Everyone knows I LOVE my dogs! Don’t even ask me if I had to choose between my dogs and my perfect man which would make the cut, because you know my pups would win paws down! Someone who understands my adoration for my pets is fellow Singleton, Tamar Arslanian. Tamar has a wonderful blog called ‘I Have Cat’, where she chronicles her life as a Single woman living in New York City with her cats. In my one-on-one with Tamar, we talk about dating challenges that come with being a devoted pet owner, dealing with that whole “cat lady” label and why women who give up a pet for a man make her sick.
S&LF: What is the importance of pets in the lives of single people?
Tamar Arslanian: Pets, just like children, enhance our lives by adding a new dimension to it. I’m by no means saying they are a substitute for children (I think both bring something different and unique to our lives), but when you live alone, you have less constant stimulation and pets can provide that, along with companionship.
I often find myself watching my cats entertain themselves with the simplest things – a small piece of cardboard dropped on the floor, a juice jug ring. Seeing them so thoroughly content playing with these common objects reminds me we don’t need all that much to be happy.
Personally, my cats help me slow down and appreciate the little things. I try to spend at least a few minutes of quality time a day with each cat (probably more for my sake – and guilt! – than their benefit). I notice new things about each of them each time – a speck of color in their eyes I’d never seen before, the pattern of their breathing, the tenor of their purr, the feeling of their fur under my hands. It certainly focuses me to be “in the moment” in an almost meditative way.
Pets also connect us to an entire community of like-minded people. Whether it’s the dog run, the vet’s office, pet conventions or online platforms. I’ve made friends with so many people around the world I never would have had it not been for my love of cats and my blog.
S&LF: What made your want to chronicle your experiences as a Single woman and cat owner?
Tamar Arslanian: My impetus was three-fold. I used to share amusing observations from a life of living with three cats with my friends and they felt others would enjoy my anecdotes as well; How my cat is the perfect man (The Cat’s Meow); that cat-loving guys makes the perfect men (Wanted: A Man Who Loves Pussy-Cats); and how I believe I would not be Single today had I grown up with cats (Cat-Man-Do Not).
Secondly, I wanted to change the perception of the Single cat-loving woman. This includes making sure a Single woman with cats doesn’t have a home that screams, “Welcome to Casa Cat” should they bring a friend – or suitor – home! I believe it’s possible to have a home that’s both human and cat-friendly that doesn’t involve a 20-foot carpeted cat tower as the centerpiece of the living room. That’s just not everyone’s personal aesthetic. I scour websites, magazines and attend trade shows to find modern cat accessories that are both practical and attractive.
And last but not least, I often feature hip, successful, attractive cat-owning women (Cat Woman Wednesday) to debunk the “crazy cat lady” stereotype. There have even been a few celebrities featured!
S&LF: Why do you believe there has always been a fear of becoming the “old cat lady”? Do you think this stigma could ever go away?
Tamar Arslanian: Do I think the term “old cat lady” or “crazy cat lady” will ever disappear from our culture? No. But I think each cat-owning lady can take matters into her own hands when it comes to her self-perception.
In truth, there are many women with cats who embrace the “crazy cat lady” persona – wearing cat ears and cat-themed clothing. However, there are many like me who go against the stereotype. I prefer to be thought of as a “cat woman” (or SEXY cat woman – even better!). I prefer to wear my normal, predominately black wardrobe – granted, I invest in lots of lint rollers! Even though I love cats and blog about them, I don’t want cats to be the predominant way I’m defined.
S&LF: Why should Single, childless women consider bringing pets into their lives?
Tamar Arslanian: Yes. I don’t believe humans were not meant to live without touch or companionship. Pets provide both. Also, haven’t you heard of the saying “you start out making sure you can keep a plant alive, then a pet and only then you’ve proven yourself ready for a family”? There you have it!
It’s critical that one consider their lifestyle before committing to a pet (for example, cats don’t need to be walked and are more self-sufficient) and pet adoption. I strongly encourage adoption, not the purchase of a pet. There are lots of pure breed rescues out there too! It’s a life-long commitment, so make sure to think about that before adopting a kitten or a puppy!
S&LF: Is being a “cat lady” ever a hindrance when it comes to dating?
Tamar Arslanian: In online dating profiles, I do say I have cats, but I don’t have photos with my cats or of my cats. I think the person should meet me first before he develops preconceived notions about the kind of person I am because I live with felines.
Luckily I haven’t met anyone who resents cats or is highly allergic to them. Those would be difficult situations with which to deal.
