Across the last decade, much has been done to upend the image of men needing ‘manly’ pets, as dudes the world over have shrugged off stereotypes and bonded with a traditionally ‘feminine’ companion: cats. here’s what some men have to share about how felines found their way into their lives, how they positively affected the households around them, and instilled a newfound sense of patience, understanding, and compassion
Cats: Taz and Tilly
For the longest time, the Made in Heaven star wasn’t particularly interested in cats, having identified as a ‘dog person’ for most of his life. That is, until he met his partner Tia in 2016, along with her robust black Bombay cat, Taz. “As we started dating about five years ago, she once left Taz with me and went out of town,” he explains. “Over that weekend, I really got obsessed with the guy!”
With time, Mathur indulged his inner catlover and the family of three decided to adopt a little Calico by the name of Tilly, or Tiger Lily — the daughter of one of Taz’s old playmates. “Even before she came into the picture, the moment Tia mentioned Tilly’s name, Taz turned his head and looked at us,” reminisces Mathur, remembering how the unlikely pair got along despite their age differences.
“I was living just for myself six years ago. Now, these two cats are like my babies, and I’ve seen a stark change in myself. I’m so careful and conscious about their comfort and space, despite Taz being a bloody brat. He throws up quite a lot and doesn’t realise how fast he eats, but you gotta be patient,” he explains. “For a year and a half, when [my partner and I] were designing our house, we kept imagining how the cats would feel and designed specific things for them, which was a really wholesome experience. When it came to moving day, I thought Taz was missing — but there he was, sitting in his cage, ready to go. Their intelligence is incredible.” The journey has been long for Taz and his family — Mathur often finds himself getting emotional when thinking about how much longer the 12-year-old tomcat will last — but for now, he’s happy to have him and Tilly around.
Cats: Red and Neko
Sait was introduced to cats early in life and continued his fascination with felines as an adult with nine-year-old Red and Neko, who is seven years his junior. “Early on, when I moved to boarding school, my mum had a white British Shorthair that she called ‘Beta’,” laughs Sait. “I would write letters back home asking about him and would love that feeling of coming home — cats too are family. Even now, when I videocall my wife in the morning while away on shoot, I say hi to her and the cats as well.”
Noting how cats could do with ‘better PR’ after being labelled as aloof and uncaring, Sait asserts that cats can bring plenty of love and happiness to their owners and also instil a certain sense of discipline and boundaries in them. “I think we all need a bit of love, a warm hug every now and then, but with cats, no matter how bad a day you have, you still have to pull rank and be there for them,” shares Sait. “With human beings, you can say ‘leave me alone’, but with cats, you need to compartmentalise a bit. I’ve battled with depression and anxiety for seven to eight years, and even through the worst phases, I still did what I had to for Red.
As human beings, we keep expecting things all the time,” he continues. “And then you know, here’s a creature that you can give to and who expects nothing much in return. That love is really great.”
Cats: Fatty and Poonaswami
Chaterji’s tale begins with a rather sad event — before he left Mumbai for Goa’s shores back in 2020, he and his then-partner decided to adopt a kitten from an animal shelter, only for it to pass away soon. Too devastated to seek a new cat, the pair was instead greeted by an unusual visitor one morning — a ‘chonky’ orange girl with a missing tail and a crooked leg. “As cats sometimes do,” remnisces Chaterji, “she just came in, explored her curiosity, and made a home for herself. We were a bit taken aback and decided to care for her until someone came forth to claim her.”
Fatty — who Chaterji realised was originally named Ginger — was soon visited by her original owners. Fortunately, there’s no changing a cat’s mind, and she simply refused to leave, becoming a member of Chaterji’s household. “Fatty was a huge stress buster just by being there. If I came home after a stressful day and was feeling fucked up, sitting down with her for a bit and stroking her brought the most amazing kind of relief,” he recalls.
Fatty soon had to share boarding with a semi-feral kitten named Swami or Pupu, depending on who you ask. Playful and energetic, he added another dimension to Chaterji’s cat-ownership journey. “Especially for a person suffering from anxiety, their constant presence had a calming, soothing effect on my life. I think they made me a gentler person. Even if [my partner] and I were having an argument, Fatty would come into the room and immediately diffuse things, at least temporarily.”
Chatting with cats — a veritable pastime of my own — is also something that the journalist seems to fondly recollect, praising the subtle intelligence of felines in contrast to canines. “Dogs will just sit there and grin at you, but cats look smart,” he quips. “They’ll sit quietly, meow in response and cock a head — almost like a therapist. Even the conversations you have with them are different — most dogs will be spoken to in a ‘baby voice’, but with cats? You’re sitting and having an adult conversation. I would sit with Fatty and ask her about anything… the pair of pants I’ve bought, whether they match the shoes… you can almost sense an answer from their body language. Some think that cats are selfish, but they are extremely intelligent, deeply loving and empathetic, which a lot of people don’t give them enough credit for.”
The Netflix-associated horror scriptwriter — almost ironically — starts off with a story of how his childhood cat, Max, helped him through bouts of nyctophobia, or a fear of the dark. “I was a massive coward when I was younger and quite scared of the dark, so Max would sleep on my bed and make me feel safe,” he explains, before revisiting memories of Max’s quiet, calming presence, and his eventual burial back when Graham was in his twenties — a moment that he describes as sweet, significant and peaceful.
After having to bury his lessor’s old cat Joan — an odd name by his own account — Graham soon came across his longest adult feline companion in the wake of the famous Libyan Battle of Sirte in late 2011. Joined by his flatmate Ojala, the pair joked with the idea of naming a nearby friendly stray ‘Gaddafi’ in honour of the recently-deposed dictator — beginning a friendship that would last through much of the 2010s.
“We really thought it was funny to give this super-sweet cat the worst possible name,” chuckles Graham. “Gaddafi was often found giving me company while I worked — it’s always nice to have that presence, you know. They can teach us independence, without needing to be manipulated or pushed or pulled; they’ll come and hang out with you, and its all very quiet and reassuring. That said,” cautions Graham, “cats can also be major assholes. I remember coming home after an all-nighter shoot and found that this impostor cat — who had been let in for the first time — took a massive shit on my rug. I chased him around the apartment, and eventually the maid walked past to find me there, scrubbing cat poo off the rug… hilarious.”
Graham’s come to respect cats over time, and in particular, draw parallels between his own personality and that of most cats. “There’s an investment, isn’t there? You can’t win over a cat’s affection immediately. You need to workshop with them a bit — cat therapy so to speak. That’s a very good lesson for kids as well; understanding their boundaries and knowing when to step back. Life isn’t always about giving affection, its also knowing about when to step back.”