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Kitty power: A woman's best friend

badger
December 13th, 2006, 10:07 PM
Published: 13 December 2006

Six hundred years after Dick Whittington, dogs may still command the honorific, "man's best friend", but they can no longer claim to be companion of choice for the average, upwardly-mobile female.

In a development that would have delighted London's most famous mayor, that distinction now rests with the humble cat, a pet that outnumbers its canine rival in this country by a million and a half. Not only do an estimated 4.7 million women in the UK own cats - almost four times the number of men - but developments in the £7m-a-year cat-food market suggest an ever-increasing proportion are drawn from the trendiest sections of society.

This week, the makers of Sheba announced they had hired a Hollywood director to film a new advertising campaign aimed at attracting, "stylish" and "independent" women to their product. The£1m, three-part commercial based on Alice in Wonderland, will be directed by Martha Fiennes, sister of the actor Ralph. It stars the ballerina Monica Zamora, together with two sought-after models: Eva Imsa and Meritxell.

For a creature that has suffered in the past from its association with spinsterhood, the TV advertisement, which stars a British Blue Shorthair cat, marks the latest in a remarkable series of PR triumphs. Not only has the advertising industry begun to re-invent their image - the Bacardi Breezer adverts star a silver-haired cat for example - but several leading style-icons, including the artist Tracey Emin have used them in recent work.

According to experts, this reversal of fortunes is in part due to low-maintenance ownership, which lends itself to the lifestyle of upwardly-mobile career women. Men, who tend to want unconditional loyalty in their pets, still prefer a dog. "There used to be this stereotype of the post-menopausal spinster of this parish, who would live with 15 cats and was ever so slightly mad," says the cat behaviour counsellor, Vicky Halls. "But it's just not so any more, in my professional experience.

"Nowadays, you get a lot of stylish, successful and independent women whose Achilles heel is their cat. They can be strong and self-assured and in control, and then a cat comes into their life and they suddenly become all gooey."

"If you're working long hours, it's not practical to have a dog, unless it's one you can carry in your handbag. Cats have a wonderful adaptability. They can be completely independent, but then capable of exhibiting great love on tap."

To some observers - many of them male - cats offer childless single women a low-rent alternative to a baby. But Ms Halls, the author of Cat Counsellor, believes the relationship between a woman and her cat cannot be explained away so easily.

"There's a bit of the mother/child relationship there, but its too simplistic to put the entire thing down to that: if women want a baby then in this day and age they can jolly well go out and have one."

"Actually, cats have a rakish attitude, and sometimes it seems that they're not a child substitute, but a male relationship replacement. They have the appeal of a dismissive bad boy: they'll ignore you 95 per cent of the time but then rub up and down your leg and you'll think 'wow!'.

That, at least, is the view of one stylish, independent cat owner.

But whether eight out of ten moggies will prefer their new image - or indeed Sheba's catfood adverts - is anyone's guess.

Tracey Emin Artist Owns Docket

When I wake up in the morning and see his little grey and white face, long white whiskers, little black nose, big round eyes, fluffy ears, I can't believe that God could have made something so perfect. I can't express to many human beings, unless they are cat lovers, how much I love Docket.

People think that cats are aloof and cool and cold. Docket is the complete opposite. He's very cuddly, talks a lot and actually can follow a couple of commands.

Docket is half-British Blue and half-Moggy. He came from Vallance Road where the Kray twins came from. The only thing that Docket seems to have in common with them is that he is a touch on the Dandy side.

His best friend was Fleabite - a strange little creature with greasy fur and no teeth, whose last couple of years was spent in comfort with Docket in a much healthier state. Docket's new best friend is a little ginger, camp thing called Pious who lives a few doors down.

My quality of life is a million times better thanks to Docket. Unconditional love is so important in this world.

Celia Hammond Former model owns 100 cats

I came into cats having always been a dog lover, but because I lived in a flat at the time I couldn't have a dog. They were really the next best thing, and then I got obsessed with them.

Cats have this reputation for being aloof and independent, or even arrogant, but they are such wonderful creatures. You just become cat mad. They don't give their heart to just anybody, like dogs. They need to get to know you before they give you their love.

I think that's why they're more of a woman's animal. Men can't handle a cat not liking them. They want a dog who will love them and put their head on their knee, and obey them.

People say to me that obviously you've become what you are because you've never had children. But that's not fair at all. All sorts of people have an emotional attachment to their animals, not just childless people. Some people think I'm mad or that the cats are a child substitute, but is there anything so wrong with getting emotional feedback from an animal?

