The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Gay Dating

It’s a myth that all queer women own cats, but also… a lot of us do! Or dogs, or parrots, or a ferret that we co-parent with our ex. As of reader survey data in 2015, only 12% of readers didn’t have a pet and didn’t want one.

infographic created for an A+ Insider Newsletter as of 2015

The intense pet culture of many queer communities (do straight people go on first dates to the dog park? I feel like maybe they don’t?) means that often as not, a relationship with another queer human also means a relationship of some kind with their pet(s), even if you are not a pet person, per se (or not attuned to their preferred species of pet). Because historically you guys have loved it when I’ve given you advice about how to make space for an interest of your crush’s that you don’t necessarily share, we’re here today to talk about dealing with your crush’s pets, and also dealing with your own pets in the context of your crush!

Casual hookup cat culture

One thrilling and intriguing aspect of casual sex is the way that no matter how no-strings-attached you’re keeping things, some weirdly intimate things about you will be shared with the other person as a matter of course — what you keep by your bedside table, your morning routine, the fact that your cat crouches on your chest staring at your face while you sleep like a demon. There is nothing fundamentally bad about this, but if there are pet-related aspects to this, it’s polite to address them! If you have someone over, deal with your pet and maybe close the door if possible so that no one has to have your cat appear and begin batting at a strap-on. If your pet usually sleeps in your bed, maybe inform your date about this and ask if that’s okay, or if you should lovingly remove your pet from the bedroom for the night. If you are the invitee in a pet-owning home, and you know you’re going to be bothered by Fido crying all night outside the door or a guinea pig rattling its hutch, I think it is perfectly okay to be honest about that fact and respectfully call a Lyft back to your own place for the night! (I am generally in opposition to feeling any obligation to sleep over, but that is a story for another day.) “I had such a great time; it’s going to be really hard for me to sleep here; I’ll text you when I get home safely!” That’s all, you’re done.

Relatedly, if you’re going to be having hookup guests at your place and you have pets, consider keeping some over the counter allergy meds around! It’s a nice gesture!

Wooing your crush’s pet

Several years ago, professional animal trainer Mary Tully wrote this guide to getting your crush’s pet to be obsessed with you. Given that Mary and Alex have since gotten married and gotten pregnant, I feel like her advice is worth paying attention to! As she explains, for someone Very Into Their Pet (which most pet owners are!), this is a major consideration:

When I’m first dating someone, there are of course many little things that can make a big impact on my feelings about that person, like: how do they interact with their friends/family/coworkers? Do they read books? Can they cook food? Etc. But the interaction that I scrutinize the most — the one that if it doesn’t go well would stop the budding relationship dead in its tracks — is how the person I’m dating interacts with my 95 lb bear-dog, Kai.

You can’t do anything to 100% guarantee that someone’s pet will love you; pets are mercurial, much like people. You can give someone’s pet their own space and let them investigate you and get to know you in their own time, giving them as much treats and attention as they seem up for. Maybe more importantly, you can make sure your crush’s pet, and thereby your crush, doesn’t actively dislike you! Don’t get overly familiar with a pet you’ve just met or try to force affection by chasing it around or insisting on picking it up. Be respectful of your crush’s pet feelings, even if you don’t share them — opining at length about how you just don’t “get” dogs when she’s obsessed with them isn’t going to help you. Even or especially if you’re another gung-ho pet person, be chill about it — maybe actually worse than someone who doesn’t care about your pet is someone who is Much Too Much about your pet. I still haven’t forgiven the person who told me I should change my cat’s brand of food within the first 30 minutes they were ever in my apartment. If you can be approachable, open but chill, you’ll be beloved by both your crush and her pet in no time.

When two pet-owning homes become one

Only slightly less time-honored a tradition than adopting a pet together much too soon after moving in together is trying to get both of your pre-existing pets to get along after you move in together much too soon! To a certain extent, this is out of your control; you and your new girlfriend’s pets will feel however they feel about each other at the end of the day. There are, however, steps you can take to make the process as smooth as possible! If you can socialize them together before moving in as much as possible, like taking dogs to the dog park together; that’s great. If not, like socializing a dog and a cat, you can at least introduce them to the idea of the other animal by bringing over blankets or toys that smell like them to get acquainted with ahead of time. Once they’re living in the same space, they should be separated at first in different rooms or with a childgate while they get acquainted to new routines and the idea of another animal; cats should have private areas or high-up spots to retreat to so they can feel safe.

I am irredeemably allergic to a popular pet

Is it possible to functionally date as a queer woman if you’re allergic to cats? It will be annoying, but basically, yes! If you have had the misfortune to fall for someone with a pet that you’re allergic to, obviously you’re aware that there will be some irritation associated with it, but if we can accommodate eight different kinds of dietary restrictions at every social gathering as a people, you can make this work. If your person has a pet that can be left independently, like a cat, you can volunteer to have your place be the one you spend the most time at; if not, you can do your best to create a relatively pet-free space at theirs, and vacuum/change sheets and pillowcases as often as possible.


Much like love in general, there is no guarantee of success, but with some effort and dog treats, I truly believe that Mary, Alex and Kai’s reality of having beautiful couples photos taken by Robin Roemer is possible for you!

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1086 articles for us.

35 Comments

  1. rachel this is good advice! my human would like to know what to do with the fact that i get really used to the new person who keeps coming over every evening around dinner time, and then several months later they stop, but i am still looking for them at the door around dinner time, and it makes my human sad?

    that being said my human’s last major human DID NOT ALLOW ME ON HER BED and it was an issue.

