Can cats be gay? Can male cats be gay?

People ask Google for an answer to the above couple of questions and today, in The Times, we have an article reporting on a study into “gay behaviour” of non-human animals which I think will help answer them. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Can cats be gay in the human meaning of the word? No, is the answer. Image: MikeB (Canva).
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Same-sex sexual interactions can serve to form and maintain bonds and alliances and to facilitate reconciliation after conflicts.

The study scientists

My immediate thought is that the word “gay” in respect of humans does not really apply to cats, other mammals and animals in general including insects. When we recognise a person as gay, we recognise that they are likely to enter into a long-term relationship with another person of the same gender. There is chemistry between them. I don’t think this applies to cats. For cats it is more about functionality.

In respect of cats and other animals, particularly mammals, there are many instances of sexual behaviour with the same sex but according to the researchers, “This behaviour should be distinguished from homosexuality as a more permanent same-sex preference is found in humans.”

In other words, sexual behaviour with the same sex in the animal world is more temporary than in the human world. Cats are mammals. The researchers added that: “Same-sex sexual behaviour seems to be a common behaviour in mammals, recorded in about 5% of the species and 50% of the families [a reference to the classification of the species], a frequency that appears to be higher than in other animal groups such as birds or insects”.

And they said that the numbers are likely to be under-representative meaning that there are probably more same-sex sexual behaviour encounters among mammals including cats and dogs than they discovered through reviewing other studies looking at mammalian species where sexual interactions were recorded between members of the same sex.

At this juncture I can probably answer the question in the title. Domestic cats can’t be gay in the meaning of the word given by humans. But they can enter into temporary sexual behaviour with cats of the same sex.

To break away temporarily from reporting on the study, you will find male cats, for example, humping other male cats or their human caregiver’s arm as is the case with my cat. I think this is a result of sexual frustration. The male cat needs to procreate and despite being neutered the desire remains. If they have no other cat to have sex with, they might do it on their human’s arm. Dogs have the same issues. They might hump the leg of a table out of sexual frustration. It’s instinctive for these mammals.

The scientists who conducted the study have confirmed what I’ve said. They say that sexual interactions between members of the same sex is different to human homosexuality as a “sexual orientation”.

When it happens in animals it should not be taken as evidence of a sexual preference for members of the same sex. They believe that when it does happen it is intended to reduce aggression and conflict between members of the same sex.

They added: “Same-sex sexual interactions may serve to communicate social status and establish and reinforce dominance hierarchies, thus preventing future conflicts, or may contribute to diverting aggressive behaviour towards courtship behaviour.”

They stressed that “their findings could not be applied to homosexuality in humans”. Those are the words of Kaya Burgess, the science reporter at The Times.

And interestingly, the scientists noted that same-sex sexual behaviour was and is frequent in humans and has existed throughout most of human history. Comment: it would seem to me that in developing countries homosexuality is considered to be an embarrassment to some authorities where it is illegal. It seems that the human has the potential to be embarrassed by gay behaviour but it has been there for eons. It should be entirely accepted as normal and not “deviant”. The Roman Catholic Church considers social behaviour with the same-sex is a sin in 2023. Although the Pope has recently proclaimed that gay relationships are acceptable. The church is gradually becoming enlightened, less conservative and more liberal.

To stress, instances of same-sex relationships in animals are temporary. They are described as a “temporary sexual contact between members of the same sex”. It is “prevalent in non-human primates”. Fifty-one species of primates from lemurs to apes practice same-sex sexual behaviour.

It is more common in animals described as social and this includes wild goats, wolves, lions, chimpanzees, and bonobos. Note the lion in that list. They live in prides as you know. I have not seen an article on same-sex sexual interactions within a lion pride but this research indicates that it happens.

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