Amanda Platell Political commentator owns Jim

Jim is from Doncaster. I used to own Ronnie, a three-legged ginger tom, who was the brother of Reggie. When he died, I wrote a piece about it. Hundreds and hundreds of people wrote offering another, and one letter stood out. It was from Jim, who is a rescue cat who was about to be thrown away. I picked him up at Junction 21 of the M1; this man handed over this pitiful scrap of a cat. That was three years ago. He's not a scrap any more. In fact, he's being treated for obesity by the vet. The problem is that most cats are given what they want and they want the crappiest food, in the way that kids love McDonald's. Mine only likes Felix. I've tried luxury things, or stuff the vet has advised, and he just won't eat it. The catfood makers think that stylish, sophisticated women must have posh cats. But in fact we just have mogs. There are lots of women who are dog people, but not quite so many men who are cat people. I suspect it's a macho thing.

Cindy Jackson Britain's most surgically enhanced woman

I'm single, although I do have a boyfriend, and love coming home to find somebody there. There are animal spirits in the house, and things going on without me there, and that makes it feel like a home.

Kato is a second-generation Bengal, which is a wild cat hybrid. He's the closest you can own to a wild cat without having a licence. He has more vertebrae than a house cat, and walks around with his tail down.

I never wanted children. I was never maternal, nor in a position to afford them when I was of a breeding age. They say artists love cats, and soldiers love dogs. Well you can find artists and soldiers in both sexes, and it's a myth that only sad old women own them.

Sheba? I would never give them that swill. Have you ever seen tinned catfood? Or smelt it? Mine get fresh fish and fresh meat, and water, because milk is not good for a cat. There's no way they'd get any tinned muck.

Ann Widdecombe Politician owns Pugwash II and Arbuthnot

A million-pound TV advert aimed at women cat owners? Well, I suppose we're all soft on our cats. Mine live with me in London. They're furry and purry and independent. As a working woman I couldn't keep a dog in London, because they require exercise. But a cat is different.

It's a little bit of a caricature, because there are obviously men who adore cats, and women who love dogs. But generally I think it's true that cats are a woman's pet. I think men love to be adored, and a dog is totally loyal to you, whereas a cat is a freer spirit. It will only come onto your lap to be stroked when it wants to.

Mine are fed a variety of food: Whiskas, Sheeba, gourmet food. They get all sorts of flavours: fish, meat and gravy, and they have a whale of a time. If you give a cat just raw meat, you deprive it of essential vitamins.

Six hundred years after Dick Whittington, dogs may still command the honorific, "man's best friend", but they can no longer claim to be companion of choice for the average, upwardly-mobile female.

In a development that would have delighted London's most famous mayor, that distinction now rests with the humble cat, a pet that outnumbers its canine rival in this country by a million and a half. Not only do an estimated 4.7 million women in the UK own cats - almost four times the number of men - but developments in the £7m-a-year cat-food market suggest an ever-increasing proportion are drawn from the trendiest sections of society.

This week, the makers of Sheba announced they had hired a Hollywood director to film a new advertising campaign aimed at attracting, "stylish" and "independent" women to their product. The£1m, three-part commercial based on Alice in Wonderland, will be directed by Martha Fiennes, sister of the actor Ralph. It stars the ballerina Monica Zamora, together with two sought-after models: Eva Imsa and Meritxell.

For a creature that has suffered in the past from its association with spinsterhood, the TV advertisement, which stars a British Blue Shorthair cat, marks the latest in a remarkable series of PR triumphs. Not only has the advertising industry begun to re-invent their image - the Bacardi Breezer adverts star a silver-haired cat for example - but several leading style-icons, including the artist Tracey Emin have used them in recent work.

According to experts, this reversal of fortunes is in part due to low-maintenance ownership, which lends itself to the lifestyle of upwardly-mobile career women. Men, who tend to want unconditional loyalty in their pets, still prefer a dog. "There used to be this stereotype of the post-menopausal spinster of this parish, who would live with 15 cats and was ever so slightly mad," says the cat behaviour counsellor, Vicky Halls. "But it's just not so any more, in my professional experience.

"Nowadays, you get a lot of stylish, successful and independent women whose Achilles heel is their cat. They can be strong and self-assured and in control, and then a cat comes into their life and they suddenly become all gooey."

"If you're working long hours, it's not practical to have a dog, unless it's one you can carry in your handbag. Cats have a wonderful adaptability. They can be completely independent, but then capable of exhibiting great love on tap."

To some observers - many of them male - cats offer childless single women a low-rent alternative to a baby. But Ms Halls, the author of Cat Counsellor, believes the relationship between a woman and her cat cannot be explained away so easily.

