It’s one of the most common questions that people have about animals, cats included: Can they be gay or bisexual or lesbian?
It’s an interesting question and one that’s not easily answered. We need to take a look at what exactly it means to be gay and then see if the definition applies to cats.
What Does It Mean to Be Gay?
“Gay,” “homosexual,” and related synonyms are terms that have come to mean many things, not all of which have a tidy definition.
When we use “gay” as a descriptor of a person (or cat, whichever the case may be), we’re referencing their sexual orientation, which exists outside any sexual encounters that they may have had. Plenty of gay people have had heterosexual intercourse, and a person can be gay without ever having sex at all.
We mention this because it’s important to understand the distinction between labeling a person’s sexual orientation and describing any sexual encounters that they may have had.
So, what does this have to do with cats?
Cats Have Been Known to Have Same-Sex Encounters
Scientists estimate that as many as 10% of all animal species have been witnessed engaging in homosexual behavior, cats included.
These behaviors can range from engaging in mating rituals to having full-blown intercourse. Many cats have been witnessed grooming one another’s genitals, and male cats have been documented mounting and penetrating other male cats.
This would seem to answer the question neatly, wouldn’t it? If some cats have had gay sex, then it would seem that the answer is yes, certain cats can be gay — but it’s not quite that simple.
Animal Sexualities Can Be Very Complex
While all species that engage in sexual intercourse do so for reproductive purposes, there are many other reasons that an animal might choose to have sex, and the focus on procreation ignores many of these.
For a long time, it was thought that humans were the only animals to have sex for pleasure, but pleasure-seeking sex has been documented in a wide variety of species. This includes females seeking out sex (with both males and females) at a time when they’re not fertile, and oral sex has also been witnessed in animals like cheetahs.
Some animals have same-sex encounters as a display of power. This can include males mounting other lesser males in order to establish dominance, something that happens with regularity among unaltered tomcats.
Lesbian sexual encounters in animals can be due to a need for pleasure, but sometimes they’re also performed to tempt males in the area into having sex. On the other hand, some animals — like fruit flies — will have sex with any other fruit fly that they can find, simply because they can’t tell the difference between males and females.
All this is to say that if you see an animal having sex of any kind, it may be because they enjoy it for its own sake. Then again, there may be complex drives and desires underpinning it that don’t have anything at all to do with pleasure.
Cats Are Driven by Instinct
Cats don’t necessarily think about sex all the time. In fact, they often ignore their sexuality until something happens (like ovulation in females or coming across an ovulating female for males) that reminds them of their need to get it on.
When those urges strike and a member of the opposite sex is handy, cats will most likely choose to act on their impulses with them. However, if they don’t have access to an opposite-sex cat, those cats will look just about anywhere to satisfy their urges, including same-sex cats, dogs, stuffed animals, or the leg of the nearest human.
These behaviors will diminish drastically if the cat is spayed or neutered, but that won’t necessarily save the cat from the attentions of other cats. For example, neutered males don’t produce testosterone-laced pheromones, and unaltered males often mistake that as a sign that the neutered male is actually a female. That can lead to mistaken-identity gay sex.
Those behaviors can run the other way as well. For example, a female cat in heat will often welcome the attention of a male, but once she stops ovulating, she may be openly hostile toward males the rest of the time. If you only saw her at these times, you might end up assuming that she was a lesbian.
Most of the time, though, cats don’t think about sex at all. They’re too busy thinking about their next meal or whether they should run around the house at 2 am or wait until 4 am to do it.
To Call a Cat Gay, We’d Have to Understand Their Motivations
While scientists can usually tell why a cat or other animal is engaging in sexual behavior (they’re ovulating, for example), it’s not always possible. Without understanding their motivations, how can we possibly say whether a cat is having gay sex because they prefer it or for another reason?
For a cat to be truly gay, they’d have to be gay all the time, not just when the mood strikes. That sort of behavior has never really been witnessed in cats, and cats usually aren’t sexually motivated all that often.
You could always make the case that cats are gay because they love cats of the same gender, even if they never have sex with them. Again, though, that’s impossible to prove.
Most “gay” behaviors found in cats aren’t sexual at all, in fact. Grooming of the genitals is just that — grooming. Mounting of a same-sex cat is usually a form of dominance that has nothing to do with sex. Some cats engage in humping and other behaviors as a way to burn off excess energy, not because they’re suddenly overcome with lust.
Ultimately, we have no idea if a cat can truly be gay, but odds are that there are no gay cats. Then again, there may not be any straight cats either, as cats are driven by instinct rather than an overarching sexual orientation.
What’s the Verdict? Can Cats Be Gay?
While cats can sometimes be found engaging in homosexual activity, it would be a stretch to label those cats as gay. In fact, thinking about a cat’s sexual orientation at all is likely a case of anthropomorphism, or the ascribing of human behaviors to animals.
Regardless, your cat’s orientation isn’t something that you should worry about. If their lusty sexuality bothers you in general, though, you can always remove the problem entirely by having them spayed or neutered (you should do this regardless, actually).
Featured Image Credit: Igchchn, Shutterstock