Why are dogs (mostly) considered “male” animals and cats “female”? The conventional wisdom about each animal reinforces stereotypes about the sexes. Negative: Dogs are excitable and dumb; cats are aloof and high-maintenance. Positive: Dogs are loyal, big-hearted and brave; cats are intelligent and deeply committed to grooming. (By the way, the evidence cat people always give to support the idea that cats are smarter than dogs could just as easily show the opposite: “Cats are too smart to do tricks — unlike goofy, needy dogs.” Meanwhile, a dog that doesn’t do tricks isn’t seen as being too intellectual for tricks — it’s just a dumb dog.
When a man acts badly, he’s a “dog” who winds up in the “doghouse.” There are “crazy cat ladies” but no “crazy cat men” (although they do exist). Women wear catsuits (not often enough for this blogger!), soldiers wear dog tags. “Sexy Cat” is a common costume for unimaginative ladies on Halloween; don’t see many “Sexy Dog” costumes.
Where did these kneejerk associations come from? Are we just conditioned by society to gravitate towards one animal over another, anthropomorphizing them accordingly? In any case, cats stalk around when you’re asleep and steal baby’s breath. That’s a fact.
The gender lines for cats and dogs are well-established. But what about other animals? Do they lean towards one gender or another? Here’s your definitive list; don’t ask where I got it.
Female. Think of Tweety’s owner (I almost wrote “mother” — although, now that I think about, it they do kind of look alike) in the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Classic bird person. Exception: It’s always men with the crazy cockatoos and macaws and whatnot.
Even split. Exception: Men are more likely to attempt the Scarface lifestyle and have stupid, expensive exotic fish in a big aquarium and expect people to be impressed. Exactly how entertaining is that clown fish, really? I once went to a guy’s house and he insisted on showing me his piranhas. He was an adult.
Male. Picture the person who walks around with a snake draped over their shoulders at the mall, secretly enjoying watching people freak out. The person you’re picturing is a man. He also has a porkpie hat, doesn’t he? Weird. Exception: Lady exotic dancers and lady circus people and whatnot.
Female. Jane Goodall and whatnot.
Male — because the only person I can think of who owned a pig as a pet was George Clooney.
Male. I know what you’re thinking: Hold on there, blogsy, tigers are cats, and we’ve already established that cats are “lady” animals. First, please don’t call me blogsy. Second, whenever you hear about some idiot getting mauled by a tiger that was being housed in a bachelor apartment, that idiot is always a guy. Like this idiot! Plus Sigfreied and Roy and whatnot.
Men. The above idiot also had a gator in his apartment. That alligator’s name? Al, of course. Adorbz.
Female. Pretty well-known fact that ladies love a ’mu.
Paul Beer is a Toronto writer, actor and comedian. You can follow him on Twitter @pauldanielbeer.