IF you ask Adam Fulrath who is the love of his life, he will barely blink an eye before responding: Parappa.
Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
MAN’S NEW Best Friend Adam Fulrath, a k a “straight geeky guy,” with his cat Parappa, a k a his “primary relationship.”
Larry W. Smith for The New York Times
Paul Klusman has featured his cats in a YouTube video. They are, from top, Zoey, Ginger and Oscar.
Mr. Fulrath, a 37-year-old design director at Time Out New York, keeps five photographs of Parappa, a shorthaired, bicolored, mixed-breed cat, on his desktop. He knows that it might be considered a little weird that a grown man would be so enamored with his kitty, but Mr. Fulrath, who is into video games and comic books and calls himself a “straight, geeky guy,” doesn’t care.
“She’s my primary relationship,” he said.
Mr. Fulrath is one of a growing number of single — and yes, heterosexual — men who seem to be coming out of the cat closet and unabashedly embracing their feline side. To that end, they are posting photographs and videos of their little buddies on YouTube and on Web sites like menandcats.com, and Twittering about them to anyone who will listen.
Indeed, it seems that man’s best friend is no longer a golden retriever, but a cuddly cat named Fluffy. This movement, such as it is, is in direct contrast to the most notable in the recent spate of reports about the relationship between a man and a cat, which were far darker; they focused on a young actor who was recently on trial in New York City for killing his girlfriend’s cat — he said it attacked him — only to have a jury decide after several days that it could not reach a verdict.
If it had been a little less violent, that case might have been more in line with what the world seems to expect of men and cats.
The image of the crazy spinster cat lady persists, and plenty of people do wonder about a guy with a cat. As a writer on adventuresofacitygirl.blogspot.com put it: “Single men and cats are like a burger and broccoli. Separately they are okay, but together it just seems off.”
But those who see a growing link between men and cats see that attitude (not to mention the cat slaying) as old-fashioned.
Clea Simon, who wrote “The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats,” said: “I do think it has become more acceptable for men to own cats — partly for practical reasons, like the growing realization that they’re better city pets, and partly the whole acceptance of our cross-gender traits that men crave intimacy, too.”
Stacy Mantle, the founder of Petsweekly.com, a magazine for pet lovers, said that men are becoming more “cat literate” because they themselves are evolving.
“It’s the unevolved members of the species who tend toward abuse of cats — and oftentimes, women and children,” said Ms. Mantle, who owns 18 cats.
Although there are no hard (or soft) statistics (it is rare to find an owner, man or woman, walking a cat in public), it seems that single, heterosexual male cat owners are on the rise. Over the last few years Sandra DeFeo, an executive director at the Humane Society of New York, said she had seen an increase in the number of single, straight men who are adopting cats.
Carole Wilbourn, a cat therapist (yes, really) in Manhattan, said that the number of her single, straight male clients has risen about 25 percent over the last five years.
When the Web site PetPlace.com asked its readers, “Do Real Men Own Cats?” almost 84 percent of respondents said “yes.” “Only intelligent, aware, caring men love cats,” one reader said. And in a 2005 survey by Cats Protection, an animal welfare agency in the United Kingdom, the majority of the 790 people who responded said it was cool for a guy to own cats.
This line of thinking does not surprise cat lovers, many of whom believe that only pillars of virility and masculinity would dare to own one. They are quick to point out other well-known macho cat owners: Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Victor Hugo and Marlon Brando, who reportedly found a stray cat on the set of “The Godfather” and incorporated it into a scene.
John Scalzi, 39, an author in Bradford, Ohio, has been a cat guy his entire life. In September 2006, he posted a picture of a piece of bacon taped to his cat, Ghlaghghee (pronounced Fluffy — an ode to George Bernard Shaw), on his Web site www.scalzi.com/whatever. Thousands of viewers apparently found this hilarious.
Mr. Scalzi, who is now married and has a daughter, blames Hollywood for the continual bad rap that has befallen the male cat owner. Originally, he said, only strong men like Don Corleone, or the villains in a James Bond film, had cats.
“But then in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, Hollywood decided that we need to have the token gay man as the witty sidekick friend of the main female protagonist,” he said. “ ‘What kind of signature thing can we give him to convey that he is not an entirely masculine being? I know! We’ll give him a big fluffy cat!’ ”
In fact, Mr. Scalzi thinks that dogs are for the weaker of spirit, since the dog is, in effect, “your wingman.”
“If you’re feeling insecure about your space in the world, you get a dog because he will always back you up,” he said. “He’s the insecure man’s best friend.”
A man with a cat, on the other hand, “is secure with himself,” he said. “He’s sharing his space with a predator.”
Many women agree that guys with cats are extra special.
“They make the best boyfriends because they’re totally cool with staying home and watching a movie,” said Elizabeth Daza, 28, a video producer in Manhattan, who dated a cat-owning man for eight years. “Straight men with cats seem to be really secure and stable. They don’t need to be running around the park and proving their masculinity like the dog guys.”
On a practical level, cats are easier, male owners say — especially if they (the men) travel a lot. They can leave the cat alone for days on end, and the cat will survive.
“I would feel guilty if I had a dog and was out of the country for three weeks,” said Mark Fletcher, 38, an entrepreneur in Redwood City, Calif. who has two cats, Einstein and Babe (as in Ruth).
What’s more, cats are relatively low maintenance.
“A dog is a lot of work,” said Nader Ali-Hassan, 29, an account executive with a digital marketing firm in Cleveland.
Although he is married, he has had cats his entire life, and even has a picture of Ringo, a longtime feline companion, in his office.
“Maybe it’s not the most masculine thing in the world, but I’m comfortable enough in my own manhood,” he said. “The cat’s nice. I come home after a long day of work, it sits in my lap, I pet it, and then it goes about its business.”
SOME guys are even using their cats as vehicles to celebrity, like Paul Klusman, 39, a Wichita, Kan., engineer who catapulted to Internet fame after posting “An Engineer’s Guide to Cats” on YouTube in April.
The film, which features his three cats, Oscar, Ginger and Zoey, garnered about 3 million views. Mr. Klusman said he received about 300 marriage proposals from “lonely cat ladies from all over the world,” in addition to more risqué propositions.
“Any single, straight man who has the slightest bit of insecurity about his own sexuality will probably find it difficult to admit to owning or even appreciating cats” he said, echoing Mr. Scalzi’s sentiments.
Of course, it can become tricky, like when the cat gets in the way of a relationship.
The Cats Protection study found that single male cat owners were more likely than their female counterparts to have made, or consider making, a sacrifice for their cat — including giving up a holiday or going into debt for their cat if necessary.
Single men were also almost as likely as single women to break a friendship rather than lose their cat, and would consider choosing their cat over their partner.
This happened to Mr. Fulrath, who dated a woman who was allergic to cats.
“I thought, ‘This is never going to work,’ ” he recalled. “My cat takes priority over the new relationship. Realistically, unless there’s something absolutely amazing about her, he wins.”