  2. I’m allergic to cats and the only medication that works for me a) doesn’t work completely and b) makes me fall asleep if I haven’t taken it for a while. I love cats but having accepted that I won’t be able to own one myself I hate the idea of allergies causing a problem if I met someone who has them. I’ve pulled a muscle from repeated sneezing before and I like being able to breathe too much to cope with constantly being around cats for longer than a week or so. More people need hairless cats!

  3. one time i was casually hooking up with a girl who had one ferret the first time we hooked up and then A SECOND ferret the next time we hooked up and she lived in a studio and I’m sorry but that’s too many ferrets for a studio apt also she let them just RUN AROUND

  4. kicked cyrus off my computer to contribute that while completely unrelated to this article, Janine Garofalo (and her intense friendship with Uma Thurman) in The Truth About Cats and Dogs is absolutely one of my roots

  5. This is great, thank you!
    I have a small allergy to cats. The first few months of my then-long distance relationship was TOUGH but it’s been worth it. My partner and I have lived together for over two years and her cat Finn loves (read: tolerates) me just the same as he does for his mommy. #justcallmestaddy

    No matter what though, things have changed since the first time I visited my partner. We slept apart (we weren’t dating yet) and woke up to find her cat literally sprawled on top of her body. As if to say “I don’t know who you are human but if you think you’re gonna sleep with my mommy you’re wrong. Dis are MY HOOMAN.”

    Now we joke that our next cat needs to be named Jesus because Finn always seems to get in the way of us getting close… (“Have you left room for Jesus?”)

  6. You can learn so much about a person and how they will treat you by the way they interact with their pets and others.
    Does this person imply that cat allergies are ‘just a social construct’? Do they watch their dog randomly bite a someone in a public park and then blame the person? Do they empathize with your fear of dogs and offer ways that you might get used to their pup? Are they considerate and respectful of the people they ask to feed their cats while they’re on vacation?

  7. ACTUALLY the rule is that I, the oldest and best cat who has been here longest, should get free run of all the rooms (including in all of the neighbours’ houses) and my terrible horrible awful no-good stepbrother cats should be confined to one small corner of the smallest room so they cannot bother me

  8. I’m allergic to cats and certain dog breeds which sucks because I feel like most women either own one if not both of these animals. One of the first things I mention is I’m allergic to cats and some dogs. It sucks because many women basically say if you don’t like my dog/cat we can’t date. I get it I know animals can be your family and I would never ask someone to get rid of their pet because of me. But yeah, being allergic to animals really sucks sometimes.

  9. As my Friday Open thread picture showed, I did the other weekend with my bff’s dog. I took him to the beach, bought him a snack, and showed him a good time while my friend was at work. It worked out well as my friend was happy her dog and I had fun at the beach. The same friend is also allergic to cats, but that hasn’t stopped her from having fun with cat owners. She, just tells the people she can’t be around the cat for more than 10 minutes and they oblige by putting the cat on the other side of the room.

  10. I once went out on a date with a woman who during the date told me she was DEATHLY allergic to cats. I had 3 cats at the time and had a mental freak out because even though I always lint roll myself before I go anywhere, there I was, on her couch, prolly leaving stray cat hairs behind!

    Thankfully, she was fine. It didn’t go anywhere, because how could it? lol But after this, I made it an effort to ask before meeting up. I don’t need that added anxiety during a date.

  11. Thanks for this!
    I have a severe cat allergy (eyes swell, throat swells, gone to an ER before). And would love to see (or ghost write) a guide for cat owners on tips and tricks to making your home more hospitable and also just cultivating better understanding of allergies… It’s honestly shocking how many people I’ve met who said “but you’d like MY cat” or “my cat is basically a dog” or “just take a Claritin!” As if you’d say these things to someone with a food allergy (“i mean these peanuts are BASICALLY almonds so you can eat them…”).

    It’s quite a shame that so many queers have cats and that cats make more sense financially in your busy 20s and 30s since you don’t have to ensure (cats) get enough walks/exercise/moments to relieve themselves.

    Luckily it’s mostly a self-eliminating problem as there are many dog queers out there and I wouldn’t start a long term relationship with someone whose pet makes me ill.

  12. I’m not allergic to cats or dogs, I just don’t really like them enough to live with one. Sometimes I feel like this makes me 100% undateable in the lesbian world!!! But I see some of y’all have major pet allergies so at least I’m not the only one out here looking for a pet-free relationship?!

  13. Yes! I already try to make friends with any pet I meet. But like ESPECIALLY if they are the pet of someone I am having feeeeeeelings about. Alternately, when someone is really great with playing with Sweetums, I like them even more.
    Ps. I reallllly love that Carolstraddle led to the increase of pet commenters/readers <3 love you ALL <3 Sweetums was too busy chasing a straw around the living room yesterday to comment.

  14. I am amazed at how timely this is. My girlfriend and I are moving in together this summer, and have between us 5 cats and an 80 lb dog. It’s gonna be a HOOT.

    Actually, we’ve been bringing her dog (Tobias) over once a week to practice! The cats are upstairs & blocked off by a baby gate, so they can come and go, while Tobias cannot jump the gate (he’s a bad jumper, it’s so sweet, I love the big goof so much). Highly recommend as a technique! It’s slow going but both cats are now just Moderately Annoyed whenever I check on them rather than Floofy With Terror.

  15. Oh, I’m glad the cats are still commenting. My human usually uses my name and photo to comment on AS and the ONE DAY that cats (and dogs, I guess) are commenting my human was too “busy launching a website” (whatever that means) to look at AS.

    Whatever. I’ll just clean this spot on my paw.

    My humans were already together when I chose them at the cat shelter. But their other cat helped our mom choose the right partner. Cat poop was involved.

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