We always had cats when I was growing up. Our parents never said, “No,” so my brother Gary and I just kept dragging those cats and kittens back home with us — from our grandparents’ farm, from outdoor flea markets and occasionally from some family friends who just happened to have a spare kitten.
Somehow the male cats always seemed more affectionate. Only when I got Christy, a sealpoint Siamese kitten, in junior high did I finally get to experience how loving a female cat could be. At the time, however, I just assumed that it was the Siamese personality at work or play — or both.
The Mom-Cat Factor
Until that little Siamese came along, all of our female cats were intact. But Christy lost a front paw after being hit by a car, and spaying seemed like the right thing to do, especially since she’d already gone through one miserable heat.
A queen can go into heat as early as 6 months. What’s more, she is seasonally polyestrous and cycles in and out of heat during a good portion of the year starting in January or February and continuing into the fall. In warmer regions, the cycle starts in late December and ends sometime after the Summer Solstice.
A female cat is capable of having 2 to 3 litters yearly and may continue to do so until she is 8 or 9 years old. So her life essentially evolves around kitten-bearing and rearing. It’s no wonder that Bastet, the cat-headed goddess of ancient Egypt, was associated with maternity.
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It also may be why spayed females come across as being more loving: Their world is not entirely kitten-centric. In fact, sometimes they transfer all that maternal feeling to their pet humans. Dawnie did that with me after she lost her only kitten and was spayed.
So maybe it wasn’t entirely the Siamese thing with Christy. Maybe her having been spayed had just as much to do with her being the little love bug that she was.
The Battle Over the Sexes
A poll from a few years ago on the subject reported that 55% of respondents thought that male cats made for better, more affectionate pets. While 25 percent came out in favor of female cats, 19% believed that the cat’s sex was irrelevant.
Some people clearly still have strong feelings on the subject. In a recent online group discussion, female cats were frequently seen as bossier and more independent. Others described them as being more “possessive” or “changeable” in their moods, even “neurotic.”
There was this sense that male cats were more apt to fall into the Eternal Kitten category. They were cuddlier, more “docile” or “laid back.”
Other Facets of the Feline Prism
Sometimes, of course, the feeling has a lot to do with what we’re used to. “I never had a female Abyssinian,” observes Carla Wong. Her male, Imhotep, “loved me to pieces. He was the best company ever, loved being groomed, loved a piggy-back ride…. I would get another male.”
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Wendy Ratza always had female cats growing up “because we worried about males that sprayed, and we didn’t want to deal with that.” Years later, Leo DaVinci, a cinnamon Aby, joined her household as a companion to her blue female, Wren. The breeder reassured Ratza on all counts, adding that he “was a lovable guy” and that she usually recommended homing males with females. She said that females can often be alpha, and males were more laid back.”
Leo turned out to be just as affectionate and well behaved as the breeder had promised. He totally changed the way that Ratza thought of male cats.
No Easy Answer
After years of working with felines — purebreds, strays and barn cats — I’m not so sure that the 19% from the study is so far off. I’ve had an equal number of loving female and male cats. Early socialization probably plays a greater role than gender does. So does the fact that increasingly more people keep their cats indoors and have more of a chance to interact with them.