully exploited. According to a market analysts Euromonitor report called 'Cat Food In Ireland', the Irish cat population is now rising faster than dogs with an estimated 550,000 feline pets in the country.

Women aged between 35 and 55 are the most likely members of the population to own a pet, according to the report. "As single household owners are also on the rise, the role of pets as surrogate children is becoming more common," it says.

Many women who love cats love other animals too. "If I had to choose between my animals and a boyfriend, I would choose my animals," admits Caroline Delaye (29) who lives near Ashford, Co Wicklow. And

any prospective beau would have to be okay with all the attention she gives to her cats and dogs. "I wouldn't leave them all night alone here and the weekend is for them, so he would have to have the same love of animals and nature."

Caroline is French and came to Ireland seven years ago. She loves her job at Bray Vet Animal Hospital in Co Wicklow and has nearly completed her veterinary nursing studies at UCD. Her life seems full and interesting and her animal buddies clearly add to her contentment.

At work, she has noticed that more young women than men are keeping pets. Her understanding employers often allow her to bring her two dogs, Bella and Lolly, to work. And her cats, Moka and Teeko, sleep in bed with her.

When Caroline lived in Las Vegas in her early 20s, a cat kept turning up at her apartment. She adopted him and called him Baby.

Baby now lives with her parents in France. However, she hasn't gone home to France in recent years because she doesn't like the idea of leaving her Irish cats in a cattery and she wouldn't leave the dogs "with anybody".

If she does travel home next year, she will bring the dogs with her and find someone to live with her cats while she's away. "I'm not lonely, that's for sure," she says. "I love my cats but they don't goeverywhere with me."

So how does she sum up her relationship with her pets? Her cats are "restful company and very graceful and funny. My dogs are more like a sister and a brother and my cats are more like friends."

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