S&LF: Do you think Single women with multiple pets should have to justify or explain themselves to someone they’re dating?
Tamar Arslanian: No. But mind you, I’m not talking about the person who has more animals than they – or their home – can handle. If your home is neat and pet-smell-free, there’s no need for excuses.
In fact, I have a girlfriend who doesn’t tell dates she has cats. When they come over she just says, as each cat appears, “Oh, that’s Crash,”….”That’s Mister.” Apparently this does not hinder their on-going relationship so it seems to be a strategy that works!
One of my cats is so shy, I often joke and say I never have to tell men I have three cats. By the time they find out, it will be too late anyway!
S&LF: How should women respond to people, or even girlfriends, who joke or make snarky comments about being a “clichéd” Single cat owner?
Tamar Arslanian: If a girlfriend made a snarky comment, I’d seriously reconsider my friendship with that person. For the most part, my friends are animal lovers and those who weren’t, are now!
But seriously, if someone made a snarky comment, I would just laugh. I think the more you try to argue that you’re not the “clichéd” Single cat owner,the more you end up sounding like one!
S&LF: What has been the most positive feedback you’ve gotten from a reader of your blog?
Tamar Arslanian: That I’ve created a sense of community, making them feel their love of cats is completely normal – not crazy. And for understanding their special capacity to see and appreciate their cats as the incredible little beings they are. And that I’m “real,” meaning I don’t mind sharing my personal life, even if it’s embarrassing or awkward – and that I turn it into something funny and entertaining – allowing my fans to get a sense of who I really am.
S&LF: What would you say to a woman who is so desperate for a man that she is willing to give up her cat, because her man doesn’t like cats?
Tamar Arslanian: I don’t have the words. It’s something I’ve seen too often at the rescue group. It literally makes my blood boil.
Seeing a traumatized cat, in a cage, with no understanding of what has happened. One minute he/she is in a supposedly loving home, and the next, sitting in a litter box cowering in the corner of a cage. It’s the most heartbreaking thing to see.
S&LF: You grew up without pets, but it was an ex that helped you discover your love for cats. Tell us about becoming a cat lover.
Tamar Arslanian: It’s ironic because it was always my sister who was the cat lover in the family. I never gave them a second look. In fact, I was always the one accosting babies on the street! My friends said if a baby went missing, they’d have to report me!
I was in a long-distance relationship with a guy in Chicago who had two cats. I’d be pinning away for him in NYC and he’d be rattling on, telling me the latest escapades of Ian and Shelly (his cats). It was through his cats that I realized what different little personalities and souls they each have. In the past, I thought of all cats as the same, ditto dogs. Getting to know my ex’s cats made me realize that they’re each different with their personal habits and quirks.
In fact, I’ve often said cats were my “gateway” animal. It’s because of cats that I began to understand and appreciate all animals.
S&LF: For women without children, there can be a special bond with their cats/pets. What do you have to say to people who criticize women who have a close relationship with their pets?
Tamar Arslanian: I think as long as they aren’t hurting anyone, any pets (not hoarders), and have the ability to communicate and interact with us two-legged species, I’d say leave them be. Everyone finds peace, love and solace in their own way.
S&LF: How has being a cat lover changed your perspective on dating and on life?
Tamar Arslanian: Well, if I’m to be perfectly truthful, there have been many times I’ve cut a bad date short because I’d rather be at home with my cats! On one hand, you could say it’s made me less tolerant, but on another, you might say I just know what I want and have no patience for anything less!
Tamar Arslanian: In terms of their impact on my life, my cats have turned me into a vegetarian. It hit me one day, as I was eating a rabbit ragu, how arbitrary it is – those animals we eat, and those we keep as pets. Why not eat my chunky cat Petie? He’s truly two floppy ears and a cottontail away from being a rabbit himself!
S&LF: Were you surprised by the popularity of your blog?
Tamar Arslanian: Not really. I believed my stories would resonate with cat lovers and parents. And I knew there was room in the blogosphere for a different kind of cat blog, one that goes beyond being a daily diary with cute photos.
About the Author
Tamar Arslanian is a singleton living in New York City with her cats Kip, Petie, and Haddie. She writes about cats, relationships and life in the Big Apple on her nationally recognized blog, I HAVE CAT, Single in the city with cat(s). She was recently quoted in People Style Watch, “What’s In What’s Out” about cat toy trends. You can follow Tamar and I HAVE CAT on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Interest.