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In Defense of the Unloved Cat Guys on Dating Apps

Their kitty pics get fewer likes, but so what? When you’re looking for quality over quantity, there’s no reason to change

Sure, what you actually convey about yourself through words on a dating profile is important, but I think we can all be honest about the fact that the visual first impression is of more influence. It’s not your fault, you’re not totally superficial — dating apps have gamified our brains to make decisions based on a few swipes through a few curated photos. 

For straight guys, who statistically receive fewer matches than straight women, this dynamic carries even more weight. You know by now that holding a fish is a faux pas, and that most women prefer you remain shirted. But now, a new study from an anthropologist at Boise State University and a veterinary medicine professor at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, have added a new red flag to the profile pic black list: cats. 

Using a sample of 708 people between the ages of 18 and 24 who identified as female and heterosexual, the researchers showed participants photos of a man either alone or holding a cat. Participants were then asked to rate the man in the photo by whether they perceived him to have traits that tend to have a gendered perception, such as “dominant” or “sensitive.” Participants next identified whether they considered themselves to be dog or cat people, and whether they’d swipe yes or no to dating the man in the photo for long- or short-term relationships. 

Gathering all of this data together, the researchers found that photos featuring the cat caused women to perceive the man as more feminine, and were less likely to select him for either long- or short-term dating. 

The general takeaway is that if you want more matches on your dating profile, you should consider removing your cat photos. But is that actually good advice? Certainly not if you’re looking for a fellow cat person yourself — those who said they were a cat person or both a dog and cat person did favor the cat photo, though they were fewer in numbers. 

Regardless of which way the data points, this interpretation of it leads to the cynical conclusion that one ought to change fundamental qualities about themselves in order to receive more dates. If a cat father is truly just looking to rack up the dates without considering the future, perhaps taking away the cats is a logical prospect. But for other types of dating, wherein people might be hoping to form a connection, worrying about your cat’s presence seems wildly short-sighted. If you love your cat, you love your cat. No reason not to just put that part of yourself out there. 

Isn’t that part of the beauty of dating apps, anyway? Maybe the statistics don’t make you look too hot, but the number of people on them, the casual functionality and the lack of opportunity for confrontational rejection makes an app like Tinder the perfect place to be your goddamn self. Someone is bound to find that cat photo endearing, and surely you’d rather be with them than someone who didn’t.