a literary review
When seeking a mate, being a “cat lady” used to be something to hide until a man came over to your place and found multiple sets of little, crescent eyes staring up at him in the middle of the night. But with over 5.5 million posts on Instagram with #catlady, perhaps it’s no longer taboo to be upfront about your need to find a good cat dad for your fur child.
I adopted my cat, Nala, named after the best Disney Princess, two years ago in Shanghai. Since then we’ve moved to New York and now LA. We are an inseparable pair. She is the mini sample bottle plastic-wrapped to my full size shampoo.
So, it shouldn’t be any surprise that any man who follows her Instagram account has a fast pass to my heart. A male friend, let’s call him Cat Man Drew, caught my eye through his dedication to liking every one of her—and my—Instagram photos, on each of our separate accounts. Seeing that he already adored the online version of my fur child, I asked him on a date. Our affection for my cat—the most important thing in my life and my greatest obsession—meant we already had so much in common!
The start of the date was inauspicious. I waited at the bar, wearing a little black dress and bright pink tassel earrings, until he strolled in late, wearing a wrinkled shirt and letting me know upfront he had to leave at a set time to go to a concert afterwards. Not a great first impression, but then he complimented my leopard fur clutch.
“Thanks. I have it so I have something to pet when Nala’s not around,” I explained, and we were off to talking about Nala. He said how her videos, playing fetch and prancing around on her leash, made him smile.
“That picture of Nala in her Christmas sweater reminded me of how my sister used to dress up our cat, Snowshoe when we were kids. He HATED it.” He laughed.
Growing up, my mother always told me to date men with sisters because they “understand women.” Cat Man Drew not only grew up with a sister, but a cat, too! He understood both. And his pretty smile (and love for my cat) made me smile.
At the end of the date, he walked me back to the gate of my apartment complex.
“What are you doing the rest of the night?” he asked.
“Hanging out with Nala!”
“You know I’m her number one fan!” He said as he waved goodbye. And based on Instagram stats, he was. I walked upstairs and still tipsy, told Nala, “I may have found you a new cat daddy!” and gave her a bath (her fur had been greasy lately; the girl needed some forced self care). Afterwards while Nala licked herself dry, I scrolled through Cat Man Drew’s Instagram.
I knew once Cat Man Drew and Nala finally met, she wouldn’t hide under the bed like she had for some of my other dates but would come out right away and lick his hand. I started to envision our future. Maybe I could use his backyard to walk Nala on her leash. We could take Nala on camping trips together, two East Coasters, and Nala—with her Chinese descent—a far, far East Coaster, exploring the West Coast together. We could send out Christmas cards every year in matching ugly sweaters with Nala sporting her Christmas sweater, too.
The next day he texted thanking me for meeting up, and I texted him the following day. As we texted over the next few days, the conversations became shorter and shorter and the response times longer and longer. Was he just busy? During this time, Nala and I headed home to New York for Thanksgiving. On the flight from Los Angeles to the east coast, she peed herself during takeoff, allowing me—and the couple seated next to me—to enjoy the stench of cat pee for our entire six-hour flight.
The pee flight led to a UTI (her first one; baby girl was becoming a woman!) and an emergency trip to the vet clinic in New York. All through this, no text from Cat Man Drew. And yet every day, like clockwork, he’d like Nala’s new post on her Instagram. Even more, his likes on my personal Instagram account started to drop off. Every day he liked each of Nala’s pictures and yet none of mine? Was it just the algorithms or had something changed?
I texted him a week after our date and we chatted about Nala, but only briefly. I felt disappointed. Was he not interested in me as much as my cat? I had to ask myself the age old question: Was he only in it for the pussy?
I should say Nala is no regular cat. She is a beautiful redhead who walks gracefully on her leash like a model (or as Instagram would put it, #meowdel), her tail held high. My thinning strawberry blond hair is no match for her luscious auburn fur, a rich red with a cinnamon swirl pattern across her sides. I am a mere Dolly Parton, but Nala, she’s a Jolene. I can understand his attraction to her Instagram, but still, if he wasn’t into me, why was he still liking photos of my cat? Daily.
Once Nala recovered from her UTI and I didn’t have to worry about her health anymore, I started to wonder what had gone wrong. Why was he still showing an affinity for my cat’s Instagram and not me? Was he not impressed by all my knowledge on cat breeds during our date? Who wouldn’t want to know the origin of the bengal breed comes from a hybrid of a house cat with the wild Asian leopard cat?!
To find an answer for this sudden change in behavior, I did what any intelligent Millennial would do: sought a place where I could get both the best and absolutely worst advice—Facebook Groups. Asking one of my cat lover groups, LA Underground Cat Network, what they thought of the predicament, half laughed at the absurdity of the situation, while the other half said maybe he’s shy and was trying to connect with me through the thing I love most.
With nothing to lose, I decided to test this hypothesis. Test One: I posted a photo on Nala’s Instagram of both her and I. Would he like it? Result: No, but he would like the photo of her alone the very next day! Test Two: I texted him about a non-Nala related subject. He waited fourteen hours to give a three word response. Conclusion: His only interest was in my sweet fur baby. Facebook Group Conclusion: Man child. But I already had a cat child.
With my last boyfriend, in the middle of the night, Nala climbed on top of his slumbering body and started licking his arm. Clearly Nala’s desire for male attention was just as strong as mine, so we didn’t have time to waste on men who didn’t text.
Arriving at the gate for my flight back to LA, Nala in her carrier by my side, I scanned the waiting area and found a hot guy. Approaching him, I slowly placed Nala in between our seats before sitting down. She meowed helplessly. He took the bait.
“What a cute kitty!”
“I know, right?” I flipped my hair.
Kristen Van Nest is a writer/actor/director/comedy person/ugly cryer based in Los Angeles, CA. Her written work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Slackjaw, Forbes, and VentureBeat. She has also performed in UCB shows, on BuzzFeed, and Nightpantz YouTube Channel. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for original comedic characters and more cat humor @KristenVanNest.