"There's a bit of the mother/child relationship there, but its too simplistic to put the entire thing down to that: if women want a baby then in this day and age they can jolly well go out and have one."

"Actually, cats have a rakish attitude, and sometimes it seems that they're not a child substitute, but a male relationship replacement. They have the appeal of a dismissive bad boy: they'll ignore you 95 per cent of the time but then rub up and down your leg and you'll think 'wow!'.

That, at least, is the view of one stylish, independent cat owner.

But whether eight out of ten moggies will prefer their new image - or indeed Sheba's catfood adverts - is anyone's guess.

Tracey Emin Artist Owns Docket

When I wake up in the morning and see his little grey and white face, long white whiskers, little black nose, big round eyes, fluffy ears, I can't believe that God could have made something so perfect. I can't express to many human beings, unless they are cat lovers, how much I love Docket.

People think that cats are aloof and cool and cold. Docket is the complete opposite. He's very cuddly, talks a lot and actually can follow a couple of commands.

Docket is half-British Blue and half-Moggy. He came from Vallance Road where the Kray twins came from. The only thing that Docket seems to have in common with them is that he is a touch on the Dandy side.

His best friend was Fleabite - a strange little creature with greasy fur and no teeth, whose last couple of years was spent in comfort with Docket in a much healthier state. Docket's new best friend is a little ginger, camp thing called Pious who lives a few doors down.
My quality of life is a million times better thanks to Docket. Unconditional love is so important in this world.

Celia Hammond Former model owns 100 cats

I came into cats having always been a dog lover, but because I lived in a flat at the time I couldn't have a dog. They were really the next best thing, and then I got obsessed with them.

Cats have this reputation for being aloof and independent, or even arrogant, but they are such wonderful creatures. You just become cat mad. They don't give their heart to just anybody, like dogs. They need to get to know you before they give you their love.

I think that's why they're more of a woman's animal. Men can't handle a cat not liking them. They want a dog who will love them and put their head on their knee, and obey them.

People say to me that obviously you've become what you are because you've never had children. But that's not fair at all. All sorts of people have an emotional attachment to their animals, not just childless people. Some people think I'm mad or that the cats are a child substitute, but is there anything so wrong with getting emotional feedback from an animal?

Amanda Platell Political commentator owns Jim

Jim is from Doncaster. I used to own Ronnie, a three-legged ginger tom, who was the brother of Reggie. When he died, I wrote a piece about it. Hundreds and hundreds of people wrote offering another, and one letter stood out. It was from Jim, who is a rescue cat who was about to be thrown away. I picked him up at Junction 21 of the M1; this man handed over this pitiful scrap of a cat. That was three years ago. He's not a scrap any more. In fact, he's being treated for obesity by the vet. The problem is that most cats are given what they want and they want the crappiest food, in the way that kids love McDonald's. Mine only likes Felix. I've tried luxury things, or stuff the vet has advised, and he just won't eat it. The catfood makers think that stylish, sophisticated women must have posh cats. But in fact we just have mogs. There are lots of women who are dog people, but not quite so many men who are cat people. I suspect it's a macho thing.

Cindy Jackson Britain's most surgically enhanced woman

I'm single, although I do have a boyfriend, and love coming home to find somebody there. There are animal spirits in the house, and things going on without me there, and that makes it feel like a home.

Kato is a second-generation Bengal, which is a wild cat hybrid. He's the closest you can own to a wild cat without having a licence. He has more vertebrae than a house cat, and walks around with his tail down.

I never wanted children. I was never maternal, nor in a position to afford them when I was of a breeding age. They say artists love cats, and soldiers love dogs. Well you can find artists and soldiers in both sexes, and it's a myth that only sad old women own them.

Sheba? I would never give them that swill. Have you ever seen tinned catfood? Or smelt it? Mine get fresh fish and fresh meat, and water, because milk is not good for a cat. There's no way they'd get any tinned muck.

Ann Widdecombe Politician owns Pugwash II and Arbuthnot

A million-pound TV advert aimed at women cat owners? Well, I suppose we're all soft on our cats. Mine live with me in London. They're furry and purry and independent. As a working woman I couldn't keep a dog in London, because they require exercise. But a cat is different.

It's a little bit of a caricature, because there are obviously men who adore cats, and women who love dogs. But generally I think it's true that cats are a woman's pet. I think men love to be adored, and a dog is totally loyal to you, whereas a cat is a freer spirit. It will only come onto your lap to be stroked when it wants to.

Mine are fed a variety of food: Whiskas, Sheeba, gourmet food. They get all sorts of flavours: fish, meat and gravy, and they have a whale of a time. If you give a cat just raw meat, you deprive it of essential vitamins.